How To Use Events as Goals in Google Analytics (V5)

Posted by on Mon, Mar 21, 2011
Filed Under | Analytics, Google Analytics


Google Analytics (Version 5 Only) now allows you to use events as goals. If you are like us, you probably thought this day would never come!

Events as a goal type…why does this matter? Well, because you can now track more types of site interactions as goals.

Top 4 Benefits of Using Events in Goals

  1. Track visitors who don’t convert with traditional transactional or lead generation goals
  2. More easily track Influencers/Advocates on your site
  3. Measure “interactions” that can lead to better understanding of site engagement
  4. My absolute favorite…Measure “interactions” in the early stages of the buying cycle that demonstrate the quality of the visits that increase the top of the funnel and ultimately lead to increased revenue producing goals.

How To Use Events as Goals in Google Analytics

Ready, to take a tour of how to use events as goals? We breakdown the setup into four key parts of an “Interactions” goal based on multiple event categories and actions:

  1. Events as a Goal Type
  2. Flexibility to Use Event Category, Action and/or Label
  3. Event Value Conditions as Threshold Triggers
  4. Use Dynamic or Static Event Values as Goal Value

#1: Events as a Goal Type

Events as a Goal Type!

#1: Events as a Goal Type!

As you can see, there is now a fourth goal type option called “Event” on the goal setup screen. The three previously available goal types were limiting and didn’t allow you to easily track user behavior that didn’t initiate a pageview.

In Version 4 of Google Analytics, it was fairly easy to track basic site activity, as well as clear lead generation and sales funnel pathways as goals.

However, the challenge was tracking lower commitment site interactions that signal high levels of site engagement (without inflating pageviews via a virtual pageview call). It is these signals that help us measure the quality of visitors who are in the early stages of the buying cycle. Without this measure, clients often neglect these vital visitors and thereby don’t see the value of investing in online marketing efforts to identify and drive good potential customers to the site.

#2: Use Event Category, Action and/or Label

Use Event Category, Action and Label as Goal Conditions

#2: Use Event Category, Event Action and/or Event Label as Goal Conditions

This is where the power lies in tracking events as goals. You can use one or more event category, event action and/or event label as a condition to trigger your goal. The simple matching options of “head match” and “exact match” are available, or you can use the awesome power of “regular expressions” to come up with sophisticated solutions that can match a variety of site interactions in one goal.

This is often the case when attempting to measure engagement. By the way, if you want to explore complex ways to consider measuring engagement check on Eric Peterson’s post “How to Measure Visitor Engagement.”

Some examples of site interactions you can track:

  • printing pages
  • emailing to friends
  • liking your site on Facebook
  • tweeting your site on Twitter
  • sharing your site on LinkedIn
  • bookmarking on Delicious & Digg
  • listening to audio
  • watching videos
  • using site tools (such as calculators, quizzes, etc)
  • downloading PDFs
  • commenting
  • rating
  • requesting a shipping quote
  • clicking the add to cart button
  • interacting with a slideshow (such as the rotating content on many home pages)

Keep in mind that many of these examples require additional tracking code setup.

#3: Event Value Conditions

Event Value Conditions

#3: Event Value Conditions

If the event value does not meet a certain condition (i.e. threshold) it won’t trigger the goal. You can set the event value threshold to be “greater than”, “less than” or “equal to” an event value. This allows all kinds of creative goal tracking solutions.

For example, you can measure video engagement and determine how many people watched a video for at least 2 minutes by enabling the event value condition and using a threshold greater than ’1′ (assuming you have properly set up event tracking for your videos).  Note that we use ’1′ here because it is a condition of ‘greater than’ and event values are integers/whole numbers.

#4: Use Dynamic or Static Event Values for Goal Value

#4: Use Dynamic or Static Event Values for Goal Value

#4: Use Dynamic or Static Event Values for Goal Value

You now have the ability to pass in the actual event value (i.e. a dynamic value) for the event or you can have the goal value default to a constant value. Keep in mind this must be a whole number/integer.

Summary

If you have been waiting for better ways to measure overall and individual types of site interactions that help you to better understand user engagement on your site…then your wait is over.

The inherent custom nature of event tracking coupled with the flexibility of using the event category, action and label with regular expressions as the match type, allows limitless potential to create unique, creative goal tracking solutions.

Share your ideas, experience and questions for using events as goals below in the comments. Thanks for reading and make it a great day!

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This post was written by:

has written 51 posts on the Web Analytics Blog.

Kayden is the founder and Managing Director of Blast Analytics & Marketing. He lives to do better and loves sharing his ideas and experiences. Kayden uses his seemingly infinite knowledge of web-based technologies to lead from the front and constantly push the edge of what is possible.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Whimsical.Whims Bron Vourtis

    Awesome article, most informative and I imagine quite a few ppl will be jumping with joy over this new capability!

  • http://twitter.com/cdeepak Deepak Kumar

    was waiting for this featur from the day ‘event tracking was introduced. However, you missed out one important point. How do I create a goal using V5 in the first place?

  • http://www.1onica.com Ioan Popa

    nice one :)

  • Nick

    @deepak
    Under Account Administration you should have your Web Property. Click the property you would like to set up the Event for. You will then see 5 tabs:
    Assets – Goals – Users – Filters – Profile Settings. Click Goals, then add the Goal from there.

  • http://www.blastam.com Kayden Kelly

    If anyone has yet to get access to Google Analytics Version 5, you can request early access at https://services.google.com/fb/forms/newanalyticssignup/

  • Marius

    Thanks Kayden but i still have a question? Where do i get the code to implement event tracking as goals?

  • http://www.blastam.com Kayden Kelly

    Hi Marius, 

    You don’t need any special code to implement event tracking as goals. You just need to be using the New Version which is accessible by clicking the link “New Version” at the top right of the Google Analytics Interface. Once you are in the new (version 5) interface, click the “Gear/Sprocket” like icon on the top-right side of the screen. Then click “Goals” from the sub-nav underneath the profiles tab. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Jeff

    Did Google remove the ability to use regular expression match in Event Goals, I’m looking at V5 Event Goal setup and I cannot select that as an option any longer. Is this a beta feature that hasn’t gone live yet?

  • http://www.blastam.com/broadcast Blast Advanced Media

    Hi Jeff,

    You’ll want to select ‘that matches’ from the dropdown to use a regular expression.

    Thanks,
    Joe

  • Kaiserjeremy

    If an event is setup on each outbound link and those events are defined as goals, will GA counts several goals per visits (a user that click on several outbound link in the same visits)  !? If not how can I solve this problem !?

    Jeremy

  • http://www.blastam.com/broadcast Blast Advanced Media

    Hi Jeremy,

    Great question. For each goal, GA only counts the first conversion per visit/session. Any additional outbound events in the same user session, in this case, would not increase the number of total conversions.

    If you do want to track the aggregate outbound clicks, you won’t be able to do this via the goal tracking functionality in GA. Instead, you should rely on the event reports to grab the total event completions.

    Thanks,
    Joe

  • Kim Forthofer

    Great article!  You mentioned “Some examples of site interactions you can track: printing pages…”  I want to create an event to track when someone prints one of my pages.  I don’t have a “Print” button — I just want to capture the Browser’s print function.  How can I do that?

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    Hi Kim,

    Thanks for reading our blog!

    Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a cross-browser solution that will let you listen for the browser’s File > Print click.  You can get partial results in IE and Firefox 6+ by using the technique described here: https://developer.mozilla.org/en/Printing#Detecting_print_requests (using afterprint)

    If you opt to use a print button, you can easily hook into that via an onclick event.

    Hope that helps!

    Joe

  • http://psdtomagento.net Web

    Very nice and helpful to understand new features of Google Analytics, let’s play with it and so some testing. Thanks!

  • Adman121

    I am trying to firgure out if GA Goals (or events) can help me understand how many people click on my paypal checkout button.  The Checkout button opens a new Paypal page (which I can not put GA on.)  GA helps me see who is going to me store but I can’t see if they try and check out. Any ideas on how I can get this information? Also. my website/page is flash based so I don’t see the URL for the checkout button as an object.  Thanks in advance for the help -Adam

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    Hello,

    You could use an event based goal, but in this case, I would go with a virtual pageview that gets fired when someone clicks on the checkout button. That way, you could at least create a funnel. Event based goals do not support a funnel.

    In regards to how to do this, it is very similar to the outbound tracking technique I talked about in this blog post: http://www.blastam.com/blog/index.php/2011/04/how-to-track-downloads-in-google-analytics/

    It depends on how you implemented Paypal as to what this code would look like.

    Thanks,
    Joe

  • Bertrand Masselot

    How may you track a video ? …for instance a youtube video ? Do you need to use a specific player to be abme to tag the player ?
    thanks
    Bertrand Masselot
    SEO expert at VOLUMIUM, France

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    Hi Bertrand,

    Take a look at http://code.google.com/p/ga-youtube-tracker/wiki/HowToTrackEmbeddedYoutubeWithGoogleAnalytics

    They provide the javascript required to monitor the play event, etc using the JS API.

    Hope that helps!
    Joe

  • Mingis

    “Keep in mind that many of these examples require additional tracking code setup”

    Any pointers on how to setup the tracking code?

    Thanks

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    Hello Mingis,

    There are so many different suggestions of site interactions. Any one in particular you’d like advise on?

    In general you can either add an onclick attribute to your link element or use jQuery/javascript in a .js file to setup all of your tracking on specific link elements.

    Thanks,
    Joe

  • http://www.netwitsthinktank.com frank barry

    I’m not seeing the regex match for the event goal type in GA. how are you getting that match type???

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    Hi Frank,

    The interface has changed slightly since this post. In the dropdown, there is an option that says ‘that matches’ which is a RegEx match type.

    Thanks,
    Joe

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    @45d663ea1f8dc6be3c526a8741ae264b:disqus Interesting question. You are referring to the other goal types in GA (visit duration & page/visit). If you configure each one separately, and then add up the total number of conversions, it will exceed unique conversions amongst the two since a user can convert on both and likely will in many cases.

    You can’t add logic in between goals (that would be nice in some cases). So, you’d have to take this to the code level (via javascript) and then fire an event when either condition occurs (and set a cookie so that it doesn’t keep firing). You could parse the GA cookie to calculate visit duration as well as pages/visit.

    Hope that points you in the right direction!

    Thanks,
    Joe

  • robert

    hey,glad to be here.
    and there’s one thing i can t figure out.
    i set up three events as goals with absolutely different categories and actions,but in the report of “top events”,they are showing the same number of “events”. and also in the report of “goals” ,i see the same thing:they are showing the same number of “goal completions”,even though the three goals(set up with event) are different each other.
    btw,i use regular expression of “equal to” to identify each goal.
    any help are grateful,thanks

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    @abc57caf0351f42088514f4d48ec3a0b:disqus If you can take a few screenshots of what you are seeing, that would be helpful as I don’t completely follow. Goal conversions should closely mirror the number of unique events (if the goal is distinct and focused on a specific category/action/label). Keep in mind that a visitor can only convert for one goal per visit/session.

  • Robert

    thks very much for yoour help. i attached this pic.

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    @abc57caf0351f42088514f4d48ec3a0b:disqus It looks like you have an issue with your code-level implementation if these are all reporting the same number. I suspect that you may have these fired on page load. For the page where these exists, does the total events = pageviews and unique events=unique pageviews?

  • robert

    yeah, i think you’re right. “these are fired on page load”
    but i dont know what’s wrong with the code implementation .That would be grateful.if you can spare some time and look at http://www.sunricher.com.
    thanks again for you.

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    @abc57caf0351f42088514f4d48ec3a0b:disqus Your code looks okay as of this morning. The events are tracking independently and not on page load.

  • robert

    thanks,joe
    i’d like to have a try to re-implement the code and wait for changes~~

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    @barb It sounds like something else went awry in your configuration. Setting up a goal should only impact data going forward for that goal itself and will not impact the rest of the data that you see in GA.

  • Phil

    I need to track the ROI of a large group of facebook ads. I understand that I should setup and track custom URLs for the ads to link to the site with. But once the visitor hits my landing page, I need to track if they actually book an appointment through my google calendar. And most importantly, although there are many differnt paths to the book-appointment page, I want to be able to see exactly how many facebook ad participants went ahead and booked and when they booked for. THe custom URL mixed with funnels and goals doesn’t quite get me there. Any ideas?

  • Alexander Holl

    Hi there,

    this is indeed very helpful. What i would love to see is as well an article about creating meaningful hierarchies of goals. As i a have per profile 4 Groups of targets, with each 5 targets i am currently seeking for a good post on how to best structure this. Group 1 – Leads, Group 2- Events, Group 3 – Beaviour. But iam not sure how this makes most sense?
    Any thoughts?

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    @phil_schmidt:disqus It really depends on how your Google Calendar is integrated as to how to go about this. It can be a bit complex and it soundsl ike you have the first step completed in terms of using campaign tracking for the facebook inbound traffic. This is the type of thing that we can explore and consult with you one-on-one if you like. Use our contact form to get in touch if you are interested.

  • http://www.blastam.com Joe Christopher

    @google-b45bde6c50f0104d92a3588a7c20ed44:disqus Great idea for a blog post! There are some general considerations around structuring your goal sets. Given that goals vary so much from client to client though, there is no single approach (just general guidance). I like what you’ve suggested for leads, events, behavior.

    I also end up creating a lot of custom reports to analyze goal performance and in that specific case, goal positions matter much less to me. I can define my own goal sets via the custom reporting structure. I can also put in a metric to show the number of goal conversions instead of just the goal completion % that you are use to seeing in standard reporting.

    Thanks for reading our blog!

  • http://joaocorreia.pt/ João Correia

    Hi Montse,

    Goals are scored only once per visit not per unique visitor.

    http://support.google.com/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2679221

    Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/sudipseo Sudip

    Do you think that it can track exact goals in terms of card printing after clicking on print button ?

  • http://www.forumcast.net/ FORUMCAST

    Is there something similar available in Adwords to track conversions?



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