How to Track Conversion Rates in Google Analytics

If you use Google Analytics and you’re trying to increase the conversions on your website, keep reading. This article will show you how to set up conversion tracking using this service, which is a good first step.

A site’s conversion rate is defined as the number of successful transactions divided by the number of total unique visitors. A "successful transaction" is a broad measurement; for an e-commerce website, this could mean a sale, so the conversion rate formula would be the number of sales divided by the total number of unique visitors.

Any webmaster can measure the conversion rate of their website using Google Analytics. This comprises an advanced use of Google Analytics, and is not common to the majority of Google Analytics users.

If you have a clearly defined “successful transaction” in your website, whether it is the number of downloads, number of sales, number of sign-ups, etc. then this article will help you set up Google Analytics to measure your website’s conversion rate.

Requirements for setting up conversion rate measurement

Before you can use Google Analytics to measure your site’s conversion rate, you need to meet a couple of important requirements. First, you need to have a clear transaction funnel that defines “success.” This means that you can identify all possibilities in the flow of transaction from the moment a visitor enters your website all the way down to concluding a “successful transaction.”

For example, if you define “successful transaction” as those visitors that submit the contact form, then a random sample of successful paths could include:

  • First possible path: Home page -> Contact form -> Success page (user lands on the home page, then goes to the contact form, fills it in, submits it, and is presented with a success page). 
  • Second possible path: Home page -> Page X -> Contact form -> Success page (user lands on the home page, visits Page X, then goes to the contact form to submit an inquiry). 
  • Third possible path: Contact form -> Success page (user lands directly on the contact form, maybe coming from search engines or direct traffic).

Now, which you do think defines the “true” successful path of your visitors to complete conversion? Well, it depends on your plan. If you need to measure the quality of your home page content (like how convincing/trustworthy the content is to visitors), then you can require visitors to read/pass the home page first, before submitting any inquiries to you via contact form. In that case, if they land on page x -> contact form -> success page, then it’s not considered a true conversion, since it fails to pass by the home page. Your true conversion path in this case should be home page -> contact form -> success page.

The good thing is that Google Analytics can be set up to define the necessary steps that distinguish a ”true conversion.” What you will need to do, however, is sit down and decide which route you want to define as a true path to visitor conversion in your own website.

The second thing you will need to measure conversions with Google Analytics is a Google account. In fact, if you do not have a Google account, you need to have one before you can use Google Analytics

The third thing you will need is a success URL that is different from the rest of the URLs on your site. This is a tricky but important requirement. The success URL needs to be entirely different from the URLs in the previous steps. For example, the one in step three will work fine:

Step 1: www.somewebsite.com/

Step 2: www.somewebsite.com/contact.php

Step 3 (success URL): www.somewebsite.com/contact.php?x=success

Or this one is also okay:

Step 1: www.otherwebsiteexample.com

Step 2: www.otherwebsiteexample.com/inquiry

Step 3 (success URL): www.otherwebsiteexample.com/success

But this one is not recommended, as this requires a pretty complex setup:

Step 1: www.somewebsite.com

Step 2: www.somewebsite.com/contactform

Step 3: www.somewebsite.com/contactform#success

All of the above URLs with anchors are not okay, as Google treats them as the same page and not an entirely different URL.

Finally, you will need embedded Google Analytics code. Google cannot track the conversion rate on pages which do not have the embedded Google Analytics code. So if you have a website with Google Analytics installed, it is important to make sure that there is Google Analytics code embedded on pages on which you will need to track conversion.

A goal is the URL that defines a “successful transaction.” It is synonymous with the success URL. As discussed earlier, you are the one that defines the path to the success URL.

Assuming you already have a Google Analytics account and a website with GA code installed, you need to log in to it and follow the steps below.

Step 1: In the dashboard, look for the website for which you need to track visitor conversion by setting up goals.

Step 2: Click “edit.” See screenshot below (circled in red):

Step 3: After you click “edit” above, you will see the profile settings of the website in Google Analytics. Go to the “Goals” section (see screenshot):

Click “Add Goal.”

Step 4: You can then see the “Goal information” page. Enter the goal name (required), since these will be monitored and tracked, and then check “On” in the active goal.

Leave the goal position to default (set 1, goal 1 for first goal).

Step 5: You are then required to select the goal type. Google Analytics lets you track three types of goals: URL destination, Time on Site and Pages/Visit. Since you are interested in measuring conversions by tracking visitors to your “success URL,” select “URL Destination.”

Step 6: In the match type, you have three choices, “head match,” “exact match” and “regular expression match.” You need to set this very carefully, or else Google Analytics may provide the wrong conversion data.

You can read a great tutorial that covers how Google Analytics defines these types. 

However, the most common matching type used is “head match,” because this is popularly used in e-commerce websites that serve dynamic content.

For example, setting up a two-stage funnel process of a movie download site works as follows. The first step in the conversion process requires any visitor to read/visit the specific movie title product page:

http://www.thisisyourdomain.com/buy-dvd-online/?title=godfather

And “title” varies with the different movie titles selected by different customers. So a head match can be a set, with this as the input:

/buy-dvd-online/

The second step in the conversion process shows the visitor reaching the goal URL, which is the download page:

http://www.thisisyourdomain.com/downloadmovie/

In this case study, you want to set the match type to “Head match.”

Step 7: In our case study shown above, in the Goal URL you would enter:

/downloadmovie/

If you need it to be case sensitive, check “Case sensitive” to exactly match the URL’s capitalization.

Leave the goal value blank.

Step 8: Under goal funnel click “Yes, create a funnel for this goal.” Using the case study as our example, in the first step, you would enter:

/buy-dvd-online/

This means a “successful transaction” requires visitors to visit this page first, before the download page. Do not forget to check “Required step.”

Also, since we are using “head match,” the dynamic ID is eliminated (?title=godfather) because it varies by customer and movie title selection.

Step 9: Finally, click “Save Goal.”

See the screenshot of the overall process below:

As defined at the beginning of this article, your conversion rate is the number of successful transactions divided by the total number of unique visitors.

The ”Successful transaction” data is taken as the number of “goals” achieved in Google Analytics. So for the example above, let us say we have the following statistics:

Total number of unique visitors to the website (in a one month period) = 3458

Total number of goals (those visitors that reach the download page) reported in Google Analytics = 50

Then the conversion rate of the movie download website is around:

% Conversion rate = (50/3458) x 100% = 1.45%

To view the reports on goals/conversion in Google Analytics, do the following:

Step 1: Log in to Google Analytics

Step 2: In the dashboard, select the website you are monitoring and click “View report.”

Step 3: Click “Goals.”

By following the steps, you can gather and track conversions to measure the success of your website in selling products or offering services.

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