The 5 Google Analytics Goals I Wish All Institutions Tracked
As simple as they sometimes seem, Google Analytics goals might be the most powerful and underutilized tool in our web analytics toolbox. According to the 2012 State of Social Media and Web Analytics in higher education report, 97% of those surveyed use Google Analytics. According to the report, 31% of respondents don’t track any conversions. However, it has been our experience that even fewer are doing this sort of advanced analytics measurement.
I attribute at least some of this to the seeming simplicity of Google Analytics goals such as tracking how many website visitors filled out an inquiry form. The inquiry form generates an email to someone, so we know how many people filled it out, right? While this is true, the value of capturing the data in our web analytics tool instead of someone’s email inbox can’t be overstated. With the limited time most in higher ed have for analytics, having the right data in the right place is critical.
Another barrier to tracking simple goals is often how some of these web pages function. A lot of inquiry forms, for example, don’t submit to a standalone “thankyou.html” page that we can easily isolate and count as a conversion for every pageview. In these cases, it takes a little more thought to find a good mechanism for capturing the goal.
Google Analytics added the ability to use Event tracking for goals last year, and this made goals easier to use than ever. Tracking external links, file downloads, and other user clicks as Google Analytics Events has become more commonplace, and the same techniques that help track these events can be used to make a goal that might be tricky to capture much easier to define.
Considering that goals are still not widely used in higher education, but that it’s easier than ever to put them to use, here are my top five goal areas I think every institution should consider tracking:
- Admissions information requests.
- Engagement goals around feature stories and other content areas that require significant investment to create and maintain.
- Event promotion via visits to information pages or event registrations.
- Alumni engagement via the online giving form. This is everyone’s obvious higher ed goal example, but relatively few institutions seem to track this in Google Analytics.
- Internal constituent goals such as signing up for a text alert service or paying a deposit.
There is broad goal potential in all of the core areas above, particularly around more granular and audience focused content areas as well as all the transactional tasks visitors complete via forms.
Don’t underestimate the value of tracking the obvious in Google Analytics. Goals are the way Google Analytics most simply distills all that tracking data into information you can quickly monitor and take action on. Once that inquiry or online gift hits someone’s email inbox it won’t go away, but you miss the opportunity to easily compare how those goal conversions relate to all your other web initiatives and associated metrics — and try to encourage more of them!