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How to Get the Most from Goals in Google Analytics with Caleb Whitmore

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Published on May 24, 2010

In this video interview, web analytics expert Caleb Whitmore explains a number of ways you can learn about visitors to your website through setting up appropriate 'goals,' a technical term in Google Analytics. What you learn can then help you improve your site.

In Google Analytics, Whitmore explains, a goal can be:

-Reaching a specific point on your site,
-Spending a certain amount of time on your site, or
-Viewing a certain number of pages on your site.

Of course, there are the obvious money points or "super goals" that might indicate filling out a lead form or purchasing a product. But additional goals can help you get a much better picture of how to improve the ways that visitors can achieve these goals.

An e-commerce site should have at least four key goals, he says:

1. Reaching a category-level page,
2. Reaching a product detail page,
3. Reaching the shopping cart, and finally,
4. Reaching the "thank you" page, indicating that an order has been completed.
Then he recommends within each of the above goals to assign a relative monetary value for each type of goal -- respectively: 1 (category), 2 (product), 5 (shopping cart), and 10 (order completion) -- which helps you understand the value of each step.

If your shopping cart is on a different server than the rest of your site, you'll need specialized JavaScript tags. You can find this by reading the documentation on the Google Analytics site or getting help from a consultant. There are over 150 Google Analytics Certified Partners world-wide, though they charge something for their consulting services.

For non-ecommerce sites Whitmore recommends setting up several goals that track "engagement" by visitors in your website. These include goals, such as:

- Viewing two pages, indicating that a visitor didn't "bounce," that is, view just a single page and leave quickly.
- Number of pages visited that is slightly above your current average, which highlights the transactions of more engaged customers.
- Time on site times slightly above your current time on site average, to highlight visits for more engaged customers.

Goals, says Whitmore, provide insight into what lies ahead, not just where you've been. Goals help you make decisions that will improve your site performance and increase profits.

Caleb Whitmore is the principal consultant and CEO of Analytics Pros in Seattle, WA, a Google Analytics Certified Partner. He is also a co-author of Performance Marketing with Google Analytics (Wiley, 2010). This interview was recorded at the eMetrics Conference in San Jose, CA on May 4, 2010.

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