Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
The saying “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” certainly applies to online marketing. With no tracking in place, it is nearly impossible to separate worthwhile campaigns from the “money pits.”
Since not all of your marketing campaigns will be profitable, you need a system to measure campaign conversions and determine the return on investment.
Google Analytics (GA) is one of the best tools I’ve found for monitoring online activity in support of these aims. In this article, I explain how to use one of its most important features — Goals — to track conversions and ROI.
Goal Tracking Explained
Google Analytics allows you to track many different types of goals or conversions. For example, you can trigger a goal based on the number of minutes a visitor stays on your website or how many of your site’s pages she visits. The goals I use most, and that I recommend every business set up, are “Destination Goals.”
A Destination Goal tracks visitors when they view an individual page on your website. For example, to track visitors who complete a contact form, you can set a Destination Goal with the form’s “thank you” page as the destination.
Whenever someone completes the form and reaches the “thank you” page, GA will track that activity and show you the source of the traffic, such as SEO, AdWords, email marketing, referral partners, and the like.
Goals automatically track the number of leads generated from all of your digital marketing channels. As long as you follow your leads through to the sale, you can calculate your ROI per marketing channel.
How to Set Up Goals in Google Analytics
To set up your goals, log into Google Analytics and click on the “Admin” link located an the top of the screen. Then, click “Goals” underneath your business profile name in the “View” column.
Next, click the red “+ New Goal” button and choose the “Custom” option under “Goal setup.” Then, click the blue “Next step” button to get started.
You will see a screen like the one below where you can enter the goal name (ex. Requested Consultation), select “Destination” as the “Type,” and click the blue “Next Step” button.
On the next screen, copy and paste the URL of your “thank you” page — the page that website visitors see right after they submit the web form you want to track — into the box labelled “Destination.”
Remove your domain name from the URL so that the line in the box starts with a forward slash. For example, if the full URL of your “thank you” page is “http://mybusiness.com/thankyou/,” then the line in the box would just read “/thank-you/.”
I also recommend that you select “Begins with” instead of “Equals to.” Some websites will add URL parameters automatically to the end of the URL, and you don’t want GA to track your conversions improperly because you forgot to account for those additional characters.
You will see two optional drop-downs below the Destination section. “Value” refers to the number of dollars that each conversion is worth to you.
Go ahead and set a value for this conversion if you have a number, or simply leave it turned off if you don’t. For ecommerce businesses, this is an easy way to track sales revenue. You can run reports in GA to see revenue per marketing channel.
“Funnel” is a bit more complicated, as it requires you to set the path you expect visitors to take to reach the designated URL. The analysis is useful, but I recommend you skip it for now. Keep things simple, especially when you are first learning to use Goals.
Once you click on “Create Goal,” Google Analytics will start tracking everyone who completes the form. To run goal-specific reports, go to the main reporting area and choose the “Conversions” section on the left-side navigation.
Also, you will now see goal conversion information within the “All Traffic” reports, located in the “Acquisition” section of the left navigation.
The “Channels” report, in particular, is extremely useful in that it shows you the number of goals, conversion rates, and goal values for each of your different marketing campaigns. This is how you can monitor the effectiveness of your online marketing and stay on top of campaigns that are worth repeating.