Google Analytics Goal Funnels – What are they?

Goal funnels in Google Analytics are used to visualize the defined steps of the goal conversion process. The reason you would want to set up a goal funnel is to measure the flow of visitors through each step of the conversion process. If I have a registration form that is a few steps, I would want to understand not only how many people are filling that form out (the number of goal completions), but also how many people are abandoning the conversion process and at which point specifically.

Quick note: A goal must be set up in Google Analytics before you can set up the goal funnel. Also, goal funnels are intended to be set up for goals with defined steps. Think of purchasing a product online. You typically have to go through a very structured process to complete the transaction. There is typically a “My Cart” page where you start your order, then you fill out your shipping information, then your payment information, and then you’re finally sent to a “thanks for purchasing” page once the transaction is complete.

Justin Bieber Makes Every Example Better

Let’s say I operate the premier Justin Bieber fan site in the world (who doesn’t have a Biebs fan site these days, am I right?). To become a premium member and receive all of the benefits of membership, you have to pay a fee of $50. After all, hosting the website isn’t free and neither are the Justin Bieber  “Never Say Never” t-shirts I send out to the new members 😉

Anyway, once a Biebs fanatic decides this is the greatest site ever (duh) and clicks my “Become a Premier Member” button on the homepage, they are taken to a two-step sign up process. The first step asks them for their Contact Information. Once submitted, they are taken to the Payment Information form where they fill in their Credit/Debit card information to pay the $50 fee. After finally completing both steps of the process, they are taken to a “Thank You for Joining” page. Here’s how the goal and goal funnel would be set up:

Google analytics

Note: I’m using a Universal Analytics account for this example, so that is why the goal setup steps may look a little different.

What Can I learn from the Goal Funnel?

The reason for setting up the goal funnel was to understand not only the amount of people who were signing up to become a member of the greatest Justin Bieber fan site ever, but also how many visitors were falling off during the registration process (booo!). Let’s take a look at the Goal Funnel report for my site:

Google Analytics Goal Funnel Visualization


So now I have a visual representation of the registration process. Here I was thinking 24 enrollments this week was good! After further inspection, those 24 people represented only 4.3% of the people who actually clicked on my “Become a Premium Member” button and started the registration process. That is not good, especially since I would have to believe these are some serious Justin Bieber fans to come to my site. You would think most of these people would be throwing their money at me. Hmmm.

So Now What?

This is why the Goal Funnel report is so valuable. You can see only 23% of the people who enter the goal funnel (they clicked on the “Become a Premium Member” button and landed on the Member Information page) actually filled out that form to get to the second step, the Payment Information. How do I decrease the drop-off from step 1 and increase the conversion rate? TEST, TEST, TEST.

There could be many reasons for why people are abandoning the Member Information page, but a few I would test right away would be:

  • The number of fields on the form: my 10-field form might be way too daunting to visitors so they leave
  • The text on the submit button for the Member Information form: maybe my button shouldn’t say “I have Bieber Fever!” Using button text like “Next” or “Start Now” might be more effective because it is more descriptive.

Obviously, there is much more that could be tested, but I now have pinpointed where along the registration process the problem lies. Once I test and optimize the first step, I can then move on to the second step. And after a couple of weeks/months of testing, I will hopefully have increased my conversion rate by a significant amount.  Hell, maybe I will be able to afford to send new members a Justin Bieber poster along with the t-shirt!

The Main Limitation of Goal Funnels in Google Analytics

Unfortunately, Google Analytics doesn’t allow the use of Advanced Segments within the Goal Funnel report. This is a major downside, because I can’t evaluate funnel behavior by important dimensions like traffic sources, keywords, or city/state/region. That would give me even deeper insight into which segments are responsible for high abandonment rates. My hope is that Google will update Google Analytics to allow for Advanced Segments within the Goal Funnel report. If they can add Customer Lifetime Value and Recency & Frequency Analysis, I think they can figure out how to allow Advanced Segmentation in the Goal Funnel report 🙂

Enter PadiTrack. This is a valuable tool because it connects directly to your Google Analytics data and allows you to pull in your own Advanced Segments from Google Analytics to segment conversion funnels. I can set up a New Membership funnel (set up is easy and very similar to Google Analytics) and then segment my funnel traffic with my preconfigured Advanced Segments. I will say I have noticed the numbers in PadiTrack don’t always match exactly with Google Analytics, but it’s usually close. So pay attention to the trends, not the exact number. Until Google allows the use of Advanced Segments in the Goal Funnel reports, PadiTrack is a very suitable replacement.

What are your thoughts on my first blog post? Do you have any questions about Goal Funnels or what they can be used for? All comments are welcome, just keep them PG!



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