Common Google Analytics Goal Setup Mistakes

While keyword ranking is still a good way to gauge the performance of any search engine marketing campaign, it’s not as important as measurement of metrics that make better business sense. So there is a need to measure SEO performance through setting up of web analytic goals. I guess we’d like to measure number of sales of your products sold online as a business (and SEO) objective more than just number of top 10 keyword rankings.

So assuming we measure goals and set them through Google Analytics, we extract the tracking data, embed it into the source code of our pages, and set them up through Google Analytics interface. However, in some cases they don’t work at all. We think we did everything right, but even if we receive sales orders online, our Google Analytics report fails to detect it. This is a fairly common experience especially for first-time Google Analytics users. Now, it’s time to do some troubleshooting and fix mistakes.

URL used in goal doesn’t match with actual URL
When entering URLs into the Web Analytics goals, let’s ensure that it’s the correct URL we expect people would see when they visit our website. One easy way to do this is to copy and paste the URL from the browser, and be careful with unnecessary URL parameters.

Google Analytics advises that we don’t need to use domain name when filling in URLs so if my “thank you” page is “https://seohongkong.kinsta.com/contact/mailer.php”, then I just need to place “/contact/mailer.php” into the form. This will come handy if our landing page URL is long enough that we don’t see the entire length in the Google Analytics interface.

goal-overview

Using different versions of tracking code
Google Analytics initially used an Urchin-based tracking code (right after it acquired the product from Urchin), but later as it made modifications in the report interface, on how it extracts data and presents information, the tracking code version also changed.

tracking-code

We should use only one version of tracking code on our website. Mixing them could produce inaccurate results.

Failure to insert tracking code to all pages we want to monitor
We may have used only one version of tracking code but if we failed to implement them into all our pages, the Goal measurement will be useless no matter how well we set it up. A good way to make sure we add tracking code on all pages without sweating a lot is to embed the code in a common file such as a dynamic footer file. Once it’s done, all pages that call the footer file will also include the tracking code on it.

And if we don’t use a dynamic page file on our pages (since we only have HTML pages), we can always seek help from SiteScan. What it does is scan our entire website (we just need to enter the URL of our site) and it will return a list of pages containing tracking code and those pages without tracking code. We can then decide which pages we need to place the tracking code.

We entered duplicate “thank you” page URL into the form
Once we set up goals (see image below), we’ll be asked about the Goal URL (the URL of the final page that says thank you for your purchase, or download or for contacting us, etc. Below this form is the optional section called “Define Funnel” which lets us specify the visitor path we want to track. For example, if a visitor makes a purchase at our e-commerce site, we might want to track the product landing page, shopping cart page, payment page, and sale confirmation page to find out which page most visitors abandon their shopping experience. So we enter the URL of each of these pages in correct order.

goal-settings

But sometimes, we tend to add the sale confirmation page URL into the “Define Funnel” section even if we already defined them in the Goal URL above. To correct the problem, simply remove this URL from the “Define Funnel” section and ensure that we have it entered in the Goal URL correctly.

Adding non-numeric characters in the “Goal Value” field
If I think a “contact us” goal is equivalent to “HK$200” then I should only use 200 instead of including the currency symbols.

We made changes on goal setup in between reports
This is not entirely our own fault, or Google Analytics’s either. We just need to understand that Google Analytics report is not retroactive. That means whatever change in settings (like adding URL in the “Define Funnel” or changing the Goal Value) we make today, its impact will only be applicable on reports today, tomorrow and the future. But it will not impact reports generated yesterday and the past. So we just have to bear in mind that when we make changes in Goals or URLs, we only need to look at upcoming reports because historical data is not included on these changes we make.

For any other Google Analytics problems, there is always the Help section that contains a truckload of answers to questions.