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Goals are Broken in Google Analytics

Any expert of Google Analytics will likely tell you that you have to have goals setup in Google Analytics. Today, I am going to argue how goals have largely become irrelevant and share some ideas on how to better measure outcomes and conversions. To illustrate my point of view let us examine how a goal was created ~10 years ago using Google Urchin, which was the predecessor to Google Analytics:

Goal Setup in Google Urchin

Goal Setup in Google Analytics Today

The problem is while everything around how our users convert has changed with cross-channel and cross-device touchpoints, the definition of a conversion in Google Analytics has never changed.

Why Goals Do Not Work in Google Analytics

  • Goals are session based NOT user based
    • If you have a user that visits four times and then converts, your conversion rate for that user is 25%. You cannot change this.
  • Goals can only increment once per session
    • If a user adds four products to cart, your add to cart goal is one, not four. You cannot change this.
  • Goal funnels/flows are broken
    • Try to read both of these articles about Goal Funnels¬†from Lunametrics from 2008 and 2010. I could spend an entire blog post on why these funnels are broken. They are visually unappealing, are session-based, and just do not work. After all this time, you still cannot segment a goal funnel. Why can we not build event based funnels without Google Analytics 360? The ‘new’ goal flow reports are equally flawed.
  • Goals cannot be deleted or be reused
    • Make a mistake and that data lives forever. Try to reuse that goal for something else and you are still stuck with the historical data.
  • You cannot have more than 20 goals
    • Try running a Google Analytics account for 10 years with only 20 goals that cannot be deleted/reused. Google Analytics 360 also does not include more goals.

Alternative: Custom and Calculated Metrics

Custom and Calculated Metrics was one of the most important features added to Google Analytics. They are not perfect, but they give a significant amount of flexility over Goals. Calculated Metrics are retroactive, can be based on users, and can be utilized in custom reports and dashboards. The major limitation is that they are not pre-applied to any of your existing reports, so you have to build custom reports or use the API to leverage them effectively. I wrote another post showcasing their power: https://www.analyticspros.com/blog/google-analytics/25-calculated-metrics-for-google-analytics/

I wrote this blog post today with hope that Google will bring updates and new capabilities to Goals in Google Analytics and make them great once again!