Google Analytics metrics for dummies (and clever people): Part 2

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  • March 26, 2015
Emma Barnes

Emma Barnes

Senior Insights and Analytics Analyst

Hi, I’m Emma and last time I was your guide to visits, pageviews, visitors and bounce rates. I promised to write a “Part 2” that talk about metrics related to goals and conversions because a lot of people find these confusing.

Reminder: You’re not actually a “dummy” for needing clarification with these terms. Many people have an idea of what many metrics in Analytics mean, but struggle actually defining them.

Let’s begin with the simplest bit:

Understanding goals, conversions and conversion rates

Football goal

The concept of a goal is pretty simple – getting someone to do something you want.

A website is like a Quidditch pitch (if you aren’t into Harry Potter, bear with me this will only take a paragraph). There are different goals and different ways to get points. You can score more than once. You can catch the Golden Snitch which doesn’t happen all that often compared to scoring other goals, but is worth a lot more than the other goals. Like buying a product compared to signing up to a newsletter. Sure newsletter sign-ups help, but in the end it’s those sales that count an awful lot more.

I’ve finished talking about Harry Potter now.

A goal completion is the same thing as a conversion. Forgive me if I use them interchangeably.

Goal conversion rate is the percentage of visits/sessions that resulted in a specific goal being completed.

However, site conversion rate is different. This is the percentage of visits in which any goal is completed.

The difference between goal conversion rate and site conversion rate

Say you have two goals on your website

  • Sign up to a newsletter (Goal A)
  • Buy a product (Goal B)

For simplicity, you have 100 visits to your site.

  • 10 people signed up to the newsletter
  • 2 people bought a product
  • 1 person signed up to the newsletter and bought a product
  • The other 87 browsed the site without doing anything

Goal A Conversion Rate  = (10 + 1)/100 = 11/100 = 11%

Goal B Conversion Rate  = (2 + 1)/100 = 3/100 = 3%

Site Conversion Rate = (10 + 2 + 1)/100 = 13/100 = 13%

Sometimes it’s valuable to look at the conversion rate for a specific goal or for the website as a whole – as long as you are clear about what you’re looking at.

What about e-commerce conversion rate?

If you have a website where money can be processed, congratulations, you have an e-commerce website. Google Analytics is able to process the exact amount of money paid and on which products exactly. You can make it do this by setting up e-commerce tracking.

Person with card

Reader beware: e-commerce conversion rate is not the same as goal conversion rate – even if your goal tracks the number of people who have completed the ecommerce journey.

To explain, you must understand how goals in Google Analytics work.

The goals that you set up in the admin section track the following

  • People landing on a specific page
  • People triggering an event
  • People staying on the website for a certain amount of time or pages

These are activated based on the original Google Analytics code. Most likely, when a user completes a buying cycle they end up on a page called /thank-you.html or similar. The goal here tracks when people land on this page.

Ecommerce goals (known as transactions) are tracked based on the modified ecommerce tracking goal. The ecommerce data sent to analytics includes many of the things you would expect to find on a receipt such as:

  • Products bought
  • Number of products purchased
  • Amount of money spent

A transaction is triggered whenever the receipt is generated. This is done by the modified tracking code and is not something that happens just from landing on the page.

Hypothetically, transactions and the relevant goal conversions should be the same, however due to the fact they are tracked differently there will be instances where one code executes but the other does not.

One massive difference between goals and transactions is that if you are tracking a landing page based goal, you can track a goal funnel. Ecommerce goals cannot track a goal funnel.

What is a goal funnel telling me?

Goal funnels can only be set for destination goals in Google Analytics. They are usually set up in a fashion that looks like this:

What this is saying is that for once someone reaches a page that begins /contact-us-thanks/ the goal is complete. However, “Step 1” is saying “can Google Analytics let us know what happens when they reach our contact us page?”.

And the funnel that Google Analytics spits out is this:

It gives us a new figure “funnel conversion rate” and also “abandonment rate”.  This is different to goal conversion rate.

When people begin the funnel, they either complete the goal or they do not complete the goal. Goal conversion rate includes the people who didn’t even begin the funnel, so it will always be lower than the funnel conversion rate.

Goal conversion rate – % of total website sessions that resulted in a conversion

Funnel conversion rate – % of sessions that began the funnel that went on complete the funnel

Funnel abandonment rate – % of sessions that began the funnel but did not go on to complete the funnel (the opposite of funnel conversion rate)

And if you’re not confused enough, let’s get on to the most confusing part.

Just what are assisted conversions?

The very first post I wrote on the Branded3 blog was called How to identify kill-stealing in your online campaigns and it was about assisted conversions.

Assisted conversions launched back in 2011 and since then have become a staple of monthly campaign reporting.

In spite of that, many are still confused about what an assisted conversion actually is.

I usually just tell them to watch this video that Google made – it’s a bit cheesy, but still good at explaining.

For those of you who don’t want to spend three minutes watching a video:

TL;DW: If someone visits your website several times before making a conversion, every entrance path is recorded. The final entrance path before the conversion is usually credited as getting the conversions. The previous entrance paths did help lead the user to the conversion, so they are attributed to giving “assisted” conversions.

If you think that certain channels deserve more “credit” I suggest you read about attribution modelling in Google Analytics. It can help you decide which kind of modelling best reflects your marketing practices.

I think that’s it from me. Feel free to contact me on @ejbarnes89 if you’re having any Google Analytics issues. Who knows, there might even me another sequel…

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