Beginners Guide to Setting up Goals in Google Analytics


Paul O'Byrne


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You’re aware that you should be setting goals to get maximum benefit from Google Analytics, but you’re not quite sure how to go about it. Now’s the time to focus because learning how to use goals effectively can transform your website’s performance. Used correctly, the data supplied by goals can give you a competitive edge.

What Are Goals?

Goals are one of Google Analytics’ most powerful tools. They allow you to measure success in a tangible way, and can show where your site needs to be improved and how well your strategies are performing.

Goals are objectives you set for your site, which you ask Google Analytics to measure. A goal can be as simple as how many people visit a specific page, or how many people sign up for a newsletter. You can also set up more complex goals, such as whether people stay on your site for a certain length of time, or visit a minimum number of pages.

Use Goals to Measure Performance

You can use goals to track the performance of a particular page, app or campaign. Goals of this sort help you figure out if a particular strategy is working, and how well. Have you ever wondered how many visitors were actually signing up for your newsletter, or what percentage of visitors to your site use your contact form? Goals can give you usable numbers, and with those numbers you can make, and measure, improvements.

Use Goals to Measure Profit

Goals can be easily set up to interact with your ecommerce site, so you can track profits either across your entire store or for a particular page, product or offer. Even if you don’t have an ecommerce store, you can assign a value to each goal and measure profit in this way. Such an approach would suit a business that relies on enquiries rather than a shopping basket, allowing it to estimate the value of an enquiry and use the data to measure potential profit.

Use Goals to Measure Success

Goals can be used to measure almost anything on your site, and give you a more in-depth look into how your site works. As you make improvements, goals show how well these are performing. In short, goals are the way you measure the success of your site overall, as well as the performance of individual campaigns.

What Goals Should You Set?

This is definitely one of the more difficult aspect of goals. Setting them up is straightforward, but knowing what you want them to do can be a challenge. Obviously, objectives vary from business to business and depend on strategic needs, so only you can decide what they should be. There are, however, a few basic options that will work for the majority of businesses.

First, though:

Decide What You Need

It might sound obvious, but the goals you set up should align with your business goals. Think about your website’s goals and use these in setting up your Google Analytics goals. Don’t waste time setting up goals that don’t help you; think about what matters most to you, and do that.


The most obvious goals are used to measure conversions. Whether that means people making enquiries, signing up for an email newsletter, downloading an eBook or whichever conversion matters to you – measuring it with goals is a great way to track how well you’re doing.

Having concrete numbers assigned to your conversions means you can really track your performance. Conversion rates are a great way of measuring success, and setting up goals gives you an accurate idea of how you’re doing.

If your conversions are likely to lead to profit, you can assign them monetary values to estimate how profitable your site is. For example, if one in every 10 enquiries leads to a conversion worth €100, each conversion is worth €10 on average.

Use of Site

Google Analytics can be used to track site use and goal completion. Setting ‘time on site’ as a goal lets you measure how many of your visitors are spending a long time browsing, or perhaps getting lost. You can measure how many pages people visit and translate that into a goal: how many people are visiting more than just one page, for instance.

Of course, ‘negative’ goals can be set up as well. If you think people should go from landing page to conversion in five minutes or less, set up a goal for anyone who spends more than five minutes on the site. This way you’ll know how often your site is failing. The same is true of number of pages where people shouldn’t need to use more than a few pages to get what they need. High percentages here mean you know something needs to be improved.

Once goals have been set up, particularly conversion goals, Google Analytics can show your conversion funnel, which tracks how people get through your site to eventual conversion. This will show you where to focus to improve the conversion path.


Similar to conversions, events can track users performing a specific action, such as watching a video or sharing an article on social media. If you want to know how well different elements of your site are working, setting up event-based goals will help you figure out how people are using them. For example, if you post a video at the top of each article, you can see how many people are actually watching it.

Multiple Goals

Obviously there’s nothing stopping you from setting up as many goals as you want. The more data you have the better, so don’t be afraid to track a variety of goals as long as they’re relevant.

How to Set Up Goals

Goals are created from the Admin area of your Google Analytics account. Go to the Admin tab, and on the far right – under the View area for your website – you’ll find the options for Goals. Depending on how your Analytics has been set up, you’ll have several choices.


Google Analytics has built-in templates for specific industries, so if you’re in one of those industries, let Google suggest a goal template for you. If you choose a template, it will pre-fill most of the information for you, which makes it a fast, easy way to set up goals.

Smart Goals

Smart goals measure the traffic that comes to your site from AdWords, looking at how these users interact and which are most valuable to you. It then uses that data to generate additional goals, which interact with AdWords to improve your PPC campaigns.

Custom Goals

Custom goals are essential for most people. Choose the type you want from destination, duration, pages/session or event.

To measure conversions, use the destination goal to target a ‘success’ page, such as the page people are redirected to on using your contact form. The number of people who land on that page is the number who have converted through one of your goals. To measure site use, choose duration or pages/session, and set up the number you want to assign to the goal.

Events require a little more work, and need their own tracking set up before they can be defined as goals. Since event tracking is complex, you may need a developer to help with setup, or you could consult the Google Developers site. Once you have event tracking set up, you can tie a goal to the event. Goals can be tied to specific events, or to a range of events falling under a broader category, such as a visitor watching any video on your site.

Once your goals have been set up, allow some time – 24 hours at least – for the data to start rolling in. You’ll find the outcomes in the Reporting Tab, under Conversions. Once you get a handle on goals, you’ll find Google Analytics a key tool in your online marketing arsenal.


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Paul O'Byrne


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With extensive experience in multinationals, Paul is the first point of contact for our large corporate clients. He defines high-impact strategies that draw on the best of what today’s platforms can offer.