Measure What Matters: Goals and Funnels Together At Last!

Guest post by Kyle Akerman and Tim Frick at Mightybytes, Inc. Tim is a presenter at the 2nd Annual Content Marketing Retreat.

You have defined goals for your site’s performance and mastered Funnel Paths. Now it’s time to put everything together and measure your site’s performance.

Part three in a series of four, inspired by the book “Measure What Matters: Online Tools For Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships,” by Katie Delahaye Paine.

In part one of this series we talked about how Google Analytics goals can help your business. In part two we illustrated how setting up “funnel paths” tells how visitors go thrContent Marketing Retreat Adough the pages that lead to conversions on your website. Looks like you’re ready to apply all you’ve learned into a sample scenario.

Setting Up Goals in Google Analytics

Let’s say you just started a non-profit organization and are looking to build awareness around a cause, such as improving patient care in healthcare. Let’s assume your website is designed and built as a place where you want people to spend time consuming your content and learning about your mission.  In this situation you might want to track how much time visitors spend on your site. An increase in the amount of time a visitor spends on your site could indicate a higher level of engagement with your content and an increased knowledge of and interest in your cause.

Fortunately you can easily track how long visitors spend on your site by creating a Time on Site goal.

A Time on Site goal can be implemented using the following steps:

  1. Find the Google Analytics account profile for you which you will be creating goals and click ‘Edit” under the ‘Actions’ column.
  2. Under the ‘Goals’ section, select one of the four sets to create your goal in (each set has up to five goals) and click ‘Add goal.’

You can create up to 20 goals if you use all four sets. Sets can be used to categorize different types of goals you create.

Enter a goal name that you will easily recognize when viewing reports.

Use the pull-down menu to select the number of the goal and the set in which it resides. This controls the order in which the goal appears from the ‘Goals’ tab reports.

Choose Time on Site for the Goal Type.

Under Goal Details you need to specify a value that the web visit must be greater than, less than, or equal to in order to trigger a goal conversion. This is true for Time on Site Goals and Pages/Visits goals.

The last detail to enter for the Time on Site goal is a Goal Value. Once again this step is optional.

URL Destination Goal

To set up a URL Destination goal you will follow the same steps as for the Time on Site goal except you will choose URL Destination for the Goal Type.

Before you enter the URL Destination value, you need to choose a Match Type. The Match Type defines how Google Analytics will identify a URL for either a goal or a funnel. There are three Match Types to choose from:

  • Exact Match: This is an identical match on every character in the URL of the page you want to define.
  • Head Match: This matches identical characters starting at the beginning of the specified URL string up to and including the last character of the string. Use this match if the beginning of your URL Destination is constant (the Head) but is followed by various unique session identifiers or other query parameters.
  • Regular Expression Match: This uses special characters to enable wildcard and flexible matching, useful when the head of the URL, query parameters, or both can vary between users.

After choosing the Match Type, you need to enter the request URI of the URL destination that a user reaches once they have completed the specific task. So if your goal page is “http://www.mysite.com/thankyou.html” you would enter “/thankyou.html”.

The last detail to enter for the URL Destination goal is a Goal Value. Once again this step is optional.

Goal Funnels

The final step (optional) for entering a URL Destination goal is the creation of a goal funnel. You may enter up to 10 page URLs in a single funnel. Remember these pages represent the path you expect visitors to take on their way to reaching the specified goal. The final goal page should not be included as a funnel step, however.

The URLs you enter must not contain the domain name. Therefore, if “http://www.mysite.com/step1.html” is a page in the funnel path you would enter “/step1.html”. Give each funnel URL a meaningful name to make the Funnel Visualization report easy to understand.

Notice that there is a check box labeled “Required Step” next to the first funnel step. If this box is checked, users reaching your goal page without going through this funnel page will not be counted as conversions in the Funnel Visualization report.

Google Analytics will use the same match type you selected for the URL Destination in the funnel configuration. Make sure to check your funnel URLs for accuracy.

Now What?

Now the real fun begins. The results from your goals and funnels will tell you if your website is performing as well as expected. If it is not, you now have data to guide changes in your marketing strategies. Google Analytics data will remove a lot of the guesswork that may have been a part of your previous online marketing efforts. You can measure what matters the most to your business and make improvements that lead to outcomes you desire.


Tim Frick is Principal and Owner of Mightybytes, a triple bottom line-friendly creative firm in Chicago. Tim is the author of Managing Interactive Media Projects, an interactive media process guide from Delmar-Cengage Learning and Return on Engagement: Content, Strategy and Design Techniques for Digital Marketing from Focal Press. He has contributed to a variety of publications, including Marketing Profs and Business Insider. Tim also serves on the board of Climate Ride, the national bike ride for sustainable solutions. Tim is a presenter at the Langley Center for New Media’s 2nd Annual Content Marketing Retreat.