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How to Use Goals in Google Analytics to Grow Your Business

How to Use Goals in Google Analytics to Grow Your Business

As a freelancer you’ve no doubt heard of Google Analytics.  You probably even have it installed on your website.  Or maybe you’re a freelance web designer/developer and you have been setting it up for your clients.

Most freelancers get to this stage, but with the best will in the world they don’t really use it to it’s full potential.  Some are too busy, while others have tried logging in and got overwhelmed by all of the options, reports, graphs and data.  If that’s you, then know that it’s ok.  Out of the box, it isn’t the most intuitive application to use.

Thankfully, Leah made a great video that serves as an overview of the interface and explains what kind of data you can get from it.

As you saw in the video, Google Analytics is great for giving you information about how many people are visiting your site, how they got to your site and what pages they viewed when they got there.

However, Google Analytics is actually a lot more powerful than that.  It has an incredible array of reports and analyses that are quite frankly terrifying unless you’re a statistics nerd. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into those!

What I would like to go through in this post is one of the more advanced features that is definitely worth exploring: the ability to set goals.

What are Google Analytics goals?

A goal is simply an action that you would like a visitor to take when they visit your site.  It might be to watch a video, view your sales page or subscribe to your email list.  Think about the key actions you want your visitors to take and those are your goals.

Once you have goals set up in Google Analytics you can start to track how successful you are at getting visitors to take those actions.  That is when this data starts to become powerful because you can start making informed decisions about how to improve your website and your business.

For instance, imagine you had a snazzy video on your home page explaining your services.  You create a goal in Google Analytics to see how many people actually watch it and discover it’s only around 5%.  You’re disappointed because you’ve been getting lots of page views and you assumed they were all watching it.

At least now you know where you really are and can do something about it.  Maybe you move the video higher up the page, above the fold?  Or maybe you change the thumbnail to make it stand out more?  Whatever you decide, once you’ve made a change you can compare the goal conversions before and after to see if it’s working.

Ultimately, creating goals, analysing your progress with data and taking action to improve is how you grow your business.

What types of goals are available in Google Analytics?

Analytics lets you create four different types of goals that users can achieve during a visit:


A destination goal is met when a user visits a specific page on your site.  This is probably the most relevant and certainly the type of goal I would encourage you to experiment with to start.

Examples of destination goals are:

  • Visitor reaches a custom thank you page for email subscribers
  • Visitor reaches a thank you page after buying a product or service
  • Visitor views your services / work with me page


A duration goal is triggered when a user spends a minimum amount of time on your site.  This is good for measuring your engagement if you’re worried that people are visiting your site and not sticking around.

Examples of duration goals are:

  • Number of visitors that spend more than 3 minutes on your site
  • Number of customers that have to wait more than 5 minutes to get help on a support site


A pages per session goal tracks how many people viewed more than a specified number of pages before leaving the site.  So it can be used in a similar manner to duration to track engagement.

Examples include:

  • Number of visitors that viewed 5 pages before leaving


Finally, an event goal is triggered when a specific action occurs.  This can be more flexible than the other options, but it also more difficult to set up.  It does require the placement of some code into the element of your website you want to track.  So if you want to know how many people watch a video, you (or your developer) needs to add a small snippet of code to the play button.  Then when a user clicks play, that snippet sends a message to Google Analytics to record that the event happened.

Examples of event goals include:

  • Number of times a video is played
  • Number of times an external link is clicked
  • Number of times a file is downloaded

All that sounds great, but it only works if you put it into action.

So let’s walk through an example to see how you could implement this today.

Creating a goal to track email subscribers in MailChimp

I’m going to use the example of tracking opt-ins to my email list because it’s one that most of you should be able to relate to.  If you aren’t growing an email list then I highly recommend that you check Leah’s post on why every freelancer needs one.

In order to track how many people sign up to an email list, we need a way that Google Analytics can measure that.  The best way is to use the thank you page that a new subscriber gets redirected to when they sign up.  We can use the url of that page to create a destination goal in Google Analytics.

The process looks likes this:

Email subscriber goal flow for google analytics


Note: You do need to use a destination url that is on your domain.  Google Analytics will not track destinations that are somewhere else on the internet because your tracking code is not on those other pages.  So if you’re using the default thank you page in MailChimp,  Google Analytics will not measure it.  However, I highly recommend that you set up a custom page and once again, Leah has a handy video explaining exactly how to set that up:

Once your email list software is sending your subscribers to a custom url we are ready to create a goal in analytics.


  1. Log in to your Google Analytics account.
  2. Click Admin at the top.
  3. In the right-hand View column, click on the option for Goals.
  4. Click the +New Goal button.
  5. Under 1. Goal Setup click the radio button for Custom.
  6. Click the Next Step button.
  7. Enter a Name for your goal (something descriptive so you remember what it is!) e.g. MailChimp Sign Ups.
  8. Under Type click the radio button for Destination.
  9. Click the Next Step button.
  10. Under 3. Goal Details enter the Destination url that the user will visit to complete the goal.
    • You don’t need to enter the full url, just the part that comes after the root domain e.g. /subscription-confirmed.
  11. If your goal has a monetary value associated with it’s completion (i.e. you get paid) then switch Value to on and enter the amount.
    • This is great for tracking sales, but we don’t need it in our example.
  12. If you wish to track goals through a Funnel, toggle that option to on and enter the urls of the preceding steps.
    • In this example the email opt-in form is on the home page so we’ll add that.
    • There is also an “almost there” page to remind users to confirm their subscription by clicking the link in the email MailChimp sends so we’ll add that too.
  13. Click the Verify this Goal link.  Google Analytics will try to calculate how many conversions you would have had in the last 7 days.
    • Sometimes it doesn’t have enough data, so don’t panic if this doesn’t work.
  14. Click the Create Goal button.

Congratulations!  You’ve just created your first goal in Google Analytics.

All you need to do now is sit back and let people visit your site to give analytics a chance to capture some data.  Obviously you could sign up to your own list as a test, or get a friend to help.  I recommend that you check back after a few days or even a week to see if you have any conversions.


Now that you have a goal set up and you’ve given it time to convert some visitors, you’ll want to see how you’re doing.  Simply login to Google Analytics and choose the Conversion section in the left hand menu:

  1. Click on Conversions to expand it.
  2. Click on Goals to expand it.
  3. Click on Overview.  A report will load showing how many conversions you’ve had along with some other goal related metrics.
  4. If you setup a funnel, then choosing Funnel Visualization in the left hand menu will show you how it performed.

Here is an example from one of my MailChimp sign up goals:

Google Analytics Goal Funnel


From the data in this funnel I can see that 5% of people who visit my home page fill out the opt-in form and get sent to the almost there page.

About half of those, confirm the subscription and complete the funnel.  You can also see a few people entering at the side which means they signed up from somewhere other than the home page.

Based on this data I might decide to tweak the copy on my “Almost There” page to convince more people to confirm their subscription.  I can also see which pages people viewed before signing up as well as which they exit to.  This gives me an indication about how to streamline the funnel and remove any distractions.

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