Custom goals in Google Analytics – how and why you should use them

May 12th, 2017

While it’s relatively easy to track actions such as purchases, there are some useful to know consumer interactions with your site that Google Analytics can’t track without you telling it to

What are custom goals?

Custom goals are an admin option in Google Analytics allowing for the tracking and monitoring of user defined consumer interactions with a website. This has obvious implications for monitoring the progress of your SEO work, but here’s how to do it and why you should.

How do you set goals in Google Analytics

In order to set a goal in Google Analytics, from your chosen view (I’ll cover views a bit later), navigate to the ‘Admin’ section in the left-hand menu bar. The third column on the admin page is titled ‘view’ and the third option down in this column is titled ‘Goals’.

google analytics where to find goals

In the ‘Goals’ section you will see a red button (+NEW GOAL), clicking on this will take you to the ‘Goal set-up’ screen where you can begin defining your goal.

google analytics goal set up templates

What are the custom goal ‘templates’?

The templates for Click Consult’s stated industry (these do change from industry to industry provided you have selected one, but remain mostly alike) are the following:

  1. Revenue
  2. Acquisition
  3. Enquiry
  4. Engagement
  5. Custom

What do custom goals do?

Custom goals allow you to augment your analytics reporting with data regarding non-standard, brand important interactions with the website – thereby permitting a better ‘big picture’ analysis of online performance.

Revenue goal

Unlike the revenue tracked through checkouts, revenue goals are set up to track conversions with a potential monetary value – such as a sign-up for a class or event. The revenue template defaults to a ‘destination’ type in the ‘Goal description’:

google analytics goal details

This ‘type’ of goal is registered when a consumer reaches a designated page – generally on completion of a form. By reaching this page, Google Analytics can safely assume that the desired action (the form completion) has been achieved and a conversion is recorded.

You can (as with all goals, though it is more relevant to this template) attribute both a value and a funnel to the goal (i.e. a monetary value that the goal represents and a predefined marketing funnel into which the action falls.

google analytics goal set up templates destination

Acquisition goal

Acquisition goals are split into two sub-categories – ‘create an account’ and ‘submit content’, the former for signups and accounts; the latter for uploaded files. Both, however, allow you to track information added to your site.

The acquisition goal also defaults to the destination type, allowing any upload or form to register a conversion via the redirect page as per the revenue goal. While the value option is not really necessary in most cases for this goal, if there are calculations in place (such as an average lifetime value of an account or similar), the value can be added.

Enquiry goal

Made up of four further destination type goals, the enquiry template is predefined for a non-gated variety of page – the reviews page of your site, an events calendar or the printable version of a page.

While this type of interaction may not be easily attributed a value – it may be better served by causing the consumer to enter or progress through a marketing funnel (served tweaked or personalised content on their next visit to the site, for example).

google analytics goal details event goal

Engagement goal

The ‘engagement’ template is made up of a pair of both the event type and destination type goals: the ‘share/social connect’ and ‘contribute content’ types representing the former; the ‘get alerts’ and ‘sign up’ representing the latter.

These event types represent useful metrics to track for brands that seek consumer interaction (picture uploads, document uploads – if, for example, you’re running a crowd sourced blogging site for example) or are looking to measure the social shares of their content (even for those buttons that still report numbers, having them easily visible in an Analytics report is useful), while the destination goals fulfil essentially the same purpose as those in those other templates mentioned above.

Custom goal

The custom goal is the one that most brands will look to use (and the only one available if you do not declare an industry). By allowing you to select any ‘type’ for your goal and, therefore maximally customise the goal at the ‘goal details’ set up stage, it ensures you are building the right ones for your brand.

Goal types

Goal types are fairly self-explanatory, falling into one of four varieties of tracking:

  1. Destination: – A goal will be considered to have achieved a ‘conversion’ when a consumer reaches a URL defined in the ‘Goal details’ section.
  2. Duration: – A goal will be considered to have achieved a ‘conversion’ when a consumer’s time on site reaches the time limit defined in the ‘Goal details’ section.
  3. Pages/Screens per session: – A goal will be considered to have achieved a ‘conversion’ when a consumer’s session includes a number of pages/screens defined in the ‘Goal details’ section.
  4. Event: – A goal will be considered to have achieved a ‘conversion’ when a consumer carries out an action defined in the ‘Goal details’ section.

What do the goal details mean?

Goal details are the tweaks you can make to customise your goals to meet your brand’s needs, with each of the goal types connected to a set of modifiable details to enable you to fully tailor the goal.

google analytics goal set up destination goal variables

Destination goal variables

The main customisable option for destination type goals is the destination URL. This is the address of the page you wish to trigger a conversion for the goal you are building. It falls into three categories:

    1. Equal to: – these are the most common type of destination goal, relying on the website’s standard categorisations – as in:

      The destination goal with a fixed URL modifier requires only the section of the URL following the domain name, however, so the red box above would be filled with either:




    2. Begins with: – this type of destination goal includes goals set for dynamically generated or variable URLs (such as those with UTM tracking or eCommerce checkout thank you pages (typically augmented with variables denoting the basket) amongst others. If you cannot rely upon the page you want to track having the same URL every time from every device, then the ‘begins with’ option is probably your best choice.
    3. Regular expression: – If, for example, your site has multiple subdomains with the same checkout page, you can use the regular expression option to track your goal. Google gives the following example:If “/checkout.cgipage=1” is entered into the destination URL box, then it would track both of the below URLs as conversions when the consumer reaches them.

The above destination URLs can all be attributed a value and/or a funnel wherever appropriate for the brand.

google analytics goal set up templates duration goal variables

Duration goal variables

A nice, easy goal to define – the only option to define this type of goal by is as ‘greater than’ a specific number of seconds, minutes or hours. Probably most useful for content heavy sites, bloggers and similar for whom a long time on site is desirable; the duration goal allows you to decide at what point you would define a consumer’s interaction with a site represents a conversion.

This can be attributed a value and, while it is difficult to think of an occasion it would be required, your sites own calculations of the value of consumer’s time will drive whether it is used and what value to you their time represents.

google analytics goal set up templates page session goal variables

Pages/session goal variables

Working in a similar way to the ‘duration’ variable above, the pages/session variety of goal variable is limited to a ‘greater than’ expression and is useful in the same way – allowing site owners to determine how many pages represents a conversion.

google analytics goal set up templates event goal variables

Event goal variables

Event goals take some consideration when setting conditions, but are essentially useful for tracking consumer activity on a site that is not trackable any other way – such as the final part of a multipart form with a single URL, a video play or a social share.

Done properly, event tracking in this way can add some great depth to the knowledge you have about your consumer’s visits to your site as well as numbers of shares from certain sites that no longer provide numbers (yes, I am looking at you, Twitter).

There is a fantastically detailed description of ‘Anatomy of Events’ over on the Google support subdomain.

How many goals can I have?

In Google Analytics, an account is limited to 50 properties, these properties are each limited to 25 views and each view is limited to 20 goals. The total amount per account, therefore, would be 50x25x20 or a total of 25,000. However, as each property equals one website, the more appropriate answer would – for most people – be 25×20 or a total of 500 goals per website.

Which should keep you going for a while.

To find out how Click Consult can help your brand to reach your goals, why not contact us today?

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