Why You Need Website Goals

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
― Yogi Berra

website goalsIf you haven’t set up Goals in Google Analytics, then your chances of achieving success on the web are reduced by 80%. OK, I confess I just made up that number. As far as I know, there have been no scientific studies comparing sites with and without Goal tracking, and of course it would be difficult to screen for all the other web marketing variables. So really the failure rate of sites that don’t track Goals could be closer to 100%.

Inattention to Goals dooms your website to failure.

Before we get to Goals as they are used in Google Analytics, let’s back up and take a look at your web site. Can you say in specific terms exactly what you want your web site to do for you? Responses such as “improve revenue,” “generate leads,” or “Increase exposure” point in the right direction, but are too general to be helpful. We need to get down to how those broad goals will be met, and more specifically, how we can measure our progress along the way so that our actions and marketing resources are deployed for the best effect.

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”
—Lord Kelvin

What actions can your visitors perform on your website?

Goals are set up to measure what your visitors can do on your website. Here are some examples:

  • Sign up for an email newsletter
  • Contact you via an online form
  • Contact you via an email link (GA can only track clicks on the link, not messages sent)
  • Contact you via a phone call (requires additional call-tracking software)
  • Download a white paper or other document
  • Read your content
  • Share your website content on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+)
  • Comment on a blog post
  • Subscribe to your RSS feed

These are all desirable actions, and each can be set up as a Goal in Google Analytics. The majority of visitors won’t take the most desirable actions, so you want to find out who does, and how to get more visitors to take these actions. By setting up Goals in Google Analytics, you are able to see at a glance how many of these actions occur, where visitors came from who took these actions, often the keyword phrase they used to get to your site, which pages they viewed before they took the action, and other valuable data.

Tracking goals is meant to influence your behavior

All of this knowledge is useful only if it drives your behavior as a site owner. Tracking what happens on your website through Google Analytics isn’t an end in itself, even though reviewing data may be your favorite thing to while eating a sandwich at your desk. Goal tracking is a way to get you to focus your thinking on how to improve your web marketing.

How to use Google Analytics to improve email newsletter signups

Let’s say you have an email newsletter, and your tracking shows that you are getting one or two signups a month. That means in five years your list will have grown by a whopping 100 or so names. Is this really worth all the effort you put into creating and distributing the newsletter?

Your in-house email list can be one of the most valuable assets your business can acquire. The point of Goal tracking is not to encourage you to give up, but to show you where to focus your efforts, and then to show you which efforts produce good results. Is it worth some effort to grow the list? Of course it is! So lets look at a few things you could try on your website to improve signups.

Here are a few elements to consider:

  • Is your signup form prominent enough? If your newsletter is a major marketing vehicle for you, perhaps you could try a popup box for the signup. Handled properly these have been proven to increase subscriptions without annoying other visitors.
  • Do you provide an incentive for signups, such as a free white paper or offers of special discounts or valuable information? Are these incentives valuable to your visitors?
  • What websites are new subscribers coming from? If there are one or two standouts, see what you can do to beef up your presence on those sites.
  • Are subscribers inclined to use a particular keyword phrase? If so, check your ranking and see if it can be improved. Look at the corresponding landing page and make sure the signup link is prominent.
  • Do you have a signup form on all pages of the site?

In some cases, such as where visitors are coming from who sign up for your newsletter, Google Analytics can provide the answer. In other cases you review your site with a keen marketer’s eye and determine small changes you can make and test. The examples above are just a few actions that you can take to improve your web site’s performance in this particular area. Make one change at a time and review the results in Google Analytics. If you try a white paper download for a reasonable period of time and don’t get a lift in subscribers, try a different white paper (or a different title for the same white paper) and view the results. These incremental changes over time can add up to a significant boost to your bottom line.

By the way, most email service providers offer their own analytics and some will pull in Google Analytics data. This is great and can provide added insights, but I strongly advocate that you set up tracking for email marketing in Google Analytics itself. Simplify, simplify! You will learn more, see more, and do more, if you only need to check one place for actionable data.

Stay focused, do good, get better

The important point here is to stay focused on your Goal, increasing newsletter subscriptions in this example. If you have determined your website Goals, set them up for tracking in Google Analytics, and then take action to improve results over time, you will achieve website success and your business will thrive. If you think Google Analytics is just for passive “tracking” and Goals are an obscure software feature you don’t want to mess with, your web marketing efforts will fail. It’s that simple.