An Overview of Google Analytics Goals & Conversion Metrics


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There’s sometimes some confusion with regard to conversions and goals, and how they relate to each other, especially when determining campaign success or failure. If you’re running a pay-per-click campaign, you measure conversions. It you’re monitoring Google analytics, you’re measuring goals. Remember this significant difference:

  • Pay-per-click and online display is ADVERTISING, and the goal of advertising is to generate leads, sales, and revenue, and that means CONVERSIONS.
  • Google analytics measures website activity, with the goal to track visitor behavior. Any behaviors that you want to measure are called GOALS.

Where analytics and Google Adwords intersect is when monitoring “conversions” in the Adwords platform because you have an option of importing certain goals from analytics into Adwords, so you need to make sure you import only certain goals (conversion goals) to the Adwords platform.

What is a Conversion

A conversion is any action on a website or landing page that requires a consumer or prospect to enter personal information in exchange for something that they desire.

  • E-commerce: A purchase
  • Lead generation: A demo, a trial, a content asset, a quote, a newsletter sign-up, or any other action that requires an email address submitted on a web form. Whatever the action is, the action must be identified as a potential lead and opportunity.

What is a Goal

Goals are specific actions that you feel necessary to track in order to measure the success of your website activity, website content, and website navigational structure. Goals are typically separated into 3 buckets:

  • Page URLs:

A page URL is a relevant destination page that represents a complete conversion or a key engagement page.

Conversion Page: This is the page a user sees after completing an action that requires an email address submission, typically called a Thank You page. All websites and landing pages need to include a compelling confirmation page that reminds audiences of the value they are receiving, and is a good place to promote social media pages.

Key Destination Page: This page is a key page on a website that represents either purchase intent or engaging content. For instance, if you’re a retailer or car dealer, you may wish to track visits to the “hours and directions” page. You may wish to track visits to your blog, or content resource section. Many of these pages you can track anyway under the Content section of analytics as well.

A subset of conversion page tracking is creating goal funnels. Funnels on a website are a set of web page URLs that lead to an action. Most commonly used with e-commerce sites, you can set up a funnel that incorporates a cart page, an order page, a confirmation page, and the thank you page. By so doing, you can measure the effectiveness of the checkout process, including cart abandonment, and then look to improve the process if the funnel is not achieving your goals. This is also where the concept of ad retargeting enters the picture.

In a complex B2B sale, you may want to track a steady series of small conversions. By continually engaging audiences with emails and custom landing pages, typically via marketing automation, you can lead score the conversions until the leads are sales-ready.

  • Site Engagement Goals:

Google Analytics measures two types of engagement goals.

Visitor Duration: Let’s you measure how many visitors stay on your site a certain amount of time.

Pages per Visit: Let’s you measure how many pages an average visitor sees during a typical session.

I’m not a big fan of measuring engagement goals with analytics. This data can be measured throughout the Google Analytics platform. If you’re measuring a landing page as a profile, then of course engagement metrics do not mean much. Likewise, if your site is hard to navigate, or your purchase funnel from cart to purchase has too many steps, then engagement numbers can be misleading.

  • Event Goals

Events are activities on a website that don’t necessarily have page URLs, but give you the ability to measure actions such as video views, PDF downloads, clicks on buttons or links. Requiring some additional code on your website, event tracking can be a valuable way to measure these specific activities. For example, if you’re investing in online videos, it would be nice to measure the video plays to determine the video content effectiveness.


Once your goals are set up properly the fun begins. From a marketing standpoint, you can now measure goals by:

  • Traffic source
  • Non-paid organic search
  • Keyword
  • Landing Page
  • Ad Content

From a purely website activity standpoint, you can also measure goals by:

  • Visitor location
  • Language
  • New vs. Returning Visitors
  • Browser and OS
  • Mobile Devices

Once trends are occurring, you now get the opportunity to identify successes and failures. When certain goals are not performing as compared to site averages, it gives you the opportunity to test new web pages, update content, update navigation, call-to-action, or a number of other variables that deter audiences from engagement or conversion.


Not all traffic converts when they visit your website the first time. With continued marketing, social media, and lead nurturing efforts, audiences may come back and convert via other channels than the initial visit channel. Therefore the “last click” activity is credited for the conversion or goal in Google Analytics. This is why there are metrics put in place to measure “purchase funnels” with the objective to give some conversion credit to traffic sources that have contributed to the final goal or conversion. This is commonly called attribution, and can give you important clues on how online display banner ads and social media channels contribute to goals and conversions.

Attribution is measured a number of ways in Google Adwords and Google Analytics.


Search Funnels:

Shows the entire path of search activity that leads up to a conversion. Search funnel reports will show you how “top of funnel” keywords contribute to conversions. Some of the metrics you can measure:

  • Conversion Path: Sequence of ad clicks and impressions leading up to a conversion
  • Last Clicks: Any search ad click that happened immediately preceding a conversion
  • Assist Clicks: Any search ad click that happened prior to the “last click” before a conversion
  • Assist Impressions: Any search ad impression that was not clicked and happened prior to a conversion
  • Assist Clicks / Last Clicks: The ratio of assist clicks / last clicks for a particular campaign, ad-group, or keyword
  • Assist Impressions / Last Clicks: The ratio of assist impressions / last clicks for a particular campaign, ad-group, or keyword

I’ll l review this in detail in a future post, but the real objective is to understand search behavior, and make decisions on this behavior, and not on click metrics.

View-Through Conversions:

For Google’s Display Network, (and other display ad networks for that matter) a view-through conversion happens when a customer sees an ad then later returns to your site through a another channel (an organic listing or direct URL) and completes a conversion on your site. Somewhat controversial, because you don’t know if the display ad was actually seen, or how it really contributed to a final conversion. All you know is, an ad was served to a user within 30 days prior to a last-click conversion.

Google Analytics

Similar to Adwords search funnels, GA’s Multi-Channel funnel reports gives you insight on how multiple marketing and search channels contribute to last-click goals, sales, and conversions..

The Multi-Channel Funnels reports show what channels customers or leads interacted with during the 30 days before conversion or purchase. Some of the metrics you can measure here are:

  • Assisted conversions: Shows how different channels impact a conversion
  • Time lag: Helps understand time to conversion
  • Path length: Shows you the number of interactions before a conversion
  • Top conversion paths: Shows the routes/channels your customers take to conversion


As you have read, there is much more to conversion and goal tracking than just setting it up and watching. By analyzing your business goals, your website goals, and your marketing goals, you can make strategic decisions from the channel/campaign level all the way down to the keyword level, optimize your marketing strategy, update your website strategy, and monitor true campaign ROI. As always, it begins with a conversion plan; and determining what metrics mean most to your business so that outcomes can be analyzed and acted upon.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Paul Mosenson
Owner of NuSpark Marketing Helps B2B and B2C companies market themselves through integrated tactics, (traditional advertising, internet advertising, SEO, social media), conversions, and sales through lead nurturing/marketing automation.


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