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Setting Up Goals with Google Analytics

This blog post is the second of a four-part series, “The Top 4 Ways To Get Value From Google Analytics”. This course is intended for those who haven’t used Google Analytics before, and are looking for a place to start. Read on!

HIt your goalsOnce you understand the basics of Google Analytics (hereafter referred to as “GA”), you are ready to take advantage of some of the platform’s more advanced features.

The feature we’re going to address today is the Goals feature. GA allows you to easily track how users behave on your site, to create Goals for how they should behave, and test those goals over time.

We’ll be reviewing three fundamental types of Goals that GA allows you to track:

1.    URL Destination Goal
2.    Time on Site Goal
3.    Number of Pages Viewed Goal

#1: URL Destination Goal

The first kind of Goal we’re going to address is the URL Destination Goal.

Chances are, you have a certain “call to action” page on your website to which you’re trying to drive visitors, but it’s not a landing page itself. This page might have a document you want visitors to download, a video you’d like them watch, or it might ask them to make a donation.

This page is the “URL Destination”. To set up the Goal, you’ll fill out a specific form inside of GA, which will create a “funnel”. Essentially, you’ll be telling GA that you think visitors should visit page 1 and 2 before they land on the URL Destination, page 3.

After you’ve set this up, Google has a funnel report that will show you the path visitors are actually taking to get to your URL destination – and it may completely defy your expectations. Don’t be surprised to discover that on the way to page 3, visitors actually started on page 5, then went to page 2, before finally landing on page 3.

#2: Time on Site Goal

For certain websites, it will be important to closely track how long visitors stay on the site.

Typically, 2.5 minutes is considered a great average time on site. If visitors stay even longer, you’ve got some genuinely engaging content. If it’s less than that, you may want to take a look at the pages they visited to see if you can determine why they didn’t stay longer.

Part one of this series, teaches you how to generate reports for landing pages and traffic sources. Wouldn’t it be interesting to apply that knowledge and learn that visitors coming to your site from specific referral sources, for instance, are staying 2 or 3 minutes longer on average than other visitors?

Likewise, are the visitors who are staying for a long time on your site typically new visitors, or returning visitors? Do visitors coming from a specific referral source tend to sit on one or two pieces of content they find really interesting, or do they jump around from page to page?

How does GA track each visitor’s time onsite? The second a visitor lands on your site, GA turns on the clock. The second they leave that page and visit \ another page within your site, the clock starts again – giving GA precise data about the visitor’s time on the first page.

This process continues for as many pages as the visitor chooses to visit. However, when a visitor leaves the site entirely, GA doesn’t record the end of that visit, because there was no “beginning” to another page.

If you sit on a page for a very long period of time, GA will actually stop the clock after 30 minutes (provided you haven’t left that page). You can change this window of time if you know that users routinely spend very long periods on a single page of your site – for instance, if users take a long test – but 30 minutes is the default.

#3 Number of Pages Viewed Goal

The final Goal we’ll examine today is Number of Pages Viewed.

The point here is to learn more about your visitors. With this tool, you can identify the visitors who visit, for instance, five pages in a single session, to see what’s unique about them. Are they new visitors, or returning? What traffic source did they use to find your site?

Conversely, you can look at visitors who are visiting an unusually low number of pages on your sites. Once again, you’ll gain valuable insight into who these visitors are by seeing where they come from, and whether they are new or returning visitors.

“I’ve Set My Goals – Now What?”

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the GA tools that are useful to you. If you are just getting started, we recommend logging in at least once a week so that the functionality of the tool remains fresh and you don’t forget how to use it.

Once you’re feeling more comfortable, a monthly check-in to GA will usually do – however, this can vary depending on the type of website you’re running.

One handy feature that GA offers is the ability to have certain reports automatically e-mailed to you at the frequency of your choice – however, we recommend that you wait until you’re familiar with the reports that will bring you the most value before you take advantage of this.

Once you become familiar with these features, you’ll be ready for part 3 of our series, which will show you how to track the activity of your offline campaigns through Google Analytics!

Aunt Ellen’s Coconut Cake

I have mentioned my great Aunt Ellen in this blog before- she was our family ‘foodie’ and one of the best Southern cook’s I know.  Aunt Ellen was a diabetic but it didn’t stop her from making some wonderful sweet goodies for all us kids in the family. One of her best was a coconut cake that was soooo simple and I am going to share it with you here.  I have made this many times and especially in the winter – somehow it seems more fitting as a dessert in the winter months.

The key to this wonderful cake is to let it sit in the fridge overnight. Oh my, the center of my teeth hurt just thinking about it. A funny story about one of the ingredients: when I was growing up and making this cake I could only find cream of coconut in the aisle with all the drink mixers because it was mostly used to make Pina Colada. Now, I find it in the aisle with Mexican and Thai food!

1 yellow Cake Mix
1 can Eaglebrand
1 15 oz can of cream of coconut
Flaked coconut
Cool Whip

Prepare the cake according to package directions in a 9×13 cake pan. Remove from the oven and immediately pierce the top of the cake with a fork all over. Pour the can of Eaglebrand all over the cake to let it seep down into the very warm cake. Then follow immediately with the can of (shaken up) cream of coconut. It will look as though it is pooling on top of the cake but give it a few minutes and it will disappear. If your countertop isn’t level you might want to lift the pan and allow the goo to flow back to the center of the pan to ooze into the cake. Oh my!

Once the cake has cooked on the counter, cover it with Cool Whip and then cover the Cool Whip with flaked coconut. Refrigerate overnight is best. It will make your brains fall out!

Bonnie Massa is Founder and President of Chicago-based Massa & Company, Inc. She works with companies and nonprofits to make the best use of their information about customers, partners, donors and sponsors. With more than 40 years of experience in marketing and predictive analytics, Bonnie is passionate about helping clients make informed, data-driven decisions to increase the value of their customer base. She strongly believes that making pasta and ice cream from scratch are worth the effort, and she spends much of her free time testing and re-testing that theory.

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