Analytics Goal Workshop, Part 1: Plan Ahead

June 5, 2012 | Dorcas Alexander

You already know you need to collect conversion data, even if you’re not an e-commerce site, right? To know the value of a visit, the first step is figuring out what visitors might value about your website. Identify the actions visitors may take to indicate they’ve found something valuable.

The next step is to set up a few goals, with whatever tool you use, and get that valuable data rolling in. If you use Google Analytics, you’ll also finally have data for multi-channel funnels and attribution modeling. So let’s make it happen!

Make a Game Plan for Goal Data

Game Map

Of course you could jump right in and start setting up a goal here and a goal there. Google Analytics makes it pretty easy, so why not? Take my advice and pause a few minutes to think about the different types of goals you want to measure and get organized. Your data will be cleaner, clearer, and more complete if you do.

Consider at least three things when mapping out a plan for your goal data:

  • Goal Sets: What broad categories of objectives are you measuring? (you can group related goals together)
  • Goal Values: Which are your macro conversions and which are micro conversions? (you can value them differently)
  • Goal Types: Will you use URLs or Engagement metrics or Events? (you may need to add code)

Yes, that’s right – the tactical consideration is last. Too often it’s the only consideration, and while it’s crucial to good data, you’ll get so much more out of your Google Analytics data if you add the other two first. Strategy, then tactics!

Choose Your Categories

Think about the list of visitor actions you want to track and how those relate to your overall business objectives. Depending on the type of site you have, you may want to promote your brand, or maybe raise awareness of important issues. You may want to establish your organization as a knowledge leader, or become a go-to site for industry tools and resources. Perhaps you want your site to help build community, or promote civic involvement.

Picture It

Broad strokes are in order, so that you can develop the big picture and clarify your online strategy. These will become the categories into which you can place specific actions from your list, and may even suggest new visitor actions to track that you hadn’t thought of before.

Best of all, grouping your goals into categories that match your business objectives can show different members of your team that their data doesn’t just exist in its own little silo. Everyone’s goals contribute to the overall success of the group.

Assign Goal Values

Once you have an idea of your goal categories, it’s time to consider whether those categories contain macro conversions or micro conversions and try to assign appropriate values to each goal. Identify your two or three most important goals – those are your macro conversions. Other visitor actions are more like steps on the way to other goals, or else less important but still valuable actions – those are your micro conversions.

You also want to separate visitor actions that correspond to real or imputed monetary value from actions that are simply more or less valuable relative to each other. Often you can estimate a reasonable value for contact forms that lead to offline sales, or for free trials based on what percentage of them convert.

Game Money

In some cases you might want to calculate lifetime value and use that as your goal value. In the absence of monetary values, come up with relative weights – you could think of these as “points” instead of currency.

This process of assigning goal values may lead you to re-think and adjust your goal categories, and that’s okay, too. Some visitor actions are bound to fit in more than one category. Don’t worry about getting it right or wrong. Just stay focused on business objectives and you’ll end up with a framework for better analysis.

Ask the Right Questions

And finally, think about specific types of goals and how you might implement them. This means asking the right questions, in order to translate your list of desired visitor actions into actual data you can count.

Ask Questions

Do you know a goal action was complete because the visitor viewed a specific page, like a welcome page or a thank-you page? Do you want to consider content delivered in other formats, like pop-ups or PDFs, to be equivalent to a page and track it similarly?

Are basic metrics like visit duration or pages per visit relevant engagement goals for your site? There are even more ways to measure engagement in Google Analytics, since you can set events as goals.

Because you can use any combination of event data (category, action, label, or value) to define a goal, the sky is nearly the limit. With just a little advance planning, you can design an event tracking scheme that allows you to roll up labels by action, or actions by category. This allows you to track potentially complex visitor activities like writing reviews with ratings, or participating in a gaming event.

I’ll get tactical and explore the specifics of implementing goals in Google Analytics in the rest of this series. Stay tuned for Analytics Goal Workshop, Part 2: Pages Playbook and Part 3: Engage with Events.

What do you find most challenging trying to implement and analyze goal data? Are there strategies that have worked for you? Please share in the comments.