In this article, we’re going to delve into Google Analytics and start to tailor your account settings so you can get information you need much more easily. Google Analytics in Depth is my series of Google Analytics articles where we will explore Google Analytic’s beneficial features to help you get the most out of this powerful and free web tool.
In this first installment, we’ll be covering Goals and Funnels. For a general overview of site analytics revolving around Google Analytics, read Unleashing the Power of Website Analytics.
Defining Your Goals
Setting up goals in Google Analytics is the best way to measure the success rate of your website.
The easiest way to understand what goals are in Google Analytics is by discussing it with an example: ecommerce sites.
The aim of ecommerce sites is to sell goods to their visitors. Therefore, a completed goal would be a successful sale on their website.
This example hints at the first part of using the Goals feature in Google Analytics: defining what your site goals are.
- What do you want to measure?
- What are the factors that determine the success of your website?
- Are you after sales?
- Are you wanting to generate enquiries from prospective clients that want to hire you?
- Or do you simply want visitors to click around and spend more time on your site reading articles?
Once you know your goal (or goals), you need to work out how they will be measured.
For most sites, this will mean either identifying a specific goal completion page (or creating one).
For example, an ecommerce site might set up their ‘order confirmation’ page as their goal, because this page usually comes right after a finished sale. If you’re after client enquiries, then how about the page that is shown to users when they successfully send a message with your web form?
Adding a Goal in Google Analytics
If you haven’t added a goal yet, clicking on Goals in the left hand menu will show you a page that gives a brief overview of what Goals and Funnels are. At the bottom, click on the set up goals and funnels link to get started.
The second box after the Main Website Profile Information section will allow you to set up your conversion goals. You can group your goals together with goal sets, but to start, we’ll just look at setting up one basic goal. Click on the Add goal link on the left, preferably on Goals (set1).
After doing that, you’ll be faced with the Goal Settings page.
Give your goal a name, make it active, and then choose a position; Set 1, Goal 1, for example, refers to your first set of goals, with ‘Goal 1′ indicating that it’s your primary goal.
You will then have three types of goals to choose from.
When you choose a Goal Type, you will be shown a section called Goal Details, which are settings of your goals.
URL Destination is the most common option and is used when visitors get a specific page to visit. For example, a completed checkout page in an ecommerce site.
Time on Site
The Time on Site goal type will track users who spend either more or less than a specified amount of time on the site.
Pages/Visit keeps track of people who visit more than, less than or an exact number of pages on the site.
Time on Site and Pages/Visit only give you a single option aside from setting the goal and that is goal value.
For each goal type, there are certain goal details that you can set to customize your goal.
All three goal types have the Goal Value option. It is a monetary return that you estimate a completed goal to be worth; this is normally worked out as part of a website marketing strategy or review.
As an example, if a website enquiry, on average, gives a return of $10, then you should set the goal value to $10.
In most cases, this is just an estimate, so if you’re not sure, you can set the Goal Value to 0.
In the case of ecommerce sites where a completed checkout is worth a variable amount, you can set the goal value to your average basket value.
If you’ve set up Time on Site or Pages/Visit as your goal type, you’re now done and you can click the Save Goal button.
If, however, you’re setting up a URL Destination as a goal type, read on.
The Match Type goal detail has three options: Head Match, Exact Match, Regular Expression Match.
Which one to use will depend on how much variety there is in the URL or your goal page.
Head Match: If your goal page requires variables in the URL that can change, such as
/checkout/?page=1&basket=50036, then using Head Match will match the starting string of the URL (
Exact Match: If your goal page is a static URL that doesn’t change, such as
/contact/thanks.php, for example, then you’ll want to go for Exact Match.
Regular Expression Match: If it’s likely that the start of the URL could change, then you should use Regular Expression Match; this is useful with URL cases such as
That’s it for Goals in Google Analytics—let’s move onto Funnels.
Setting up funnel
What are funnels? For certain goal pages, there is a set route of pages that users must go through to get to your goal page.
Let’s take a typical checkout process on an ecommerce site as an example: You add something to the basket, enter your shipping details, add your payment details, and when you submit your order, you get a confirmation page (which is your goal page).
This path is known as a funnel process, and by tracking people’s progress through a funnel, you can see where there are problems and where people are leaving the process.
This is most often used for checkout processes to see where people are dropping their shopping cart baskets. Funnels highlight problems with a long-winded checkout procedure.
Firstly, you need to map out the pages of your process. For example, your checkout process might have these pages:
Once you’ve determined your funnel, it’s time to review your goals.
So your goals are all set up, now how do you actually find out information from them?
You can see your goal data straight from the Sites Overview page. Under the headings you’ll see a completed goals column which gives you a basic, straightforward figure that is excellent for a quick glance. But let’s have a deeper look.
Note: A quick thing to highlight is that whilst you can look at visitor numbers for the current day, you’re unlikely to get goal conversions in Google Analytics for the current day, at least not reliably anyway. This is because Google Analytics refreshes its data at regular set intervals, so it is better to look at data from the days before the current day.
The basic goal page, which is obtained by clicking on Goals on the main left-hand menu, provides the immediate information you need at your fingertips.
You’ll see the standard Google trend timeline and the breakdown of how many visitors completed which goals—this is more useful when you have multiple conversions set up. You’ll then get the conversion rate and the goal value if you’ve entered a value for a conversion.
All these are fairly straightforward and the goal conversion figure is the one that most people will tend to concentrate on and quote, especially with ecommerce websites.
So moving down the left hand side, you now have a number of extra menu options that we’ll look at in turn.
This shows the total number of conversions and breaks it down by day for the period you’ve selected. This gives an easy visual comparison of better performing days and can help identify trends – do you get more conversions on weekends, maybe?
This looks the same as total conversions, right? Well, it is similar, and on sites that don’t have massive differences in traffic from day to day, they’ll look almost identical. However, where the total conversions page was based on the number of conversions per day, 40 conversions being larger than 10, for instance, conversion rate is based on the number of conversions as a proportion of the total visits for that day. So 40 conversions out of 120 is a rate of 25% – 10 out of 20 is 50%, so the weighting now changes.
Goal Verification Path:
This will list all the pages a completed goal was carried out on. If you’ve used an absolute path (e.g.
/contact/thanks.php) they should all be the same. But if you’ve used a head match and the end of the URL varies, then this will show which URL each goal conversion comes from.
For example: if you have a shopping cart and the end of the URL is just the cart id, it won’t be much use as they’ll all be different, but if you have something more meaningful in the URL—lets say the source of the site visit or conversions on different sub domains—then it can become useful.
If you have
football.shop.com/finished, you can quickly compare where your conversions are happening.
Reverse Goal Path:
This data point shows the pages people landed on leading up to a completed goal. This is useful for seeing which pages are funneling more conversions, and for those results showing (entrance), which landing pages are funneling those conversions.
So as an example, we have
thanks.php set as our conversion:
- (entrance) >
This shows that the visitor landing on the homepage went next to the contact page and then completed a conversion; you can quickly see which pages funnel in more conversions and easily start to work out which pages are more successful to understand how you can improve other pages.
If you have various goals set up with different values, you can use this page to quickly see which days are more profitable and then use other tools to dig down into why.
Goal Abandoned Funnels:
This page gives you an overview of the number of people who enter the goal conversion funnel, but exit without completing a goal. You can quickly see how many potential conversions your site is losing and again compare over the time period you have selected.
Once you open up this page, it is self-explanatory: the usual timeline chart at the top of the page and then a flow diagram through the funnel you set up.
At each stage, you can see how many people enter at that stage, how many people are continuing in the funnel from the previous stage, how many people leave at that stage without completing, and perhaps most importantly, where they are going.
This is hugely useful for analyzing things such as checkout processes and seeing where users abandon their shopping carts and where they go.
For instance, if you have the first stage as the shopping basket, it wouldn’t be too alarming to see people exiting from there to continue browsing the site. But if they’re exiting all together, maybe something on the shopping cart page is making them drop from the process?
You can then look and see where people are dropping out and this can easily highlight problematic or broken forms and links or long-winded pages that people simply give up on.
Drilling down even further
The basic pages give you a very useful set of tools to analyse your conversions and abandonment, however, if you want an extra level of detail, the advanced segments tab can provide some very handy information.
Located in the top right of the page just above the trend graph and date picker, it will open up a drop down with a list of visitor types.
Selecting them via the tick box will show the relevant figures on the page and allow you quickly compare visitor types. Are conversions for new visitors higher than returning visitors? Do people who arrive via paid search (Adwords) abandon more carts than those who arrive by organic search? These are some of the questions that you can answer by using Google Analytics.
(Via Six Revisions.)
Editor’s note: In the following guest post, Fliqz CEO Benjamin Wayne reveals some of the secrets of using video to help boost the search results rankings of your website. Fliqz is an online video platform.
As most search engine optimization (SEO) experts are aware, getting a first-page Google result is harder than ever. Not only do Google’s search and indexing algorithms continue to evolve in complexity, but Google has given over more and more of its search results real estate to ‘blended’ search results, displaying videos and images towards the top of the first page, and pushing down—and sometimes off the page—traditional web results that would have otherwise competed for top rankings.
But where problems arise, so do opportunities. Although Google’s newfound enthusiasm for video has created more competition for fewer traditional search results, it has enabled sites with video assets—even sites that would otherwise score poorly in the Google index—to successfully achieve first-page rankings. In fact, Forrester Research found that videos were 53 times more likely than traditional web pages to receive an organic first-page ranking.
Here’s what a blended search result looks like for the search query ‘777 built in 4 minutes‘:
Those images at the top of the search results are video thumbnails, and today, there’s only two ways to get there:
1. Upload your video to YouTube.
The advantage of this is that you are 100% certain to be indexed into Google’s search engine. This does not guarantee you’ll get a first-page result, but at least it ensures that Google knows your content exists.
The drawback, of course, is that anyone who clicks on a YouTube result will be taken to YouTube, which may be fine if your goal is branding (i.e., you only care that people watch your video). If your goal is driving traffic, as is typically the case with SEO, this won’t be a successful strategy.
Your other alternative is:
2. Video SEO
Video SEO is a set of techniques designed to make sure that:
- Google finds your video content
- Google successfully indexes your video content
- Google will display your video content when specific keywords are entered as search terms
Here’s how to make it work:
You Need Video Content
Google is fairly flexible in what it considers to be video content. You can use actual video footage, but screen captures, slide shows, animated PowerPoint slides, and other content will work just as well. Google can’t actually ‘see’ what’s inside the video content, so it relies on title and other meta-data to determine what content your video actually contains.
Submission, Not Discovery
With traditional web pages, Google utilizes crawlers to discover and index web content. Unfortunately, Google can’t read Flash very well (although it is trying), and as a result, most video content is invisible to Google’s search crawlers. Therefore, the best way to appear in Google’s blended search results is to submit your video to Google using a Video Sitemap. This is similar to an XML sitemap, but is formatted specifically for video, and only contains information about your video content. It is submitted using Google’s Webmaster Tools.
The most common error in Video SEO is to assume that because you have submitted the web page on which a video resides, that the video content itself is being indexed.
You’ll also need to make sure that you have a robots.txt file on all video pages, to ensure that Google can easily verify that the locations on the Web you’ve submitted do in fact exist, and that they contain embed codes which indicate the presence of a video.
Title and Title Tags
When ranking videos, Google primarily considers the match between search keywords and the video title. Although Google allows you to submit other meta-data such as description and keywords, these currently don’t have much influence on your search ranking. Google likes it when the title tag of the page matches the title of the video, and will give a higher weighting for results where this is the case.
Video SEO is Long Tail
Like traditional SEO, you’re much more likely to see results with Video SEO if you target more specific, or longer tail, search terms. A video titled ‘Dog’ is unlikely to produce a first-page ranking, while a video titled ‘German Shepherd Police Dog’ will be more likely to score well in Google’s algorithm. Since Google can’t determine the actual content of the video, you might consider submitting the same video multiple times with different titles that match potential search terms.
New and Small Don’t Matter
With traditional SEO, the age of a website is an important consideration for Google in deciding its ranking. Google also considers things like the number of pages on the site, and the number of links to the site, along with the importance of the places those links originate.
In Video SEO, none of this matters. This means that even new sites and small sites can compete on equal footing with larger and more established players. Publishers who are too small or too new to even consider traditional SEO can still be taking advantage of Video SEO opportunities.
For the Foreseeable Future, Video SEO is a Winning Strategy
As time goes by, Google’s discovery and indexing of video content will no doubt become more sophisticated, and as competition for video results increases, it will become harder for sites to achieve these first-page rankings. However, the number of web pages still massively outnumbers indexed video assets, and for as long as that continues, publishers will have an opportunity to jump to the top of Google’s search results through Video SEO.
The Social Analyst
is a weekly column by Mashable Co-Editor Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space.
Google may have finally figured out social media, even if there have been some major slip-ups in the way. The implications of that realization could dramatically change social media as a tool and as an industry.
On Tuesday, February 9th, Google launched Buzz for Gmail, a service for sharing thoughts, multimedia, and your social media feeds with your friends utilizing Gmail as the conduit. The result: over 160,000 Google Buzz posts and comments per hour.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Google didn’t launch a small addition to Gmail — no, it has dropped a nuclear bomb whose fallout will permanently alter the social media landscape. I could never have predicted that it would become so popular so fast when I first learned about it.
Why? Why has it grown so rapidly? Why has it riled up such strong emotions on both sides? Are the privacy issues going to permanently damage Google? And most of all, what does Google Buzz mean for Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the social media world?
I’m going to tackle all of these questions and more in this week’s in-depth column.
Google Buzz’s Skyrocketing Usage
While it’s still very early into Buzz’s life cycle, initial indications show that Google has a hit on its hands. Linking Buzz to Gmail’s millions of users has clearly brought people into the company’s new social domain.
Google has only released two numbers so far: there have been over 9 million posts and comments in about 56 hours, amounting to around 160,000 posts and comments per hour. That’s even more impressive if you consider the fact that most users didn’t get Buzz until Wednesday the 10th.
The other number: over 200 mobile check-ins per minute, nearly 300,000 mobile check-ins per day.
Those numbers are simply stellar.
Why Have Users Embraced Buzz?
It’s a question that has both simple and complex answers: why has Google Buzz taken off as a service (thus far) in ways that Orkut, Google Friend Connect, and Google’s other attempts at social media did not?
Let’s start with the most obvious one, and one I think was a brilliant move, despite the privacy issues: it’s wired directly into Gmail. With a flip of a switch, Buzz gained tens of millions of users. With the Buzz tab just directly under ‘Inbox,’ the service creating its own unread count, and Buzz emails flooding inboxes, how could people not try it out?
The embrace goes deeper than that, though. I asked the Mashable Buzz community the following:
‘Why do think Google Buzz has gained traction so quickly? What’s the #1 reason you find yourself using Buzz?’
Here are some of the responses we received that I believe really sum up Buzz’s popularity:
– Adrian Eden: Ease of use and simple interface
- Eyal Herlin – it just works for me. i like the zero effort setup and the making of connections easy
- Sheldon Steiger – #1? It’s embedded into Gmail. After that, it seems to be exposing me to people and subjects that were not readily visible in the other networks.
- Roy Ruhling – On a scale of 1-10 for ‘socialness’ of social networks Twitter is about a 3, Facebook is about a 4 and Buzz is about a 9. It honestly and truly connects people from all over the world instantaneously
- Daniel L – The main reason buzz is growing so quickly is because it is easily accessible to Gmail’s large and already established user base. Normally, Gmail is the one site i always have open because it has my calendar, my to do list, and my chat all in one window. Because of this, i always see when i have new Buzz, and i will tend to check it and respond. This is the #1 reason i use it — convenience.
Summary: Easy to use, accessible, convenient, closer social circle, moves in real-time, engaging…
Google’s got a monster on its hands.
Addressing the Privacy Issue
One of the obstacles to Google Buzz’s growth — and a major point of criticism — has been the privacy issue. Since it’s linked directly into Gmail, people can figure out your email address. Since it auto-followed your most emailed friends, people could figure out your email habits.
All of these issues are legitimate, but here’s the thing: Google is responding with lightning speed. Yesterday the search giant made some serious privacy tweaks, making auto-follow into auto-suggest and giving you the ability to completely kill Buzz if you so choose.
In a few months, few will remember these privacy snafus. Just as people have forgotten about the Facebook News Feed fiasco and other Facebook disasters, people will forgive and forget about Buzz’s initial privacy concerns.
In that sense, Google will get the best of both worlds: it has seeded Google Buzz with people and content via the auto-follow and automatic opt-in features, but it won’t feel the heat for privacy issues due to the recent changes to both. It may have been unintended, but it was savvy.
The Potential Impact on Twitter and Facebook
Now that we’ve established that Google Buzz is growing and isn’t likely to go anywhere anytime soon, it’s time to look towards what will happen next.
If Google Buzz is here to stay, what does that mean for the two kingpins of social media, Twitter and Facebook?
If you don’t think both companies haven’t had constant meetings over the potential impact of Buzz, then you are kidding yourselves. There’s no way both companies don’t have people analyzing scenarios and Google’s plan for its social media wunderkind.
To analyze the potential impact of Buzz on both services, lets look at the key questions for Twitter and Facebook, and some possible answers:
Q: Will Buzz Kill either Facebook or Twitter?
A: No. There’s probably nothing that could kill either service. The user bases are too large and passionate for that to happen.
Q: Could Buzz slow down the growth of Fb/Twitter?
A: Absolutely. Imagine that 15 million people are spending 15 more minutes in their Gmail inbox because of Buzz, whether that’s browsing what their friends are saying or creating their own posts. There are only 24 hours in a day, so that time has to be taken from somewhere.
Yes, part of that time is being taken away from tweeting and facebooking. Even if it just means one less status update per person per day, that adds up to millions of updates lost to Buzz.
The effect could be a lot worse. We just can’t know yet.
Q: Could Buzz become bigger than Twitter?
A: It already is:
While we can’t pinpoint an exact number, Twitter has probably around 18-25 million users worldwide. Heck, let’s say there are 30 million to be generous. Gmail has over 38 million uniques in the U.S., and that was back in September 2009. Worldwide, that number is simply larger.
Yes, there are far more tweets than comments/posts on Buzz right now, but beating those engagement numbers isn’t out of the question for Buzz.
Q: Could advertisers and brands switch some of their dollars and focus from Facebook and Twitter to Buzz?
A: With millions of people using Buzz, how could they not?
Buzz is already taking a chunk out of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media services. That’ll only grow as brands and advertisers better understand what they can do with Buzz and its millions of users. Buzz is equivalent to throwing a giant super magnet into a room filled with nails.
Predicting How Google Buzz Will Play Out
Google Buzz has landed, and its impact is already changing the landscape. Gmail integration, real-time commenting, ease of use, and a new base of users that might not have been as socially engaged are now part of the Buzz universe.
Not only can you expect Facebook and Twitter to respond with their own features and partnerships, but you can expect developers to shift their focus as well. Remember last year when there was a Twitter app gold rush? I do — as the service skyrocketed, countless developers embraced Twitter’s API and built amazing apps on top of it. Facebook had the same experience when its platform first launched.
Now it’s Google’s turn. Buzz is an open platform, meaning that developers will soon be able to create new apps for Buzz — everything from iPhone apps to analytical services will be built on top of it.
Now if Google wanted to really shake up the developer ecosystem, it could offer ad revenue share for Buzz apps and its own app store. Gmail advertising is already well developed, and if you haven’t noticed yet, Buzz already has Google ads being placed against it. Offering apps the ability to quickly and easily monetize within Google Buzz could really take away from development resources being placed towards Twitter, Facebook, and mobile platforms.
If Buzz can keep up the momentum, everyone from publishers (like ourselves) to developers to Fortune 500 companies will have to pay attention to the conversations happening on Buzz. If this thing can drive traffic or put a big brand on its toes because of a buzz that goes viral, then there’s no telling how far it will go. Oh, and Google’s only just begun with this thing — more killer features are in its immediate future.
The social media landscape has been permanently altered. To ignore Buzz would be a costly mistake, because Google has finally created the definition of a game-changer.