How to: Google Analytics Goals Like a Boss

google analytics goals feature image

A simple walkthrough for creating effective Google Analytics Goals to track your progress.

Do you have goals as a blogger? I’m not talking about aspirations, hopes and dreams like, “I want to be as cool as Michael Hyatt some day.” I’m talking about the kind of goals you can track through Google Analytics.

Not that I don’t fully support dreaming big and trying to be as cool as Michael Hyatt. On the contrary, you definitely need to have big dreams, goals and aspirations.

And let’s face it, what blogger doesn’t want to be Michael Hyatt?

What I’m talking about in this post, though, are tangible, trackable, and quantifiable goals. The kinds of goals that allow you to benchmark your progress and know whether or not what you’re doing is taking you in the direction of your bigger, less tangible goals. Or even more importantly— if your blogging is even paying off at all.

if you can't measure it quote

I want to walk you though a handful of goals that I believe every blogger needs to have and how to track them using Google Analytics. They’re really very simple, and more advanced bloggers may want to dive deeper if needed.

But let’s just start with the basics, shall we?

What are some basic blogging goals I should have?

Well, firstly, every blogger should have some basic metrics to gauge how well they’re doing at getting people to their content. These aren’t an actual Google Analytics Goal type metrics, they’re more or less just metrics you’ll want to keep an eye on and maybe just have a mental goal of how much you want to improve them every month.

Those metrics I’m talking about are things such as:

  • Sessions
  • Pageviews
  • Avg. Session Duration
  • Pages per Session
  • Bounce Rate

In fact, you should definitely have a Google Analytics Dashboard set up for all of these things as well as the goals I’m going to show you how to set up. To make it super easy for you, I’ve gone ahead and created a template out of my go-to GA Dashboard that you can apply to your own site in just a few clicks.

What to get access to this dashboard template? Join my email newsletter by adding your email below, and I’ll send you the link to the Google Analytics Dashboard Template I use on all my blogs.

 

You can, of course, take the time to create your own dashboard, but this template will save you lots of time in having to do it manually.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is that traffic is meaningless unless it’s translating to some sort of conversion goal. Typically these conversion goals are email signups or a purchase of some sort. And the only way you can actually tell if what you’re doing is paying off is by setting up some conversion-based goals inside your Google Analytics account.

This is actually easier to do than you might realize, and I’m going to walk you through the basic types of goals you should set up immediately.

How to Set Up Google Analytics Goals

There are a number of different ways to set up goals inside of Google Analytics, but I’m only going to focus on two different approaches that are quick and easy to set up for even the most inexperienced blogger.

For both of these goal types we’re going to be using an email subscriber as the goal, meaning we will tell Google Analytics to monitor and track each time we gain a new subscriber to our email lists.

Now, this presumes you have some sort of email subscribe form that you place throughout your site. My form plugin of choice is Ninja Forms (affiliate link), and I highly recommend it. The reason I recommend it so highly is because it allows you to create highly customizable forms that do exactly what you need them to do with a beautiful and easy-to-use interface.

To connect it to my email list, powered by MailChimp (referral link), there is a Ninja Forms MailChimp add-on that makes for super smooth integration. Be sure that whatever form plugin you’re using is connected to your email list software of choice.

With that said, let’s get started with our first goal.

Creating a Destination Goal

The first and easiest way to set up a email subscriber goal is to create a form that will redirect the person signing up to some sort of Thank You page. With Ninja Forms, this is as easy as setting a Redirect action.

ninja forms redirect action

If you’re using a different kind of form builder that doesn’t have this ability, I recommend switching to a better form plugin or skipping to the next section.

Once you have this form redirection set up, you can head over to your Google Analytics account and navigate to your Admin tab.

Now, from your Admin tab it’s only going to take six simple steps to set up your first goal.

google analytics goals navigation

Step 1: Click on the Goals tab in the third column. This will take you to a page that lists all the goals that Google Analytics is tracking.

Step 2: If you don’t have any goals set up yet, click on the New Goal button at the top of the list box.

create a new google analytics goal

If you already have some goals in there that you’re not using, you can simply click on them to modify those goals and reconfigure them to do what we’ll talk about next.

Step 3: Google Analytics will first have you choose whether you want to use a Template for a goal or create a Custom goal. Choose Custom and then click the blue Continue button.

google analytics goal setup custom

Step 4: Set the Name of your goal. This will only be for your purposes, so just name it something simple and specific so you can easily remember what it’s for.

I like to add “(Redirect)” to the end of my redirect goals, just so I know exactly what type of goal it is when listed among my other goals.

Step 5: Under Type make sure you select Destination and then click the blue Continue button.

google analytics goal description

Step 6: In the Goal Details section you can then set the Destination (the URL of your Thank You page). All you need to do is enter the last part of your slug.

So, for example, if your Thank You page address was located at yourdomain.com/thank-you/ then all you would need to enter into the box is /thank-you/.

google analytics goal details

You can then optionally decide to add a Value and Funnel to this goal, but I recommend not doing this unless you have a deep understanding about how these work and how to apply them to your personal goals. So, for the purposeses of this tutorial, we’ll skip it.

Now, just hit the blue Save button and you’re all done!

You’ve now officially got your first Google Analytics Goal set up and will be able to track every single time someone fills out one of your forms and gets redirected to your Thank You page!

But what if you don’t want to redirect people to a Thank You page when they fill out your subscribe form? Or what if your form builder doesn’t allow you to create redirects?

Well, if you happened to have filled out my form above for the bonus Google Analytics Dashboard template, you would have noticed that you do not get redirected— just a success message letting you know your gift is on the way to your inbox.

If you want to know how to track these types of forms, read on, dear reader.

Track Form Submission Goals without a Redirect

If you’re using the popular WordPress Contact Form 7, they make it extremely easy to add an Event to your forms. This is essentially something that is triggered and recorded in Google Analytics every time a form is submitted and all you need to do is add a simple line of code in the designated area of your form builder.

For those of us who don’t have a form builder that has this easy integration, we have to come up with another solution—we have to create our own Google Analytics event. And boy-oh-boy it was not easy figure out.

I searched the entire internet and couldn’t find a tutorial or simple script that anyone has build to easily add to your site and track form submissions. The reason is because it’s a little complicated and not 100% fool proof. But in my opinion it’s better to track something than nothing.

So, with the help of Kyle from Ninja Forms, David from Confluent Forms, and Nick from Warfare Plugins, we were able to come up with a dead simple piece of code that, when placed in your sites Footer will allow you to create a simple Event that fires off every time a form is submitted on your site.

<script>
  jQuery( document ).ready( function() {
    jQuery( document )
    .on('click', 'input[type=button]', function() {
    ga('send', 'event', 'Email List', 'Subscribed', 'New Subscriber');
    });
  });
</script>

Just place this into your theme’s footer so that it is output on every one of your pages.

If you’re using Genesis Theme (affiliate link) they make this super easy. Just head over to your Theme Options tab and scroll down to the Footer Scripts section and paste the above code in.

genesis theme scripts

Now, what this Event is tracking is actually the act of clicking the Submit button (or whatever the button is that submits the form). So just make sure that your form’s button is an input with a type="button" on it.

If you’re not sure about this you can use your browsers Inspect Element feature:

  1. Right-click the button on the page
  2. Select the Inspect Element (Chrome) option
  3. Look at the button’s code and it should look like the following image
inspect element in chrome
inspecting element tags

If your button is an input element with a type="button" then you’re all set. If not, you’ll need to consult the developers of your form plugin.

If done correctly, Google Analytics will record an Event with the following parameters:

  • Event Category: Email List
  • Event Action: Subscribed
  • Event Label: New Subscriber

If you’re using Ninja Forms, Quay has created a tutorial for Google Analytics Event Tracking for Ninja Forms that doesn’t require any code. For some reason I couldn’t get this to work, but if you want to give it a shot before you try the script route, it’s very easy to follow.

Bonus: Kyle has created a free Ninja Forms add-on plugin that you can download via his Github that will add Google Analytics events to all successful Ninja Forms submissions.

You can then create a Goal for this event using the following 6 steps.

Step 1: Just like the previous goal you need to head to the Admin tab of your Google Analytics property and click on Goals.

Step 2: Click the New Goal button.

Step 3: Under Goal Setup select the Custom option and then click the blue Continue button.

Step 4: Name your goal appropriately.

Step 5: Under Type select the Event option and then click the blue Continue button.

Step 6: In the Goal Details section fill out the exact Category, Action and Label I’ve listed above for this Event. It will look like this:

  • Category Equals to Email List
  • Action Equals to Subscribed
  • Label Equals to New Subscriber
google analytics event goal

Once you’ve done this, you can click the blue Save button and you’re all set!

You will now be tracking all form submissions on your site. Woo-hoo!

Now, the drawback to this is that even if someone gives a bad email address or the submission has an error and doesn’t go through, the Event will still fire as if it were successful. Additionally, if you also have forms that redirect throughout your site, these will also be counted which means if you have a redirect Goal set up also, those forms will be counted as double.

To fix this, you can add one little modification to both the code above and your non-redirect forms to ensure that only these forms are tracked by the event.

First, you’ll need to add a CSS class to the Submit button. In my forms I just used a simple .subscribe-form class. With Ninja Forms you can do this by clicking on the button element in the form editor and adding the class under Display.

ninja forms button class

The tracking script then looks like this:

<script>
  jQuery( document ).ready( function() {
    jQuery( document )
    .on('click', 'input[type=button].subscribe-form', function() {
    ga('send', 'event', 'Email List', 'Subscribed', 'New Subscriber');
  });
 });
</script>

If you want to use a different class or already have forms that contain a specific class on your Submit buttons, you can change the script accordingly to have that class.

Bonus Goal: Social Shares

if you can't measure it quote

Now, this is only going to be for those bloggers who are interested in getting their content shared and tracking how well their content is at making that happen. More shares lead to more traffic and more traffic leads to more conversions of all kinds.

So, it stands to reason that most bloggers want more social shares, but they just haven’t thought to set it up as a Goal in their Google Analytics. Why? Because most people are using a social sharing plugin that someone else created and the people who created it didn’t have this in mind.

Unless you’re using Social Warfare. As co-founder of Social Warfare, this was a feature I really wanted added into the plugin. So we did, and people are loving it!

As a Social Warfare user, all you need to do is turn this feature on.

social warfare analytics button clicks

Once this feature is turned on, Google Analytics will record an event for every time one of your social sharing buttons is clicked. You can then go about creating an Event Goal just like we did above. When you get to the Goal Details portion of creating it, here’s the parameters you want to fill out:

  • Category Equals to social_media
  • Action Begins with swp_

Pay special attention to the case-sensitivity and also the trailing _ (underscore) on the Event Action.

And that’s it. You can now see how well every blog post is “converting” to social shares.

Reading Your Google Analytics Conversion Reports

So why go through all this trouble to create goals and track conversions? Because these are the things that show you whether or not what you’re doing is working.

If you’re cranking out content regularly and it’s not getting any shares, it’s time to change up your content. But how would you know for certain unless you’re tracking this?

If you’re creating lead magnets and content upgrades but only 1 out of 1,000 people who see them are signing up, it’s time to change your approach. But how will you know unless you are tracking it?

The reason you set up these goals and track them is to understand if what you’re doing is actually working. This way you can continually improve your efforts, hence the phrase:

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

Pin this quote

Conclusion

Once you’ve set up your Google Analytics Goals you can now begin analyzing and quantifying the traffic that you’re getting. You can see exactly how well you’re doing at turning visitors into subscribers or customers.

Are you going to be setting up some new Google Analytics Goals? Let me know in the comments below.

Dustin W. Stout Avatar

24 responses to “How to: Google Analytics Goals Like a Boss”

  1. Laura Coles Avatar

    Hi Dustin,
    I am placing the code before using a WordPress plug in called Tracking Code Manager which is inserted across the whole website.
    Laura

  2. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Not really sure why it’s not working for you. I’ve implemented the same thing on multiple new sites recently with success. Are you able to check that the code is being output on the page you’re testing?

  3. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Hi Laura! Where are you placing the code?

  4. Laura Coles Avatar

    This may explain why I cant get anything to work too! Let me know if you find a resolution?

  5. Laura Coles Avatar

    I have implemented the code but unfortunately not seeing anything through GA. I am using Ninja Forms as struggled with Contact Form 7 tracking too. Even the instructions provided through Ninja Forms do not work too. Be interesting to hear how other people are getting on…

  6. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    I can’t make any promises because my plate is very full at the moment. I will try to come back to this if I can.

  7. Vitezslav Avatar
    Vitezslav

    Hello,
    please, can you describe the procedure (without redirect) for the new type of Analytics tracking code (gtag.js)?

    Thanks.

  8. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Awesome Sara! You’re very welcome. This stuff can get super complicated and I do my best to make it simple.

  9. Sara Avatar

    Dustin, another great post. I was able to follow through which is great because I have an unnatural fear of analytics.

    I use Aweber and use the redirect within the form so I just used that for the destination.
    As far as the “submit” button tracking, Aweber already has this.

    I can see which ones have completed the subscription and which ones just wanted the download.

    I use SWplugin so tracking is enabled and I just set a goal for that.

    Thank you again for tutorials that even I can understand. ^_^

  10. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    You’re welcome!

  11. Brent Avatar
    Brent

    Woah, loved the depth and simplicity of this!

    Thanks Dustin!

  12. Marcie Avatar
    Marcie

    I’m not sure what the issue is…I’m also trying to use the beacon mechanism to send the data to GA because the page reloads upon submission of the form. I’ll keep working at it. Thanks for the reply!

  13. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    As long as you change the value properly, it shouldn’t matter. Perhaps there’s a script conflict that is preventing the event from firing properly?

  14. Marcie Avatar
    Marcie

    Hi Dustin,

    I’m trying to get your method to work with one of my Ninja Forms. The input type for the form I’m trying to track is “submit” so I updated the jquery script with “submit” instead of “button.” However, I’m still not getting GA to track the event and I’m wondering if it’s because of the replaced value. Thoughts?

  15. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    So good to hear Terri! I’m glad you found it so useful. You might also find another post I wrote helpful about measuring social media ROI with Google Analytics.

  16. Terri K Avatar
    Terri K

    Dustin! Amazing post. I have been trying to get a handle on GA for years now and I was completely overwhelmed but everything that GA can do that I never took the time to focus on the basics.

    Your blog post broke down key metrics to measures as well as 2 simple goals to set as a blogger, that I am truly grateful for.

    Now that I have finished reading the post, I am heading to my email inbox to review the GA Dashboard template and start to work on setting up my GA goals.

  17. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Hi Eric! Glad to hear you’re going to look into both NF and SW. 😀

    As for the event tracking, yes, this tutorial is specifically for Google Analytics as opposed to Google Tag Manager.

  18. Eric G. Avatar
    Eric G.

    Hey Dustin thanks for the superb article. Definitely have me interested in both NinjaForms and Social Warfare.

    I have one comment, if I’m not mistaken, the event tracking script which you’ve added into your footer will likely not work if you’re calling your GA tracking within Google Tag Manager (and sticking with default configurations). In that case, event tracking should be set up via tags and triggers in GTM.

    Thanks again. – Eric

  19. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Glad it was helpful Robert! 😀

  20. Robert Nissenbaum Avatar

    Great tutorial Dustin. I have figured out quite a bit but this really helps.

    Thank you.

  21. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Thanks man! For both the article, and the correction! 😉

  22. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Glad you liked it Nazim! Which method are you using?

  23. jason Wiser Avatar

    Great article my friend. You really spent a lot of time on this one. Solid tutorial with easy to follow steps.

  24. Nazim Beltran Avatar

    Thanks guys! Great stuff!

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