Google Analytics in Depth: Goals and Funnels

In this article, we’re going to delve into Google Analytics and start to tailor your account settings so you can get information you need much more easily. Google Analytics in Depth is my series of Google Analytics articles where we will explore Google Analytic’s beneficial features to help you get the most out of this powerful and free web tool.

In this first installment, we’ll be covering Goals and Funnels. For a general overview of site analytics revolving around Google Analytics, read Unleashing the Power of Website Analytics.

Google Analytics in Depth: Goals and Funnels

Defining Your Goals

Setting up goals in Google Analytics is the best way to measure the success rate of your website.

The easiest way to understand what goals are in Google Analytics is by discussing it with an example: ecommerce sites.

The aim of ecommerce sites is to sell goods to their visitors. Therefore, a completed goal would be a successful sale on their website.

This example hints at the first part of using the Goals feature in Google Analytics: defining what your site goals are.

Once you know your goal (or goals), you need to work out how they will be measured.

For most sites, this will mean either identifying a specific goal completion page (or creating one).

For example, an ecommerce site might set up their "order confirmation" page as their goal, because this page usually comes right after a finished sale. If you’re after client enquiries, then how about the page that is shown to users when they successfully send a message with your web form?

Adding a Goal in Google Analytics

Adding a Goal in Google Analytics

If you haven’t added a goal yet, clicking on Goals in the left hand menu will show you a page that gives a brief overview of what Goals and Funnels are. At the bottom, click on the set up goals and funnels link to get started.

Adding a Goal in Google Analytics

The second box after the Main Website Profile Information section will allow you to set up your conversion goals. You can group your goals together with goal sets, but to start, we’ll just look at setting up one basic goal. Click on the Add goal link on the left, preferably on Goals (set1).

After doing that, you’ll be faced with the Goal Settings page.

Adding a Goal in Google Analytics

Give your goal a name, make it active, and then choose a position; Set 1, Goal 1, for example, refers to your first set of goals, with "Goal 1" indicating that it’s your primary goal.

Adding a Goal in Google Analytics

You will then have three types of goals to choose from.

When you choose a Goal Type, you will be shown a section called Goal Details, which are settings of your goals.

URL Destination

URL Destination is the most common option and is used when visitors get a specific page to visit. For example, a completed checkout page in an ecommerce site.

Adding a Goal in Google Analytics

Time on Site

The Time on Site goal type will track users who spend either more or less than a specified amount of time on the site.

Adding a Goal in Google Analytics


Pages/Visit keeps track of people who visit more than, less than or an exact number of pages on the site.

Adding a Goal in Google Analytics

Time on Site and Pages/Visit only give you a single option aside from setting the goal and that is goal value.

Goal Details

For each goal type, there are certain goal details that you can set to customize your goal.

Goal Value

All three goal types have the Goal Value option. It is a monetary return that you estimate a completed goal to be worth; this is normally worked out as part of a website marketing strategy or review.

As an example, if a website enquiry, on average, gives a return of $10, then you should set the goal value to $10.

In most cases, this is just an estimate, so if you’re not sure, you can set the Goal Value to 0.

In the case of ecommerce sites where a completed checkout is worth a variable amount, you can set the goal value to your average basket value.

If you’ve set up Time on Site or Pages/Visit as your goal type, you’re now done and you can click the Save Goal button.

If, however, you’re setting up a URL Destination as a goal type, read on.

Match Type

The Match Type goal detail has three options: Head Match, Exact Match, Regular Expression Match.

Match Type

Which one to use will depend on how much variety there is in the URL or your goal page.

Head Match: If your goal page requires variables in the URL that can change, such as /checkout/?page=1&basket=50036, then using Head Match will match the starting string of the URL (/checkout/).

Exact Match: If your goal page is a static URL that doesn’t change, such as /contact/thanks.php, for example, then you’ll want to go for Exact Match.

Regular Expression Match: If it’s likely that the start of the URL could change, then you should use Regular Expression Match; this is useful with URL cases such as /department1/checkout.php and /department2/checkout.php.

That’s it for Goals in Google Analytics—let’s move onto Funnels.

Setting up funnel

What are funnels? For certain goal pages, there is a set route of pages that users must go through to get to your goal page.

Let’s take a typical checkout process on an ecommerce site as an example: You add something to the basket, enter your shipping details, add your payment details, and when you submit your order, you get a confirmation page (which is your goal page).

This path is known as a funnel process, and by tracking people’s progress through a funnel, you can see where there are problems and where people are leaving the process.

This is most often used for checkout processes to see where people are dropping their shopping cart baskets. Funnels highlight problems with a long-winded checkout procedure.

Firstly, you need to map out the pages of your process. For example, your checkout process might have these pages:

Once you’ve determined your funnel, it’s time to review your goals.

Reviewing Goals

So your goals are all set up, now how do you actually find out information from them?

You can see your goal data straight from the Sites Overview page. Under the headings you’ll see a completed goals column which gives you a basic, straightforward figure that is excellent for a quick glance. But let’s have a deeper look.

Note: A quick thing to highlight is that whilst you can look at visitor numbers for the current day, you’re unlikely to get goal conversions in Google Analytics for the current day, at least not reliably anyway. This is because Google Analytics refreshes its data at regular set intervals, so it is better to look at data from the days before the current day.

The basic goal page, which is obtained by clicking on Goals on the main left-hand menu, provides the immediate information you need at your fingertips.

You’ll see the standard Google trend timeline and the breakdown of how many visitors completed which goals—this is more useful when you have multiple conversions set up. You’ll then get the conversion rate and the goal value if you’ve entered a value for a conversion.

All these are fairly straightforward and the goal conversion figure is the one that most people will tend to concentrate on and quote, especially with ecommerce websites.

So moving down the left hand side, you now have a number of extra menu options that we’ll look at in turn.

Total Conversions:

This shows the total number of conversions and breaks it down by day for the period you’ve selected. This gives an easy visual comparison of better performing days and can help identify trends – do you get more conversions on weekends, maybe?

Conversion rate:

This looks the same as total conversions, right? Well, it is similar, and on sites that don’t have massive differences in traffic from day to day, they’ll look almost identical. However, where the total conversions page was based on the number of conversions per day, 40 conversions being larger than 10, for instance, conversion rate is based on the number of conversions as a proportion of the total visits for that day. So 40 conversions out of 120 is a rate of 25% – 10 out of 20 is 50%, so the weighting now changes.

Goal Verification Path:

This will list all the pages a completed goal was carried out on. If you’ve used an absolute path (e.g. /contact/thanks.php) they should all be the same. But if you’ve used a head match and the end of the URL varies, then this will show which URL each goal conversion comes from.

For example: if you have a shopping cart and the end of the URL is just the cart id, it won’t be much use as they’ll all be different, but if you have something more meaningful in the URL—lets say the source of the site visit or conversions on different sub domains—then it can become useful.

If you have and, you can quickly compare where your conversions are happening.

Reverse Goal Path:

This data point shows the pages people landed on leading up to a completed goal. This is useful for seeing which pages are funneling more conversions, and for those results showing (entrance), which landing pages are funneling those conversions.

So as an example, we have thanks.php set as our conversion:

This shows that the visitor landing on the homepage went next to the contact page and then completed a conversion; you can quickly see which pages funnel in more conversions and easily start to work out which pages are more successful to understand how you can improve other pages.

Goal Value:

If you have various goals set up with different values, you can use this page to quickly see which days are more profitable and then use other tools to dig down into why.

Goal Abandoned Funnels:

This page gives you an overview of the number of people who enter the goal conversion funnel, but exit without completing a goal. You can quickly see how many potential conversions your site is losing and again compare over the time period you have selected.

Goal Abandoned Funnels:

Funnel Visualization:

Once you open up this page, it is self-explanatory: the usual timeline chart at the top of the page and then a flow diagram through the funnel you set up.

At each stage, you can see how many people enter at that stage, how many people are continuing in the funnel from the previous stage, how many people leave at that stage without completing, and perhaps most importantly, where they are going.

This is hugely useful for analyzing things such as checkout processes and seeing where users abandon their shopping carts and where they go.

For instance, if you have the first stage as the shopping basket, it wouldn’t be too alarming to see people exiting from there to continue browsing the site. But if they’re exiting all together, maybe something on the shopping cart page is making them drop from the process?

You can then look and see where people are dropping out and this can easily highlight problematic or broken forms and links or long-winded pages that people simply give up on.

Drilling down even further

The basic pages give you a very useful set of tools to analyse your conversions and abandonment, however, if you want an extra level of detail, the advanced segments tab can provide some very handy information.

Located in the top right of the page just above the trend graph and date picker, it will open up a drop down with a list of visitor types.

Drilling down even further

Selecting them via the tick box will show the relevant figures on the page and allow you quickly compare visitor types. Are conversions for new visitors higher than returning visitors? Do people who arrive via paid search (Adwords) abandon more carts than those who arrive by organic search? These are some of the questions that you can answer by using Google Analytics.

Related Content

About the Author

Dave Sparks is a web designer and developer working for Armitage Online in the Lake District. He can be found writing about various web topics on his blog at, twittering as and working on his website analytics project – Stat Share.

This was published on Mar 14, 2010


Gabriel Mar 14 2010

Thanks for this! I have been looking for something like this that would assist me with my goals in Analytics. Awesome stuff!

Greg Babula Mar 14 2010

Awesome! Thanks for this

Duane Mar 14 2010

Very useful post David. Good introduction to goals and funnels. Thank you.

FFArchitect Mar 14 2010

Great article! Would love to hear more about dealing with Ajax-driven states.

Silvina Puebla Mar 14 2010

Thanks! Excelente tips!

Jamesh Mar 15 2010

thanks sparks, very useful information

Roei cpo Mar 15 2010

First! :)

Thank you so much, this article helped me alot out here trying to understand the traffic for my website.

Informative post bro!

Nice info. Thank you.

Thanks very much for this information. It’s really useful to know how to take Google Analytics to the next stage, rather than just checking visitor numbers and popular pages etc!

Jordan Walker Mar 15 2010

That is a very good article. All developers should read this!

Christina Johns Mar 15 2010

Thanks for this! Great post!!

Comvos Mar 15 2010

Thanks. Very useful

Art2code Mar 15 2010

very useful article! thank you

Tilla Torrens Mar 15 2010

THANK YOU. This is the perfect tutorial right when I need it because I set up 3 goals but apparently did it wrong since I am getting no data… I have what might be a silly question, and I’ll probably find the answer to it once I dig deeper but I cannot figure out how to Edit a goal once I’ve set it up – any tips would be appreciated. thanks :)

Gaetano Mar 16 2010

the only problem with Funnels in GA is that you can’t go back in time. It starts measuring the day you setup the funnel. You can’t measure what happened in the past…

Dave Sparks Mar 16 2010

Thanks to everyone from the comments

@Tilla – to edit goals, if you’re on the overview page (before your site profile, it lists all the sites you have in analytics) Click on the edit link on the right and then you should be able to scroll down to edit your options.

@Gaetano – you’re quite right that funnels don’t look into past stats, I’ve no idea if this is a limitation that will be looked at but I guess it does encourage proactive planning ahead for analytics.

Jay Philips Mar 16 2010

Great post. I personally don’t use the funnels but I use analytics just to determine where the traffic is coming from.

Shaan Mar 16 2010

Great post Dave, look forward to implementing this on a few sites I manage

Moses Adrien Mar 17 2010

Great Article. I just got a book yesterday on Web metrics with Google Analytics so this is a good post to get me started to get deeper into Google Analytics

Rahul Mar 17 2010

awesome post ! thanks for providing because its important for me as a newbie ! :)

Pavlicko Mar 18 2010


good article. I would, however, recommend that you give a dollar value to every goal you setup. This will enable one of the most powerful reporting features of Google Analytics – the $index. This alone should reduce analysis time by hours each month.

@gaetano- while it’s true that goals aren’t retroactive, you can still get the same result by setting up an advanced segment isolating only those visitors who went to your goal page, or stayed on the site for x minutes, etc…

Dave Sparks Mar 18 2010

@Pavlicko, thanks for the comment.
Whilst the dollar value can be very useful I’ve found that people can find it very distracting when there isn’t a good idea as to what the figure can be, inexperienced users assume that is how much they have made.
If you can work out a realistic figure, or estimate something sensible then by all means include it as it will no doubt indicate the value your website adds – often more than people who don’t work solely on the web think.

Rich Brooks Mar 25 2010

One thing that I’ve been struggling with is if you have the same destination URL for multiple goals. This would be typical with an e-com site. If you sell 5 products, what’s the best way to track this? Do you set up 5 individual goals, or do you merge them into one?

Dave Sparks Mar 26 2010

Rich, thanks for commenting.
For ecommerce sites I normally use the single URL to show a conversion and Google ecommerce tracking functions to track specific products –

There’s a post on that in the works if you can be patient!

Ryan Karl Mar 30 2010

Thanks for the informative article. I have one small question regarding setup goal in google analytics for different versions of the page. for eg if i want to setup a goal for,…/newletter5.html respectively (i need to track conversion of each above version of the page).

please explain in brief how should i set up goal for those different variations of the pages for the same site.

waiting for the soonest and positive response to above. Thanks in advance.

Dave Sparks Mar 30 2010

Hi Ryan, thanks for the comment. It is up to you, if you want to track each goal individually then you can set the up as multiple goals in the same set. You can then set each goal to match each URL
/newsletter2.html etc
That will show you who has signed up to each individual newsletter but allow you to see the total for all via the goal set.

If you are not concerned about the individual sign ups you can set the goal as a regular expression match. You would set up a URL Destination match, choose regular expression as the match type and the Goal URL would be something like

In detail the first . will match any character and the \.html makes sure the URL ends with .html

Ryan Karl Mar 30 2010

Thanks for your reply to my request. currently i have setup the goal as mentioned by you in first option. but in that case for eg. i have 5 signup pages ( /signup5.html) and setup in that way in one goal set different goals. but thing is that in goal conversion tab each signup page(5 variations of the page created from multivariate testing) shows same conversions nos. how is it possible same no of conversions executed on different versions of the pages.

so please let me know in detail how to setup goal to track each and every page conv.


Peter Vidovic Apr 21 2010

Hi Dave,

I am working with Goals and Funnels for quite sometime, but one thing is is not clear for me. I would very much appreciate if you could help me.

We are advertising on several sites rotating several different ads. Our main goal is to collect as many sign-ups (new users) as possible for as low price as possible.

We use to advertise the way, that each ad has the same URL where to land, but contains different parameter (e.g. or

My question is:
If I am looking at the goals (Goals Overview), filtering it through Advanced Segments (Landing Page contains /?ref=fb01)
– is this subset of goals done only by the users who registered in the same session after they came on our site directly from the ad?
– or also by those users who came first time through this ad (/?ref=fb01), didn’t register in the same session but came directly for example on the other day and register than?

I do not know if I was clear enough. Please let me know. Thank you very much in advance for your advice.


Goran Apr 27 2010

Hi Dave, thanks very much for the article. It will surely help to setup better goals.


Matthew Brookes Apr 27 2010

Hi Dave,

nice article Goals and funnels have been causing me a lot of head aches and this has helped a lot.

Nikhil Arora Apr 28 2010

Hi Dave,

Thanks for this nice article.
A very excellent & clear guide for google analytics goal setup.

Peter Vidovic May 05 2010

Hi Dave, hi everybody,

in the mean time I got a good answer for my problem from Jamie on –

I think it can help those who have the same problem as I do, so I am copying the answer here as well:
The Landing Page dimension isn’t saved, it’s only applicable to the session in which it occurred. To keep this in a cookie, you need to add google analytics campaign tracking tags ( to the links – then by default the most recent non-direct site access will get attribution for the conversion.

I tested it and it works perfectly. Also I recommend than to set up a Custom Reporting in Analytics and there you can see the drill down from particular sources to campaigns and keywords.


Dave Sparks May 05 2010

Hi Peter, my apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I had only just recently noticed the post here – bad management on my part I know.

Anyway thank you very much for posting the answer you got from Jamie I’m sure it will be of great use to others. Custom reporting is one of the topics we will be looking at on Six Revisions for future GA in depth articles.

Jagannathan.R May 12 2010

Hi…First of all..Its a good tutorial for learning about Goals and Funnels.
I have a question on it.
I find entrances in many pages where it can never be?
I googled it and found it that when the user sits inactive in a page for around 30 mins..the next page he visits will be shown as he entered through ‘Entrance’.But my website page will expire in 30 mins and he has to login again. But still I find entrances..Do you have any idea of why it does occur?

Dave Sparks May 12 2010

I’m not too sure here Jagannathan, have you tried setting the timeout to 29 minutes and then redirecting to see if that has any effect?

Terry Severson May 14 2010

Great articel, very informative, but i am still struggling with an issue. What I want to do is track how many people from a landing page ( actually progress through the site to eventually ask for more information ( I know they do not go right from the landing page to the request for more info page, but i do not care about where they go between the two. I just need to set up a goal to tell me how many people from the landing page eventually wind up at the request more info page. How would i set this up as a goal or is there another way to find this out?

Dave Sparks May 17 2010

Hi Terry thanks for the question.
This is exactly where funnels will help. First set up the finishing page (request-info.aspx) as a URL destination type goal. Then before you save it add a funnel and put the landing page (healthcare/index.aspx) as the first step and tick the box for required step.
Looking at the funnel once it has been setup will tell you exactly what you need, how many people enter the funnel at the first page and make it to the last regardless of their route.

Claire Jarrett May 18 2010

Fantastic. I’m struggling with goals and funnels for a client, I’ve explained my knowledge of Analytics is somewhat limited. Do you offer consultancy help in case I can’t fix this myself?

Lesley Jun 17 2010

Thanks Dave. Really clearly explained and very helpful. Next question is: How would I measure from analytics the number of people clicking on my ‘Follow us on twitter’ button?

You have no idea how powerful and informative this resource is. Thank you so much Dave! It has helped me deepen my knowledge about Google analytics and has clarified for me what funnels and goals is all about and its importance to my internet marketing. Great job! Great sharing!

Gustavo Jul 09 2010

David your article is direct not as the official material from Google. I’am setting up funnel but the urls are not simple.

Blair from AdditiveCRO Jul 31 2010

This is a really good article Dave. Judging from the number of comments, Conversion Rate Optimization is becoming more and more popular amongst ‘regular’ website owners?

I think it’s awesome that people are starting to emerge from the era of SEO, and realise the gains that are there to be made from simply helping their visitors to take action and convert.

It seems that people are also interested in tracking exit links? Maybe a post on that next Dave?

umesh yadav Aug 17 2010

Thanks for wonderful article, step by step, how to use and configure the Goal and funnels.

___Umesh Yadav

Jason Aug 31 2010

I have been tracking data on my site for 30 days now and just setup 2 goals, but the previous data does not show.

Is this normal or did I do something wrong? I kind of thought that existing data would be just displayed within the goal.


– Jason

Dave Sparks Aug 31 2010

Hi Jason
You didn’t do anything wrong no. Analytics will only start tracking goals from the time you set them up, it won’t “back date” them as such.


Andrea Di Clemente Sep 04 2010

Hi Dave,

great job. Your post, along with your reply @Gaetano, just motivated me to go ahead and plan our funnel strategy for Apollo! We are still in invite-only mode, and I thought we didn’t need them yet, until reading this.

Thanks a lot, and if you need an invite for Apollo, ask us @applicomhq


Craig Sep 15 2010

Great information. It has finally made me do something with Google Analytics, rather than just checking visitor numbers and popular pages, I finally set up a few goals and it took a few minutes, Thanks!

Anthony Sep 16 2010

Good Post. Thanks!

Wenhui JI Nov 13 2010

Thanks for the post.

I think I will dig further on the Advanced Segments to better understand my visitors.

Gustavo Dec 04 2010

Great post is clear not bored as the official documentacion,

I’am trying to configure a funnel for our reseller Fastspring
and the funnel has 3 steps, the step 3 is empty, it affects results?, i’am unable to delete this step

Geeta Jan 09 2011

good one, awesome, your this post provides all tiny info. which i looking for. thanx , thnax lot for this excellent info.

Geeta Jan 09 2011

One more thing i want to know can u please write a post about the advanced segmented section..How to use them, what is the use of them etc.

anonymous Jan 25 2011

thanks, but how do you add a goal if you’ve already added a goal? and how do you see the set-up of the initial goal?

Dave Sparks Jan 27 2011

To add a goal when you already have one on the overview page that lists your accounts you click on edit and goals are the second sections down. You’ll also find the set-up of you initial goal there as well.

jennie Feb 04 2011

its really helpful tip[s..this will help us a lot..

Actcom Mar 04 2011

Great post to know about goal settings.Thansks for sharing it

one of the best GA goals articles on the web. thanks very much, it helped me understand how to set them up, although I’m still a newbie:D

Mukesh Apr 06 2011

Awesome Article !! This is what a real in-depth article means.

Very nice article, just what i was looking for.

robertoferre Apr 27 2011

Great blog post, I’ve saved this webpage so ideally I’ll discover a lot more on this subject matter in the foreseeable future!

lebisol May 24 2011

If it was not for goals/funnels GA would be just another fancy statistics tool…really, most of the reports are soooo repetitive that it renders = many free statistics tools.
Thanks for the article.

fayaz May 28 2011

thanks for provide this article ,this is really helpful tips

Mohideen Jul 11 2011

Hi team,
I have added one goal after that I could not able to add my other goals, please assist i could not able to find Goal adding link in my analytic page

Dave Sparks Jul 12 2011

@Modhideen after adding the first goal you now need to use the account settings page to add new ones. If you are using the old analytics interface rather than clicking “view report” click on “edit” and you will see the options to add goals in there.

Rahul Jul 15 2011

Great info in this articles . Information provided in comments by visitors is also useful. Thanks !

Jon Pearce Sep 28 2011


great article (although I have stumbled on this a bit late in the day), I’m still unsure why Google makes many of it’s analytics explanations so unclear!

I haven’t used GA much in the past, but just moving to it. I am having a problem where my Goal is tracking under ‘goals’ but isn’t been tracked under my funnel view. Do you know if the 2 have to be set up at the same time or can you add a funnel to an existing goal? I did the latter and this is my guess to why it isn’t working correctly so have now set up another funnel/goal from the beginning, so I shall see if this fixes the issue. Strangely my funnel is almost identical to your example. Many thanks!

Tommo Sep 30 2011

Thanks for this, helped me a lot. Bookmarked.

Dave Sparks Oct 03 2011

Jon – you should be able to add a funnel to an existing goal. Have a look through check all is set up ok and give it a day or two (depending on your traffic) to start picking up results.
Although if you’ve managed to set up one that works from scratch i’d be tempted to just use that.

Edson Buchanan Oct 23 2011

What about setting up goals with a wordpress site. WordPress sites do not have .php or .html so do you just put the title of the post in the box?

Thanks for your help,


bradley collins Oct 25 2011

That was great help, best explained about setting up goals in Google Analytics.

Thanks Dave

Dave Sparks Oct 25 2011

If it’s a page you’re setting as your goal then put the url in – you don’t need the .html bit. So for example if you put this article in as a goal you’d put

as the url.

Sohel Ahmmed Nov 11 2011

Nice article. Thnx

Hello Dave,
Thanks for the informative article. I did review all the comments. But there was a specific case that I couldn’t find answers for. Appreciate your help.
– Multiple (dynamic urls) product pages xyz.php?id=45 etc.
– Each product page has different price.
– Conversion is an online inquiry form.
– single Thankyou.php

To setup Goals, do I:
– Create Single goal page with each ID page as Funnel step?
– OR One Goal page for each ID page?

I have tried both ways and feel that the results are wrong in both cases.

Appreciate your help.

bookmarking Sep 03 2012

this article shows the meaning of in depth. As the way it explains is great. and this is advanced analytic s. Thanks for this great article

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