Google Analytics is Lying to You!

Theo Bennett - May 21, 2013

Let’s cut right to the chase: Google Analytics (GA) is lying to you. Huh? How is GA lying to you, you ask?

Let me illustrate, via screenshot, my beef with my old friend Google Analytics:

Can you believe that? I know I can’t. What’s that you say? You don’t see the lie? Let’s try that again:

Yes that’s it! Goal Values are not “optional”!

We all know that Google Analytics is the best thing since sliced bread; what other product could give you so much business intelligence at its price point (free)? Unfortunately, to collect data with Google Analytics one must only copy and paste the Google Analytics tracking code (GATC) onto their site and that’s where most businesses stop. To get the most from Google Analytics, code customizations; including events and custom dimensions are probably required. But most importantly–your company must sit down and answer some tough questions. Some of these include:

  1. Why do we have a website? (Really, you have to answer this.)
  2. What do we want people to do when they get to our site? (Desired outcome.)
  3. How do we measure these outcomes? (Goals in Google Analytics.)
  4. How much are these desired outcomes worth to our business? (Goal Value.)

If you need help with the questions above, please visit Avinash Kaushik’s brilliant post on the Digital Marketing and Measurement Model.

Okay, so you’ve answered the questions above, your marketing efforts have clearly defined objectives and you now know your reason for being; it’s time to set up your goals WITH goal values.

Goal Values again? Yes! (That’s the theme of this post, remember?) Ninety percent of the new GA accounts we review as a Google Analytics Certified Partner either do not contain goals or goals are present but goal values are missing. You must commit to ALWAYS adding a value for your goals. With values added, two magical things happen.

1. Per visit goal value is calculated:

What’s Per Visit Goal Value tell me? Well, at a glance it can tell you:

a. How effective each of your campaigns, sources, affiliates, ads, ad groups, and more are in real dollars!

b. How much you should be bidding for each keyword. (Really. Look at per visit value in the goal set view of your keyword reports.)

2. Page Value (Content Reports) is calculated:

Page Value tells you how each of your pages perform in the context of helping people convert. Now this data requires more analysis than Per Visit Goal Value because checkout and home pages will always have a high value, but it can help you understand which middle of the funnel pages perform best and help your visitors to take your desired action.

In summary, Goal values are not optional. You should always endeavor to understand how much goals add to your bottom line and add the values into GA. That said; if for some reason you find it too difficult to determine the value of key interactions– any number is better than nothing. So start with $100 or $1 or some other arbitrary value. From there you can work toward some relative goal values (e.g. contact us submission = $100, newsletter subscription = $10) and then hopefully as you gather more data, real goal values for each outcome.

Finally, there is one exception to this rule. Goals for Ecommerce transactions are desirable for many reasons, but if you are using GA Ecommerce tracking, then your corresponding goal should never have a value as this will distort the calculated values we mentioned previously.

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