Tracking Goals in Google Analytics

Here’s the thing.  I don’t care what you think.  Frankly I don’t really care what I think. The argument that will either settle my anxiety, or change my mind is what is presented by the metrics. Years ago the idea of “trust you gear” was beat into my head.  As a geek I’ve translated that into “trust the numbers”.

The first thing you have to do before you start analyzing your metrics too deep is to figure out what a “win” looks like.  What is success?  This sounds like a sophomoric question, but it is something that too many the professionals don’t get around to answering.  For me I have levels of “wins”. Getting to $100,000 per year is the first level.  I enjoy creating content and $100,000 a year pays for what I need paid for. So $100,000 is a “win”.  Beyond that are follow on goals.  For every $60,000 I can pay for a professional employee. $50,000 per year would give me and a staff a very reasonable travel budget.  I have specific numbers in my head for what I need to “win”.  To be clear these numbers don’t have to be foolishly specific.  If I only made $90,000 a year I’d probably keep doing this.  Maybe the employee that I really want will end up being $65,000 per year, and a travel budget of $30,000 will be fine.  The point is to lock down reasonable numbers to shoot for.  Every 6 months to a year you may want to revisit the goals, but these numbers should not change with the weather!

Once you know what your goals are you can start looking at what metrics get you there.  For me it’s pretty simple.  Every 1000 members = $5,000 per month.  Past that I just do some simple math.  So the question now is how to track growth or shrinkage?  Knowing that I currently have 170 members is only of limited use.  Did I get 150 in a day, 19 the next day, and then nothing for the past few weeks? Where is the trend going?  Did I get a viral boost that is great for the bank account, but worthless for forecasting?  Where did people come to my site from?  Are people that come from Facebook signing up, but the ones that come from YouTube just window shopping?  Where is the best use of my ad dollars, and social marketing resources?  Am I popular in certain countries, but in countries with fewer views do I get more signups?  These are the things that Goal Tracking in Google Analytics can show you.

With Goals in Google Analytics you are presented with a large number of behaviors that can be used to trigger a Goal.  This can be used so that you can track the goals that are important for your business.  You can track hits to specific URL’s so that if you have a shopping car system whenever a visitor has finished with the payment process it tracks when they hit the “Thank You” page.  You can track things like Time usage on site so if you’re selling ads to sponsors you can show specifically how many times pages are viewed over a threshold. So beyond saying your site receives 250,000 views in a month, you can say pages were viewed over 30 seconds 50,000 times.  This helps show that your site is real, and not just being seen by bots. For mobile you can track when people click the link for your phone number and call.  The list goes on…

If your site doesn’t specifically offer a way for customers to buy something you may look for goals that will correlate with other metrics that you have.  So if you have a computer repair company (Don’t do it.  This is just an example) you can track when invoices are created by day.  Once you have a graph that shows you the invoice days for a couple of months you can look at your site analytics and see if anything tracks.  Does the number of times people click on your Contact link correspond to how many new invoices are created.  You may find that more or less you create new invoices at around 10% of the number of times the Contact page is opened. (Or 1%, or .00001%).  You now know to set the Contact Page URL as the goal and start basing your strategy off of that.

You also have the ability to log how much a Goal is monetarily worth to you.  So if a specific item is $5, you can see within the analytics the value the Goals have for you.  I’ve stayed away from this currently because I don’t know what the average lifetime expected value of a member is.  I don’t really make my money off of 1 month signups.  The value comes in people that keep their membership up for numerous months or years.  In a year or so I’ll be able to determine what the average lifetime value looks like, and then plug it in too.  Maybe on average members will be around for a year and so it will be $60, but maybe it will only be 3 months and so it will be $15. (This is needed for determining what your willing to pay in Client Acquisition Cost.  You don’t want to pay on average $50 per new member if the average member is only worth $25 regardless of what Uber may have you believe)

Once you have the goals setup you can track the Deal Funnel.  You can see where people who hit the goal came from on the web.  You can use ad tracking URL’s to show which ads they are coming from.  You can pinpoint even the cities the users hit the goal at. Additionally every Goal has its own flow so you can see if your users respond to different goals based on specific criteria.

For myself I can see that in the past 7 days I’ve had 21 new monthly signups, and 4 full year purchases.  As said in a previous post an average of 2 new signups a day is within my margin for success and 3 per day would put me ahead of the game. At 25 signups in 7 days that puts me at an average of 3.57 a day which means I’m exceeding my target.

So if you ask me if I’m currently overly concerned I’m absolutely not.  If the average was 1.57 then I would know I’d have to rejigger my strategy.  This is how I try to do “no stress/ low stress” business.  If my numbers are good I take a nap or vacation.  If the numbers are bad I target what seems to be failing.  I don’t have to guess about what’s going on.  I don’t have to spend hours musing about what the numbers mean.  The numbers either mean I’m doing good, or they mean I’m screwed. Simply undeniably knowing which position you are in at least makes failure less stressful!

(This is one of the reasons I’m confident about leaving YouTube regardless of what my next step is.  I have years of metrics to look at that tracks a huge number of factors. Knowing how much I need to earn per month, and seeing where the metrics are going, the only answer is that I’m screwed.  I’m irritated about it.  I’m angry at YouTube about it, but I’m not stressed about it….)

To learn to setup Google Analytics goals just do a Google Search.  It’s a tad convoluted, and apt to change since it’s a web app.


  1. GREAT write up ! Many will read this and believe it only applies to “online” businesses, but it definitely doesn’t. I use a very similar method of tracking my own business and my own marketing initiatives.

  2. Really enjoyed this post. Martin Lehner is correct, the application of metrics goes far beyond business. It’s used in research studies of varying topics and degrees. Hell, I use metrics and work with data almost every day in my job. Vulnerability data on company assets have to be sifted through and prioritized. Contrary to popular belief, super expensive software with crazy licensing costs DOESN’T always give you the picture you need of your organization.

    The requirements my job entails only further enforced many of the points Eli has made in previous blogs and videos.

  3. Without wishing to sound like a kiss-arse, is there anything members can do to help up the membership numbers? I sign up because I enjoy your content, and I would like to continue to do so, which I can’t do if you have to give up and do something other than content creation. Obviously there’s sharing on social media, but is there anything else?

    • … just share the content you appreciate on Twitter/ Facebook/ etc… the membership is growing very nicely. I think we’re at around 180 right now which is 10% of what I need to make this viable. Personally I feel that the membership gain already is proving that this will work. It’ll just take time, and I have 2 years… so just sharing content really is all I need right now.

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