16th June 2020

How to use and track the four Google Analytics goals types

Somewhere amongst the seemingly endless list of powerful Google Analytics features lies Goals, a function that can be used to monitor the website activities that matter the most to you.

While tracking your traffic is important, it is imperative that we go one step further and monitor the end goals of any website.

What are Google Analytics goals?

The reason you have your website is very likely to be new business, whether that be in the form of lead capture, registrations or subscriptions. 

Goals are essential in Google Analytics because they allow us to set certain targets that can be monitored and tracked, generating data to measure the success of the website against these objectives.

The Google Support resource states that:

Goals measure how well your site or app fulfills your target objectives. A goal represents a completed activity, called a conversion, that contributes to the success of your business. Examples of goals include making a purchase (for an ecommerce site), completing a game level (for a mobile gaming app), or submitting a contact information form (for a marketing or lead generation site).

You can create up to 20 goals in Google Analytics. These goals are broken up into sets – each profile has four sets of goals, giving you the ability to add five goals to each set. This is a handy way of organising your goals into different website functions.

When a website user performs an action defined as a goal, Analytics records that as a conversion. That conversion data is then made available to you in a number of Google Analytics reports, but that’s for another day.

Today we want to talk to you about the four Goal types, how they can be set up, and when they are at their most useful.

SEO Analytics Graph

Destination goals

As you may have grasped from the name, Destination goals are used to track visits to a particular destination on the website.

Destinations are:

  • A visit to a specific page on the website, otherwise known as a pageview
  • The opening of a screen on the website, otherwise known as a screenview

How to set up destination goals

To set up a URL as a destination goal in Google Analytics, head to the website you would like to work on and open up the admin section of the website.

Under View, click on Goals.

the Goals button in Google Analytics

Click New Goal, and in this case, choose custom.

Give your goal a name relevant to the function you are tracking, and select Destination as your Type.

Then, add your URL. This should be everything after your domain. So for example if the URL of the page is testsite.com/thank-you/ then the request URL would be: /thank-you/

input the destination URL for google analytics goals

You will then have the option to assign a value to this goal, should you have a monetary value that can be equated to the page or screenview. 

Why use destination goals?

You can use destination goals to track three key website functions in particular, and they are sales, contact forms and newsletter sign ups.

With product sales, you can use the URL of the order confirmation page or any similar such content that a user is presented with once the order is completed. Ecommerce tracking can also be initiated to add additional sales data to this.

Tracking sales data through Google Analytics is an absolute must for anyone who’s interested in the true ROI of their digital marketing campaign. When fully configured, you’ll be able to see which traffic sources are the most likely to lead to a sale for example; and this can have a big input into how you plan for the future.

Secondly, you may wish to use destination goals for contact form submissions. If you’re generating leads then you’re going to want to put a value to the number generated.

By creating a thank you page that users are directed to after a successful contact form submission, you’ll be given a full total of pageviews.

Why not get creative with your thank you pages? Different landing pages can possess different forms, redirecting to different thank you pages that are aligned with the subject of the page. Thank you pages confirm to the user that your message has been received, which is a builder of trust.

Finally, mailing list opt-ins can work in the same manner. On the confirmation pages, you may wish to display some featured blogs or reading to give the user an idea of what to expect from future newsletters.

Duration goals

Tracking the behaviour of a user on your website can provide some very useful insights into how well your set-up works, and can signal to you where you need to focus any optimisation. Analytics can provide you with all sorts of information regarding your users, including their average session time, whether or not they clicked onto another page before exiting your site, and what device they accessed it from.

Average session time is a common indicator of how well users engage with your content. If for example you’ve put together a large blog post, you’d expect to find a large average session time, suggesting users have properly read and taken in what you’ve written. If you were getting an average time of around 30 seconds for a blog that should take about 10 minutes to read, it would suggest something is wrong and needs changing.

As Google records how long a user stays on a web page, this is something you can use when it comes to Analytics Goals, setting up a minimum duration as a target to be tracked.

How to set up duration goals

From the ‘goals’ section of your Analytics property admin menu, select “new goal”, and then create a “custom goal”. 

Give the goal a relevant name that will help you to keep your data clear and organised, and select ‘duration’ as the custom goal type.

From there, go through to the ‘goal details’ section, and input your requirement time. You’ll be asked to input a duration in hours, minutes, and seconds, with the goal being counted as reached every time someone views a page on your website for a duration higher than this.

How to track duration goals

As with most goals on Google Analytics, this can be tracked fairly easily, with you able to see a full breakdown of your goal completions for any given time period you choose.

You can also combine this with the other metrics on Analytics, allowing you to segregate your goal completions by device, location, traffic source and more, and also providing you with information to show what web pages on your site this has happened on.

Why use duration goals?

Duration is a great trackable metric to gauge the success of certain types of marketing campaign. While most campaigns are judged on the amount of site traffic, enquiries or sales they produce, some are better tracked in other ways.

If the aim of a campaign is to get people reading a blog post on your website, simply looking at how many sessions that page received won’t be enough – many of those sessions may have ended in mere seconds, whether down to an accidental misclick or poor page optimisation. Instead, a duration goal will prove highly useful – set it up to a reasonable time limit in which someone would be able to consume a good portion of your content. Every time this goal is reached, it’s much more likely someone has actually engaged with your work.

a black and white stopwatch

Pages / Screens Per Session goals

The pages per session goal is one of Google Analytics’ lesser known and more niche features, but it is still highly relevant for certain types of site. The pages per session metric itself is calculated by the number of pages viewed divided by the total recorded sessions, for example:

4000 Page Views ÷ 1600 Sessions = 2.5 Pages per Session

This means that in tracking this goal, you are looking to see how many pages each person navigates through each time they come onto your site, as opposed to other goals that track what people do and where they go.

This goal can also be referred to as screens per session when applied to other outlets like mobile apps, as these do not use the classic pages format. The principle for these outlets remains the same however, and you are calculating how many individual “pages” on the app each user goes through in each session.

How to set up pages / screens per session goals

Setting up a pages/screens per session goal is actually very simple.

After navigating through the admin tab, goals and create new goal, select pages/screens per session and input the value you want to set as the baseline for this goal. As an example, let’s say this value is “greater than 3”. What this means is that only sessions that view 4 pages or more will activate the goal.

The next step in setting up a pages per session goal is to apply a monetary value if it is appropriate. This setting is optional, but is a very useful feature for those who gain business through pageviews.

Let’s say each session that views 4 or more pages is worth £10 to the business, with the value field activated GA will automatically record each time this goal is reached, and will spread the £10 out across each page that contributed to the completion.

Over time this will allow you to see which pages on your site are actually worth the most on a monetary scale, and will help you to focus on your better performing pages.

How to track pages / screens per session goals

Pages/screens per session goals are tracked just like any other Google analytics goal; in the conversion reports. These reports will show the performance of each page, allow you to recognise the monetary value of each one and also helps you to build a picture of your user journey, and areas to improve.

Why use pages / screens per session goals?

So why use the pages per session goal?

Not all businesses focus solely on tangible conversions that can be recorded with clicks, purchases or contact form fills. For many, the purpose of their website is entirely/partly to project information to the public to raise awareness or brand identity etc.

This is not something that has a trail of money to follow, but does provide value to the business. In this scenario the pages per session metric is key.

As an example, if a business wants to improve their identity by publishing their history or backstory without an obvious conversion at the end, then recording how many sessions clicked through all the pages or screens in the story shows how many people engaged with the content, and therefore how many people’s idea of the brand has changed.

Events

An event in Google Analytics is essentially when a user interacts with a specific element on your website, or completes a desired action. An event goal is when you identify an event to be a conversion.

For this type of goal, the user doesn’t need to be redirected to a specified destination page, so the versatility of event tracking means that you can track almost anything, from video views and downloads, to button clicks and form submissions that don’t lead to a thank you page.

Why should you use event goals?

A major advantage of setting up event goals is that it offers the flexibility to track almost anything you want to gain an insight into visitor behaviour on your website. Each event offers clean, specific data from a certain feature on your individual web pages, as opposed to overall statistics from the page. While overall data is useful, it’s limited in reporting which exact links or buttons were clicked, so event tracking is able to delve that little bit deeper.

By gathering this type of segmented data, you can easily assess the user journey on your site and put it to good use by seeing what’s working and what isn’t. This can then be translated across the entirety of your marketing efforts, for example should you see that visitors are engaging more with a certain button on your website, you may want to look into how you can incorporate this same call-to-action style across all pages. 

How to set up an event goal in Google Analytics

When setting up an event goal, there are four main components that you need to define:

  • Category
    This will help to group your events into specific categories, with any event assigned to that category being displayed in an organised fashion in your reports. For example, for any video related event goals you could use the category “Video”, for visitors downloading brochures or information packs you may use “Downloads”, and so on.
  • Action
    The action field is how you want to describe the event, to distinguish the specific actions across the category. If we take the “Downloads” category as an example again, you may want to call one action “Download PDF”, and another “Download brochure” etc. Using the same named action for each event can work, but can sometimes confuse matters in how these are calculated, so it’s best practice to keep them unique across categories.
  • Label
    Adding a label is optional, but by filling this field in you can provide more information about the action taken. Should you have a page filled with PDF downloads, adding the title of each document as a label will help to define which PDF’s have been downloaded, so you can measure the number against each document.
  • Value
    Unlike the previous three components, value is an integer and is used to assign a numerical value to the event. This can be used to measure the monetary value of the conversion, or other aspects such as download times in seconds or video load times. Again, this is optional and you can leave it out if it’s not relevant to your goal.

Taking the above components into consideration, this is how you may set up an event goal:

google analytics event set up

How to track event goals

Your event goal tracking will be displayed alongside all other goals in your conversion reports. Here, you will see the conversion rate of each of your events in their corresponding categories, detailing a plethora of data from which particular page your goal has been completed to how many times the event occurred, and so on.

Bonus: Smart Goals

An additional feature in Google Analytics is Smart Goals. These types of goals require little configuration and can be set up by any user who has View account level. It’s worth noting that Smart Goals are generally only effective for those using Google Ads.

Smart Goals use machine learning algorithms to determine which signals on your website are most likely to generate a conversion. It’s essentially a simplified way for those who aren’t measuring conversions to use your “best sessions” and calculate them as conversions.

The signals that are used to assess these sessions include session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser. Each session is given a score, and those with the highest will be translated into Smart Goals. This data can then be imported into Google Ads to help to optimise your bids, ads and account. 

In order to be able to use Smart Goals, your Google Analytics account must be linked to your Google Ads account, and your ads must be sending enough traffic to your website (500 Analytics sessions over 30 days as a benchmark, and receiving any less than 250 in a 30 day period will result in Smart Goals being deactivated until it increases to over 500).

There are quite a few limitations to Smart Goals, however. They aren’t configurable or customisable, and not every GA account may be eligible to use it.

While Smart Goals may not be useful for everyone, it may be worth reading further into Google’s Smart Goals information to see if you could benefit from optimising your Google Ads in this way.


If you want to start using Google Analytics to track your website more consistently, then we are here to help. Not only can we configure goals for you, but we can also recommend the right ones to set for your website. If this sounds like your cup of tea then please get in touch with us today to see how we can help.

Andy Flynn

By Andy Flynn

To find out how we can help you get great results, give us a ring on: 0161 713 1700

Or email us at: [email protected]