A few weeks ago Google Analytics became even more useful. Instead of a measly 4 goals, webmasters are now allowed to track up to 20. It’s a given that you can probably think of more than 4 things you’d like people to do when they visit your site, now you can track and access that data without creating multiple profiles and switching back and forth. It’s welcome news to say the least.

There’s really no excuse for not having goal tracking set up within your analytics account. It’s essential to know how your SEO strategies are improving your site’s overall performance and your online marketing ROI. Setting up goals will allow you to judge this, not just by visits, but by the actions those visitors take.

Each profile in your account can have up to four “goal sets”, each of these sets can contain up to five goals. In addition to the standard URL destination goal, analytics now has the option to track engagement goals – such as time on site and pages per visit.

URL Destination Goal Tracking
This type of goal is used when you want to know how many visitors came to a specific page on your site. Webmasters can use this method for something as simple as keeping track of how many people visited a blog page. It can also be used to track form submissions or registrations by entering the ‘thank you’ or confirmation page as the URL goal. When you set up a URL destination goal you have a choice between 3 different ‘Goal Types’, also known as ‘match types’. The type of goal that is appropriate will vary based on how your website is built and the page you are interested in tracking. Here’s a basic breakdown to help you decide which type is best for your goal:

Exact Match – to use this type of goal the URL entered as your goal must match the URL shown in the reports exactly. For example, if you want to track the page www.mysite/contact-us_thank-you.html, you need to enter /contact-us_thank-you.html as your goal.
Head Match – use this type of goal when the URL is the same for this step of the goal, but is followed by unique session or user identifiers. Enter the URL but leave out the unique values. For example, if you want to track www.mysite.com/checkout.cgi?page=1&id=528, but the ‘id’ changes for each user, just enter ‘//checkout.cgi?page=1’. This will cause the goal to be counted no matter what id number is assigned.
Regular Expression Match – use this type to match your URLs. This is useful when the url is dynamically generated and can vary between users. For example, if a user could be coming from one of many subdomains, and your URLs use session identifiers, use regular expressions to define the constant element of your URL. For instance, ‘page=1’ will match ‘sports.mysite.com/checkout.cgi?page=1&id=002,’ and ‘football.mysite.com/checkout.cgi?page=1&language=fr&id=19.’

Time on Site Goal Tracking
A new goal available in Analytics is the Time on Site goal. This allows webmasters to create goals based on how long users stay on their site using hours, minutes and/or seconds. For example, if you notice that visitors tend to become customers if they spend more than 5 minutes on the site, it may be worth keeping data on those visits that last. In this case you would simply select ‘Time on Site’ as the Goal Type and select greater than 5 minutes as the goal. You can also track visits that last less than a determined length of time.

Pages per Visit Goal Tracking
The pages per visit goal allows webmasters to keep track of visits that browse through a specific number of pages. Also known as ‘depth of visit’, this information can be valuable when determining how engaging your site is. Options of ‘more than’, ‘equal to’ or ‘less than’ a number of visits are available so you can completely customize how you’d like to use this goal.

While the data for these engagement goals has been available in Analytics for quite some time it’s nice to be able to set them up as goals and gain the ability to analyze it further. Obviously this is just a basic overview – there are many way to customize and break down your goal data, such as using filters, funnels, advanced segments and custom reporting. Google Analytics is a wonderful (not to mention free!) tool, stay tuned to the Stone blog for more tips, tricks and updates on using the program wisely down the road.