What came first?
[This article is part of a series entitled: GA Implementation ABCs]

In Part I of this series, I discussed the importance of simply getting the data in. Part II concerned keeping the data clean by using filters. In this third install I discuss defining goals – the building blocks for your Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Remember this is all before tackling the much wider (and also more complex) issues of mapping your stakeholders, building your KPI list or assessing your business needs from your web site.

The importance of Goals in web analytics

After collecting and cleansing your initial visitor data from your GA reports (Parts I and II of this series), you then establish your benchmarks. Assuming there are no horror stories from viewing your initial traffic volume, consider your web site goals. A goal is quite simply the purpose of your web site, which in theory should be easy for you to define. For example, what do you wish a visitor to achieve once on your web site? An eCommerce transaction is an obvious goal, but that is also very black and white. If a visitor does not convert – can you measure how close they came?

Often for non-eCommerce web sites, I find owners and managers struggle to define the purpose of their web site. “We built a site because our competitors have one” is a common response, as well as “because IT wanted one”, “because my nephew wanted to build one”, “because our creative agency gave us one”. However, non-eCommerce sites can and should have compelling goals. If not, then just putting irrelevant content that becomes stale and out of date when your nephew/creative agency/IT department move on, will actually damage your brand.

Whether you are eCommerce enabled or not, any engagement with your visitors i.e. the building of a relationship, can be considered as a goal. Example goals include:

  • adding an item to the shopping cart
  • subscription sign-up
  • a brochure request
  • a completed enquiry form
  • reading a blog article
  • adding/editing/deleting a forum or blog post
  • viewing a particular page e.g. Special Offers
  • viewing particular page path e.g. pages A-E-F-D
  • clicking on an ad/external link
  • reading more than X pages
  • spending more than Y minutes on your site
  • clicking a mailto: link

To learn about configuring goals in Google Analytics, visit the GA Help Center.

With goals in place you can start to benchmark yourself that sets the foundations for discussing KPIs with your stakeholders. Bear in mind that a goal doesn’t always have to increase for it to be a good thing. Sometimes, negative goals indicate an improved visitor experience – for example less support tickets submitted, less complaints logged etc. would be considered an improvement.

A question I would like to get feedback on – how often have you redefined goals? Once setup do they get set in concrete or are they constantly evolving and which sectors are more proactive at this? Please share you feedback by posting a comment.