How to Set Up Goals in Google Analytics

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Hello lovely! I’m Meg of Clapping Dog Media, a boutique SEO studio dedicated to getting small businesses heard amongst the noise of the internet. I’m here today for post #4 in our Google Analytics Series. If you want to catch up, you can read our Google Analytics Glossary Post, learn How to Set-Up Google Analytics on your Site, and read about the 5 Essential Metrics You Need to Watch in Google Analytics.
Today we’re talking about how to set up goals in Google Analytics using both the template and custom goal methods.

To illustrate how your website mimics life, dream with me for a minute. Let’s say you meet a cute guy at a coffee shop (Married already? Just go with me for this).  He smiles, you smile, you both reach for the last chocolate muffin. Your hands touch, and you both smile in that cute and kind of awkward way. It’s adorable.

But then it gets weird.

He says….

“Hey, will you marry me?”

Whaaaaaaatt???? Run away!

Your customers get that same “Run away!” feeling when they visit your site and you try to give them the big sell  without any other ‘flirting’. Where’s the ‘nice to meet you’ and the first, second, and third dates?

In business as in life, we all need the chance to say lots of small ‘yeses’ before we say the BIG yes (buying a product or service). Just like dating, each small yes is a step forward to the main goal, and each one is very important. You can think of each micro goal as one step in your marketing funnel.

Your customers are likely going to interact with your company many, many times before ever purchasing. Trust takes time, and setting up goals in Google Analytics is a way to measure how well you’re building it.

Google already helps you measure the macro goals, like sales, through analytics but we need to find a way to measure the micro goals like email sign ups, staying on a page for a certain amount of time, or watching a video.

Enter custom goal tracking. With just a few minutes of set-up you can find out how many times you get a first date (ahem…newsletter sign-up/video view/5 minutes on site) and beyond.

How to Set a Goal in Google Analytics, Template Method:


Why use a template? Well, for starters, it’s practically already all done for you. You just have to click a few options and you’re done. Second, this might be a good option for you if you don’t yet know what your goals should be. That’s totally OK! The template option gives you a good starting point for setting goals.

  1. 1

    Log in

  2. 2

    Select “Admin” (in the bottom left of the screen, as of this writing)

  3. 3

    Select “Goals”

  4. 4

    Select “Template”

  5. 5

    Select “New Goal”

  6. 6

    Choose a goal type: Revenue, Acquisition, Inquiry, or Engagement

  7. 7

    Set Goals Details

  8. 8

    Verify your goal: This is a simple one-click test to see if this goal is something worth tracking. If you set a goal of people spending 15 minutes on your site and you only have 3 pages, it’s not likely to be a good goal. When you click “verify goal” and see that there’s some action here, you know you’re setting a realistic goal.

  9. 9

    Click Save! Yay, you did it!

Quick Tip: If you don’t see any templates it’s because you haven’t selected an industry in your GA account, as the templates are different for each industry. To set an industry: Under Admin click “Property” select your industry, then “save”.

How to Set a Goal in Google Analytics, Custom Method:

Follow steps 1-6 above, then name your goal something relevant, like “Spent 5 minutes on site.” Next, choose the kind of goal you want to track. Choose from 4 categories:

  1. 1

    Destination: Reaching a certain page, like a thank you or confirmation page.

  2. 2

    Duration: How long someone spends on your site. This is good to use if you’re trying to increase the amount people read on your site.

  3. 3

    Pages/Screens Per Session: Are you trying to lower your bounce rate? Choose this if you want people to explore your site more.

  4. 4

    Event: This is when the visitor does something, like commenting on a post or viewing a video. This is great to choose when you’re trying to increase engagement in your audience.

To see your goal metrics, check the left-hand side of your dashboard under “behavior.”

FAQs About Goals

What is a ‘goal value’?

This is a way to track the estimated value of each goal accomplishment.  There are a lot of differing opinions on this topic, and my opinion is that you don’t need to use this unless you know for sure the $ value of a lead.

For example, if you know that, on average, 5% of your email list buys your products, you can calculate email list sign-up value like this:

(Average sale price*.05) = Value of one lead

Clearly, this gets into the weeds a bit, and even when you’re done still just leaves you with an estimated value of your goals, not actual sales results. My suggestion? Start simple with analytics, and add as needed. There’s enough going on here already, and we’re trying to keep this manageable.

What is goal funnel?

This is a pretty advanced feature, and again, our goal here is to keep it simple. Unless you have a specific sales funnel already set up, you don’t need to use this feature. If you do have a funnel set up, then this post by Kissmetrics is great for more information on linking your sales funnel to goals.

How often do I need to update my goals?

If your website and business model is consistent, as in you’re not tweaking it much, then you don’t need to change you goals often.

However, if you’re in the process of perfecting your business model and updating content on your website and frequently changing your marketing tactics, then it’s wise to update your goals to stay useful and relevant to the work you’re doing.

You made it!

Hooray! Now you have the ultimate go-to guide for setting up goals in Google Analytics.

What kinds of goals have you set up in Google Analytics? What questions do you have about the benefits of having goals or how to set them up? Has having this information made a difference in how you do business? Let us know in the comments below!

Wanna learn even more about Google Analytics? Check out our other posts in the series: