How to set goals and goal value in Google Analytics

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It’s something I’ve said so many times that you could likely manufacture a pull-string doll of me saying it:

If you don’t have goals and goal values set up in Google Analytics, you’re doing it wrong.

At the end of the day, you absolutely must have some sort of tangible value assigned to your online work. It doesn’t have to necessarily be money, but it does need to be something that’s of actual use to you, your business or organization, etc. In the world of web analytics, that’s a goal.

A goal isn’t necessarily only the final sale of goods. It can be anything from your marketing funnel that has a direct line to your goal. For example, one of my goals on is to get people to subscribe to my newsletter.

Setting up a goal is easy. Decide what actions on your site you want people to take and note the URLs of those actions and their confirmations. For example, if I want you to subscribe to the newsletter, then my goal is you reaching the “thanks for subscribing” page. Over at my company’s site, WhatCounts, one of our goals is having you reach a landing page’s confirmation after filling out a registration form.

Google Analytics

What if your goal goes off your site? Easy enough – use event tracking as the goal instead. I do this on my newsletter subscribe buttons, as they send people off-site. By configuring an event (on click) for the button, I track how many people hit the button and use that as a goal. For more information about event tracking, read the manual.

The harder part of goals is setting goal values. What value does someone have for one of your goals? If you’ve got an e-commerce site, that answer is relatively simple, the average value of a sale at the checkout page. For B2B, one of the most basic formulae I recommend is value per lead.

Take the amount of new business generated via your website over the last major statistical interval (at least a quarter, preferable two quarters) and divide it by the number of raw leads for that time period. For example, if you generated 100,000 from your website last quarter and had 1,000 leads, your goal value for a new lead is10, and that’s what you put in the goal value box.

Suppose it’s even more abstract than that? For example, I don’t currently derive a significant amount of revenue from my newsletter because it’s mostly a networking and presence of mind vehicle. The last time I had to change jobs, however, I hit my list and was able to find new work in very, very short order. In theory then, my email list is worth whatever my annual income is, and a new lead, a new subscriber, is worth whatever percentage of income/subscribers at the time I was looking for work. Now, that’s a bit of a theoretical stretch, but it’s better than nothing for the purposes of measuring goal value. The better alternative for an abstract model is to find a concrete business metric, or create one. Write a book, put it up for sale, and then measure again.

A third way to assess goal values for goals that have a very abstract value is to use the correctly-maligned-but-better-than-nothing ad value equivalence. Let’s say that I’ve got an event coming up like, oh, PodCamp Boston. If I had to go out and rent a highly targeted list of people, what would it cost me to do so? Here’s an example:

Brand Republic – Opt-In Email Addresses. Contact 9,051 subscribers to Brand Republic magazine through their email addresses. The publication is geared toward professionals in advertising, communications, marketing and media. Selects include job function, business sector, number of employees and more. Base list price is $555/M. Contact your list broker.

To hit this list of highly targeted professionals, it’d cost me $5,023.31, or roughly 56 cents per name. Thus, my goal value in Google Analytics can be set to 56 cents per subscriber to my mailing list and I’d be saving the amount of money that the list rental would cost me in ad value equivalence. That said, ad value equivalence is a sign that you don’t have a sustainable business or concrete metrics elsewhere in your marketing. In the case of PodCamp, it isn’t a sustainable business in its current incarnation, and thus you could get away with ad value equivalence.

Hopefully you’ve now got a few different ideas for how to set your goal values. Make sure you actually go do it and soon!

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6 responses to “How to set goals and goal value in Google Analytics”

  1. I already had setup for my business. However, thanks for detailing!

  2. “If you’ve got an e-commerce site, that answer is relatively simple, the average value of a sale at the checkout page”. I’m trying to do just that. I add the value to the event, and on the event tracking section I see the values just fine. However, I can’t get it to show as the conversion value. I’ve set it to ‘Use the actual event value’, but Analytics seems to refuse to pick it up… Any ideas why?

    UPDATE: I figured out the problem eventually. Looks like a combination of having to wait a couple of hours before the goal gets fully updated on analytics, and possibly a mix with the standard analytics code. I posted a little more about it on

  3. […] If you find a causal relationship for a digital channel, you can assign a value to that channel. Let’s say you had 100 visitors to the website and 50 battery sales a day before your test. Let’s say during the test period you forced that up to 150 visitors a day and 75 battery sales. The difference is the value – 50 visitors = 25 sales. Take the value of the sales and you have a value per visitor. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say a battery costs 1. 50 visitors =25, or each visitor is worth $0.50. Now you’ve got something that you can plug into Google Analytics for goals and goal values. […]

  4. […] order to make this determination, goals and goal values in Google Analytics must be set up first. Once you’ve got goals and goal values, go into Google Analytics and find the Conversions […]

  5. […] Analytics. Best in class tools like Google Analytics let you segment your visitors. Be sure to define goals and goal values! […]

  6. […] could we get more specific about our customer journey? If you have goals and goal values specified in Google Analytics, the tool provides you with much of the raw data you need to create your own customer journey. […]

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