What Goals To Track

January 18, 2017

Google Analytics lets you track goals…but the question is what exactly should you setup as a goal? The better your goals are configured, the better you can know well your website is performing. The more you know how your site is (or isn’t) performing, the more you can know what to change.

So, what are your goals? Many assume goals are the same thing as a conversion—somebody placing an order or submitting a form. Those are definitely goals worth of tracking. Certainly, you want to improve your website so that more people can complete those goals.

But…there is more to your website than people converting. Some people won’t be ready to convert yet. They’ll need to come back to your website two, three or even more times before they are ready to even consider converting. Some people will never be ready to convert at all because they are coming to your website for some other reason entirely.

So, if your goals only measure conversions, and you only have a 2% conversion rate, you aren’t tracking goals for the remaining 98% of visitors. If you aren’t using goals to measure what those visitors are doing, you can’t really do anything to improve your website for 98% of your visitors. That’s clearly a problem.

Macro & Micro Outcomes

To help with this problem, Avinash Kaushik distinguishes between macro and micro goals (or outcomes). Macro goals are conversions, while micro goals are smaller actions people can take while on your site, like locating key information or reading blog posts. This way, Kaushik explains, “every activity on the site [is] measured for success in some small or big way.”

I really like the concept of macro and micro conversions because it does help you better track everything on your website. You do complete a more complete picture and you don’t ignore the majority of your visitors who aren’t converting. The problem is I think you need more than these two buckets to group your website’s goals. The lines between macro and micro can get really fuzzy.

One of Kaushik’s examples is that article is that a micro goal would be people coming to your website to research a product before buying it online. What makes that a micro goal? What if this goal accounts for a third of your traffic? Is it only a micro goal because your company would prefer they bought those products online? If it is a micro goal, is researching a product of equivalent worth to reading a blog post?

This fuzziness becomes a problem when you start to prioritize the updates you need to make to your website. If you want to increase the amount of people completing a micro goal, should you give equal weight to reading a blog post and researching a product? For many companies, researching a product is more valuable than reading a blog so treating this as “micro” conversions isn’t quite accurate. Better than not tracking either, but you need a different way to prioritize.

Engagement, Conversion, Outcome, Goal, Interactions…Word Soup

The other confusing part of tracking goals comes down to terminology. Within website optimization, there are many references to tracking engagements as well as tracking conversions, goals or outcomes. What the hec is an engagement and where does it fit in? An engagement is, to say the least, not clearly defined. But, I tend to define engagement as people coming to a website and interacting in meaningful ways. “Meaningful” is a loaded word, but I think you look for ways people can interact that are of importance to them as well as ways people can interact that are of importance to your organization.

Wait, isn’t that a conversion? Sort of, except I think engagement goes somewhat broader than conversion. A conversion is predominately about somebody visiting your website and completing an action of benefit to your organization (like registering for an event, placing an order, submitting a lead form, etc.). An engagement though just implies people interacted in some way with your website (at the risk of being far more pedantic than I already am, a conversion would be—in this definition—a type of engagement).

So, What Should I Track As Goals?

Okay, definitions aside, let’s go back to the main question of this blog post. When it comes to tracking goals, so that you can see what you need to improve, you want to track all types of engagements along with tracking conversions. Within all these types of conversions and engagements, you can track macro and micro ways for people to interact so that you are tracking everything.

I think the breakdown works best and leads to the most clarity when you think of it in four categories, like the following table. You don’t have to track something like researching products alongside blog posts, considering both “micro” and wonder if that means they both deserve equal priority for updating your website when in reality they probably don’t.

Instead, by grouping actions on your website into engagements and conversions, and breaking macro and micro out for each, you can get a better sense of what types of actions matter most on your website as you consider what changes you need to make.

  Engagements Conversions
MacroDefinition: Interactions that show a deeper level of interest
Examples: Watched videos, downloaded key resources (without having to give up their email address), commented on a blog, shared the article on social media, spent a longer amount of time on the site
Priority: 3
Definition: Interactions that are critical to your organization’s success
Examples: Submitted lead form, donated money, registered and paid for an event, placed an order, viewed certain number of ads
Priority: 1
MicroDefinition: Interactions that indicate only a mild interest in what your website offers
Examples: Read key pages, read blog posts, spent more than a minute or two on the site, visited more than one page, scrolled deeper on a page or two
Priority: 4
Definition: Interactions that are critical to your website’s success and will directly or indirectly lead to a macro conversion
Examples: Located address for physical storefront, researched products, registered for sales event, downloaded key resources (and gave you their email address)
Priority: 2

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