Web Analyst's Guide to Creating a Goal in Google Analytics

Aug 23, 2013

Creating a goal in Google Analytics is not difficult if you have a clear idea of what your goal is and how to identify it on your website. We recommend using goals that are built around URL destinations or events  to track how successful your website is at meeting your goals. This post will walk you through the steps to create your goal in Google Analytics but if you'd like to, you can read more about why you need goals.

For most NPR stations the most important goals will be Reading Stories, Listening to Streams and Support. If you're a Joint Licensee, you'll want to add Watching Videos, and if you're a music station you'll want to add Viewing or Searching Playlists.  You can add more later, but you do want to identify the important ones so that you can group them logically and understand their performance in relation to each other.  These goals will become the framework that you use to evaluate Google Analytics data and make it powerful, meaningful and consistent. 

Let's get started by looking at the key site activity of "reading news stories." To create this goal you will need access to the Admin area in Google Analytics.  Once you select the account, property and profile (view) that you would like to work with you will see the goals section (marked with a flag).  Click on goal to complete Google's 3 step process.

Step 1

Ignore Google's templates and select custom.  Most of the templates are geared for different business models and won't be helpful in measuring media consumption goals.  To do that we need to go custom.

Step one in the GA flow

Step 2

Give the goal a name.  Use something clear, as this will be added as an available metric in all of your reporting.  Google will automatically assign an open goal id in the current goal set, making it important to move in order of importance when you set these up.  You can always add more but it is best to start with the most important goals so they will be easy to view in one place.  Here you will also need to specify the type of event.  Again, our recommendation for the most impactful goals is to use the pages and events the indicate the key areas of site functionality.  Duration and depth based metrics will be less important and can be set up later if you need them.

Step 2 is more than halfway through creating a goal in Google Analytics

Step 3

This is the meatiest part of what you'll need to do.  To set the destination URLs for your goal, unless you are only tracking a single page, you'll select "regular expression" from the drop down.  Regular expressions give you the most flexible pattern matching in defining your goal.  Now find example pages for the type of activity that you want to track.  

For Core Publisher sites to match both a post like:
http://ds.npr.org/post/station-analytics-system-frequently-asked-questions
and a web clip like:
http://ds.npr.org/webclip/google-analytics-delivers-long-overdue-improvement-segments

your goal would be written as:
\/post\/|\/webclip\/    (copy and paste into the destination field to use this goal for a Core Publisher site)

Another common format for news stories is:
.../news/2013/01/13/...

your goal would be written as:
\/news\/|\/news\/[\d]{4}\/[\d]{2}\/[\d]{2}\/    (copy and paste into the destination field to use this goal for a site that uses these URL's)

If your URL's use the date based format but not the news directory you can use 
\/[\d]{4}\/[\d]{2}\/[\d]{2}\/
or if you use another subdirectory just replace "news" with the appropriate subfolder (for example "articles" or "science" 

Step 3 in setting up your goal is actually defining the page or event that indicates the goal.

Verify your goal to see how often the destination that you have defined would have converted in the last 7 days.  If you do not see the results you expect, there may be an error in your regular expression.  You can test your regular expressions in the filter of the content report to get some practice or to view sample results.  If you need a tutorial on Regular Expressions, I recommend this PDF from Luna Metrics or you can always contact us.

Other common goal pages. Copy and paste the one that matches your page URLs

Streaming Visits:
\/listen\/live
\/listen
\/listen-live
\/player
\/stream.*

Support Visits
\/support|\/support\/
\/membership\/|\/membership\/.*
\/donate|\/donate\/
\.pledgemain