Google Analytics Goals – An Incredibly Useful Guide

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Every website on the internet you see, has its own, specific objective. For example, the objective of an ecommerce website is to generate sales, a lead generation website is destined to generate leads and a SaaS web app exists only, to engage users and get more people subscribe to their services.

When we talk about Google Analytics, the entire idea behind it is to measure website traffic and user behaviour. But where you might hit the roof by the sheer joy of seeing 50,000 visitors on your website, at the end of the day, what counts is how many of them actually converted.

What the heck? You’re likely to say.

It’s just how things are. It matters more how many visitors actually submitted a form, purchased a product or subscribed for a newsletter, than just the massive volume of people who visited your site. It would be useless to use analytics for tracking web traffic and not being able to measure conversions.

And how do we measure these ‘conversions’? Good question.

Using Google Analytics goals, we can measure the number of conversions, which is a better representation of how well your website is doing whatever it was created to do.

In this article, we will talk in detail about understanding Google Analytics goals and using it to measure the performance of your website.

What in heck are Google Analytics Goals anyway?

Goals in Google Analytics are used to measure the number of conversions in a given date range. A conversion can be a contact us form submission, a purchase, or even a button click.

After installing Google Analytics on your website, the next most important step is to set up goals. You can create a goal once you know why your website exits. To understand this further, let’s look at the types of goals.

There are two types of goals in Google Analytics:

1. Macro Goals

Macro goals are the main objectives of your website or, more simply, what you created your website to do. For example, If you have an ecommerce store, the main purpose is to generate sales. You will then, have to set up a goal to record successful purchases. For a lead generation site, the main objective is to generate leads so, you need to set up a goal for form submission.

2. Micro Goals

Micro goals are small actions on your website that lead the visitor towards the macro goals. This can be a CTA button click, an add to cart button click or even a video play. Setting up micro goals helps you track the behavior of website visitors.

You can always set up the micro goals as events in Google Analytics.

One more important thing related to goals is that goal conversions are unique per session. If a user submits the same forms twice in a single session, a single goal will be recorded.

Google Analytics Goals vs Events – what’s the difference, mate?

Well. Huge.

While goals are used to measure your conversions, events, on the other hand, track any actions made on your website. An event can be a link click, button click, video play, form submission or even a page scroll. These may or may not be your goals though.

An event can also be used to set up a goal, which we will discuss later in this article.

The Various Types of Google Analytics Goals

There are four main types of goals in Google Analytics. Let’s learn how to set each up.

If you are new to Google Analytics, I highly recommend you to configure your Google Analytics account properly and create a test view, as soon as it’s created, as a space to test your goals out before you add them to your master view.

1. Destination Goals

A destination goal is set up based on a pageview. It is recorded when a visitor views a specific page on your website. Destination goals are especially useful when you have a unique specific page that is displayed after a conversion occurs.

For an ecommerce website, a goal should be recorded when a visitor reaches the receipt/success page. In order to create this goal, it is important to know the URL of the page.

To create a goal in Google Analytics, navigate to admin >> view >> goals

 access google analytics goals

Found it? Great! Onwards we go!


Click on “+NEW GOAL” button to create your first goal

 create a new goal

You will see a lot of templates under the goal set-up option. Scroll down, check the custom option, and click the continue button.

 custom goals

When you reach step 2, enter the name of your goal is going to be called. If your goal is a purchase, you can name it something like “Purchase Completed” or “Newsletter Signup” for a newsletter signup. Select the goal type as destination, and click continue button.

 purchase goal

In the third step, you need to fill in the goal details.

Under the destination input field, add the success/thank you page URL. You will see that there are three different ways to add the URL.

 goal details

If you select the ‘equal to’ option, enter the complete URL of the page i.e

If you select the ‘Begins with’ option, only enter the page path i.e /checkout/success

A regular expression is used when the URL contains different parameters with dynamic values. You can learn more about the destination goal examples here.

For the sake of this article, we will use the ‘begins with’ option, where I have entered the success page URL of an ecommerce site.

Check the ‘case sensitive’ box, if the URL contains case sensitive text.

If you want to assign a value for goal completion, turn on the value toggle and enter the value.

Note: This can be used for non-ecommerce websites. For ecommerce websites, you can set up ecommerce tracking to track the value of each transaction. If you are adding a value, make sure to select the right currency code from view settings.

The last option is the funnel. You can use the funnel to see where exactly in the path, is it that users mostly drop off.

 how to create a goal funnel

Note: If you have a shopify store, you can import our pre-built goals and dashboards.

More fun things about funnels are covered further down the article in the reporting section. Feel free to skip to that if it spikes your interest.

Now, oh hi again! Click ‘save’ to save this goal.

2. Duration Goal

A duration goal is usually created to measure how engaged your users are with your website. If knowing how many users spend a specific amount of time on your site is your thing, go ahead and use the duration goal..

To create a duration goal, follow through the same steps as we did with the destination goal, the only difference will be, the goal type. Select the goal type as duration.

 how to create a duration goal

Here, Set the duration to be greater than i.e 5 minutes.

 duration goal detail

Save this goal. Now, everytime a visitor spends more than 5 minutes on your website, a goal will be recorded. How awesome is that!

3. Pages/Screens per session

This is an interesting one. This type of goal is very similar to the one used to measure user engagement. With this one, we measure user engagement, but with the number of pages viewed per session.

To create this goal, select the goal type as ‘pages/screens per session’

 pages per session goal

Select the number of pages i.e greater than 5 (you can make the selection as per your requirements)

 goal details

Save this goal.

Now, everytime a visitor views more than 5 pages in a single session, a goal will be recorded.

4. Event Goals

The final type of goal is the event goal. We usually use it when we want a goal to be recorded when a visitor takes a specific action on the website.

So far we’ve looked at pretty simple ways to implement different types of goals. This one however, isn’t that easy. The event goal requires you to be familiar with event tracking in Google Analytics.

You will have to track the event on your website and then use that data to set up a goal in Google Analytics. Setting up event tracking in analytics is a hugely trying task it is best to use Google Tag Manager instead and save yourselves the trouble.

Sidenote: If you’re the kind of person who likes insanely difficult and complicated things, feel free to do it the hard way!

Now, still here? We’re glad! So, this again requires you to have a little knowledge about tag manager for which the link above, the Google Tag Manager one,  will be helpful. Do check it out right now if that suits your fancy.

Event goal applies when all other goals fail to get the job done. No, I’m just kidding.

Event goal is used when you need to track something complex, more specifically, something too complex for the other types of goals to handle. Just read on, you’ll find out what it means.

Let’s create an event goal for a form submission that doesn’t have a specific thank you page. An event has four components, Event Category, Event Action, Event Label, & Event Value.

If you use Google Analytics to track an event, the event code will look like:

ga('send', {
  hitType: 'event',
  eventCategory: ‘Form Submission’,
  eventAction: 'Contact Us’,
  eventLabel: '/contact-us'

For more information about event tracking in Google Analytics, you can click here.

Let’s track the same event using Google Tag Manager.

Create a new tag in tag manager

Select the tag type as ‘Universal Analytics’

Select the track type as ‘event’

And add the component values as displayed in the image below:

 form submission tag GTM

For a complete form submission tracking guide in GTM, click here.

Now, we know the event tracking parameter values and we can create an event type goal in Google Analytics.

To do so, select the goal type as ‘event’, and click continue.

 event type goals

Under the event conditions, enter the same event parameter values you added in tag manager

Keep in mind that adding a single parameter value will still work, but make sure that for different events with the same event category ie, “Form Submission”, you add unique parameter values, so that the goal isn’t tracked multiple times.

 event goal details

Now, Save this goal. If you haven’t managed to mess this up somehow, a goal should be recorded l whenever a contact us form is submitted.

Now we know how to set up goals in Google Analytics. The next step from here, is to be able to understand where we can see these goals and analyze data based on goal completions.

Reading Google Analytics Goal Reports – A mini walkthrough

There is a separate section of reports dedicated to goals in Google Analytics. To access this section navigate to conversions >> goals in your analytics account.

 access google analytics goal reports

The first report is an overview. This is where you will see a summary of all the goals you have created in that particular view. In my case, I have one goal created for transactions.

 goals overview

In this report, you can see an overview of the number of goal completions, goal conversion rate, goal completion URL and more at a single glance. This is important to get an overall idea of how you’re doing so far, what’s working and what isn’t.

The next report under goals is ‘Goal URLs’. This report will help you see the number of goal completions, goal value, and goal URLs.

 goal completion location

This is an ecommerce goal, where each transaction has unique URL parameters. That is also the reason why there are multiple URLs here.

The third report under goal is ‘Reverse Goal Path’. This one displays the steps taken before a goal is completed. The steps normally are the previous page views or the steps you defined in the goal funnel.

 reverse goal path

Moving on, the next report is ‘Funnel Visualization’. This is a very important one to analyze where your visitors drop-off during the purchase funnel.

 ecommerce goal funnel visualization

This is the funnel we created for the destination goal in the beginning of this article. You can see the number of visitors entering the funnel at the product stage and then moving on to the next step.

Out of a grand total of 365 visitors viewing products, only 4 made successful purchases. You can use this funnel to better optimize your website so more visitors make purchases from your online store.

Lastly there is a goal flow report which is again, massively important in terms of decision making

 google analytics goal flow

The flow diagram shows you where your visitors are coming from, and they follow on towards making a purchase. We have dedicated an entire blog post for goal flow, do check it out here.

Goals Completions by Source/Medium – Nope. We’re not done yet.

One of the primary reasons for setting up goals in Google Analytics is that we can measure which traffic sources generate more goals. This can help your marketing team focus on traffic sources that are performing better.

To see the goal completions by traffic source/medium, navigate to Acquisition >> All Traffic Source Medium.

 goal completions by source/medium

In case you have multiple goals, you can change the goal from the conversions drop-down. This report gives you an overall performance of all the traffic sources and helps you gain a good understanding of user behavior.


Yes, we’re finally here. Thank heavens. By now if I’ve done my job well, you probably have a pretty good understanding of how Goals in Google Analytics work. You can use this information to measure your marketing efforts – or not. If you have something you want to ask or discuss this topic, feel free to ping me in the comments.

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