Pop Quiz: Test Your Knowledge Of Google Analytics Funnels

April 19, 2012
By Dorcas Alexander

This post was inspired when someone asked me: “Why isn’t the number of goal completions the same as the number of funnel completions for Goal X?” Answering that question reminded me of several common misconceptions about Google Analytics funnels.

Our own Jonathan Weber leading a Google Analytics Seminar for Success

“Funnel” is one of the top site search terms here on the LunaMetrics blog and we’ve written about them before, but it’s been a couple years. So I invite you to test your knowledge of Google Analytics funnels with this short true/false quiz and see if you can spot the misconceptions. One of them is the key to answering the question that inspired this post.

Let’s say your website has multiple paths a visitor can follow to complete a purchase, all leading to the same receipt page. You want to see which paths convert better, so you set up different funnels for each path. Will this approach lead to useable results, or is it based on misconceptions?

Question #1: True or False? When you define funnel steps for a goal, it won’t count as a completed goal unless a visitor goes through all the steps.

Answer: False. The goal counts as completed as long as a visitor views the final Goal URL. A visitor may visit any other number of steps (in any order) and may even visit zero other steps, and it still counts as a completed goal.

See the image below for some example goals I set up in a test profile. In each, the final Goal URL is the same (the receipt page for a completed order). The result is the same number of goal completions, even though the funnel steps are different in each goal.

Goals with different funnel steps but the same Goal URL

Question #2: True or False? You can get around the above problem (and make sure goal completions only count for trips through the funnel) by checking the box for “required step” on Step 1 of your funnel.

Answer: False. Nice try, but the goal will still count as completed as long as a visitor views the final Goal URL, even if they do not view Step 1. See the image below, which shows the results of requiring Step 1 for the same goals in my test profile.

Goals with different first steps required but the same Goal URL

Okay, I admit I’m withholding some important information, but the answer to the next question will make everything clear. If setting up a funnel and even requiring Step 1 has no effect on the number of goal completions, you may be wondering about the following:

Question #3: True or False? There’s no good reason ever to check “required step” on Step 1 of your funnel.

Answer: False. Even though the number of goal completions is the same, the number of funnel completions is less when you require Step 1. This won’t help you see which paths convert better (because you can’t require more than the first step), but it can show how much influence a particular page has on conversions.

To see how much influence different pages have on the same goal conversion, set up multiple funnels all leading to the same Goal URL, each with a different page as the required Step 1. The page in Step 1 doesn’t have to be part of the checkout process (and the funnels can be as simple as Step 1 plus the Goal URL).

For example, set Step 1 as your Sale page or Featured Special page to see how those pages influence conversions. You could even measure the influence of events on conversions (did a visitor view a video before converting?) by setting Step 1 as a virtual pageview. How do the funnel completions (not goal completions) compare?

The key point is that you can see funnel completions only in the Funnel Visualization report (under Conversions and Goals in the left navigation). Everywhere else in Google Analytics the goal completions depend only on the final Goal URL.

The image below shows the Funnel Visualization report for a goal where Step 1 was required. You’ve already seen there were 976 goal completions for this goal. But there were only 923 funnel completions. I discovered the same situation (first step required) when answering the question that prompted this post.

You can only see funnel completions in the Funnel Visualization report

Additionally, note that the funnel conversion rate is based on the 6,664 visits that entered the funnel on the required first step. No other visits are counted in this funnel visualization, even if those visits included other funnel steps – and even if one of those steps was the final step (the Goal URL).

That’s why the left side of the funnel except for the first step is all zeroes. When the first step is required, the funnel completions do not come from entrances at any other steps.

How did you do on the quiz? Yes, the answer to every question was “False” – after all, this post was inspired by common misconceptions. Read more in our previous posts about common funnel problems and mysterious funnel exits.

What issues do you continue to address when working with Google Analytics funnels? Do you have interesting use cases for funnels that require Step 1? Please share in the comments.