Google Analytics' Goal Funnels - Introduction and how-to

What are Goals?

Goals allow Google Analytics’ users to track and measure how their website performs against objectives and improve the effectiveness of the site. Goals must be a measurable action visitors perform on the site, for example landing on a page or filling out a form. Google Analytics will then log this action as a conversion, whilst also logging Goal failures. Types of Goals:

  • URL destination
  • Visit duration
  • Pages/visits
  • Event – downloads, form completion

The following image is an example of a Goal report, which evaluates the success of the Goals which have been set up. The report shows the amount of visits for that specific Goal and the conversion rate, allowing users to easily identify the current performance against what they wish to achieve. This will then enable users to make appropriate changes to various aspects of the site.

What are Goal Funnels?

Goal Funnels go beyond Google Analytics’ basic feature of tracking visitors and traffic to fully understand the visitors’ journey and gain insights into the level of visitor engagement. Goal Funnel allows users set the path they expect visitors to take on the site to reach a certain goal page, which must be a destination or URL goal. In order for the visit to be classified as a 'success', the specified pathway must be followed (unless there are steps which are not 'required').

Visitors’ progression on this path can be tracked in the Funnel Visualisation report, enabling users to measure "successes" against strategic objectives. This allows users to pinpoint specific areas on the site where visitors encounter difficulties and disengage. The report also shows users which page visitors go to when they exit the pathway, indicating that a different pathway may be more efficient. An example of a Funnel Visualisation report is shown below.

When to use Goals vs Goal Funnels?


  • Track the number of visitors that achieve the pre-determined goal, regardless of how they got there
  • Tracking goals on the website as a result of referring sites (eg. LinkedIn promo to download a digital asset on the site)
  • When there is no clear path on the website to reach a specific goal
  • Tracking visit duration, pages/visit and events

Goal Funnels

  • Tracking progression along a path to achieve the pre-determined goal
  • Identifying causes of low conversion, high bounce rate and short visits on the site
  • When there are multiple pathways to reach a goal
  • When you are unsure which aspect of the site should be improved

Why Goal Funnels?

Goals and Goal Funnels work hand in hand to help users not only track visitors but also analyse how well the site leads visitors to the target page. These methods can also allow users to:

  • Determine the most popular pathway visitors take to reach the Goal page, by setting up multiple pathways for one Goal page
  • Discover if certain pathways are too long, or if visitors are skipping steps / pages
  • Determine which pages visitors are having trouble with or losing interest, indicating a problem with that page
  • Identify if the client is asking visitors for too much information (or actions) and whether the process should be simplified

Goal Funnels in use

BuildDirect, a Canadian online super-wholesaler of building products, turned to Google Analytics to improve the efficiency of it's online spending. By using Google Analytics' too Goal Funnel, BuildDesign were able to streamline their site design.

Goal Funnel enabled them to:

  • Improve the navigation and usability of their site
  • Understand which part of the website were engaging and not engaging
  • Refine the checkout process by cutting down a step to reduce loss of customers

BuildDirect's results:

  • Streamlines website according to their visitors' preferred path
  • Increased conversions by 37%
  • Reduced overall search marketing budget by 33%
  • Improved customer engagement through sample purchases
  • Online sales volume increased 50%

How to set up a Goal Funnel

Firstly, clients must enable Goals on Google Analytics. Goals should be in line with an overall strategic objective, and metrics should be chosen which will convey actions into results. Before setting up the Funnel, the client must determine the most efficient pathway to reach the Goal page. If the objective is to identify visitor's preferred path, create multiple paths and multiple Goal Funnels.

Steps to set up a Goal Funnel:

  1. Choose the right profile: On Google Analytics, choose the right profile to set up Goals and Funnels on. Each profile allows a total of 20 goals, split into four sets. To create more Goals, set up a new profile.
  2. Enable Goals and Funnels on this profile: In Goals overview, click 'Set up goals and funnels'
  3. Set up the Goal: After choosing the right profile and enabling Goals, go to Admin, choose the profile to create Goals and Funnels on, and clicks on the Goals tab.
  4. Enter Goal details: Name the Goal something descriptive and easily recognisable and ensure the Goal is turned on to enable tracking (set as active).Choose the Goal type (URL destination, Pages/visits or time on site)
  5. Set Goal URL: Set this as the final step (goal page): URL should not contain the domain, i.e., enter the part of the URL after
  6. Goal Value: An optional step, if users want to assign a value to the completion of various goals.
  7. Check use Funnel
  8. Add the URLs as steps: URLs should not contain the domain. Name each step so it is easily recognised in the report. Tick "Required step" so that the Funnel Visualisation report only tracks those who have started at the beginning of the path.
  9. Save: Check the box to ensure visitors reaching the goal page will be logged as a conversion
  10. Filter your IP addresses from the results: Make sure you exclude your business' IP address to keep the data accurate. Set up a filter by clicking on Admin, choosing the profile you set up the Goal Funnels for and clicking on the Filter tab.
  11. Review Funnel Visualisation report: After a few days (depending on usual amount of traffic) check the statistics in the report.

The image provided below shows the steps of setting up a Goal Funnel.

Best practice for Goal Funnel measurement

  • Group Goals according to the type of action, for example group all Goals related to revenue or engagement
  • Eliminate distractions - remove unnecessary information or anything unrelated to the focus of the page to increase likelihood of visitors following the path to the goal page
  • Google Analytics has a maximum of 10 steps, so ensure the pathway is below this so it is not over complicated
  • Plan and define each entire goal step process prior to implementing the Goal, in order to determine which match type will work best.
    • Head match - beginning of the URL is always the same but unique identifier is added to the end
    • Exact match - URLs are always the same, with no unique identifiers
    • Regular Expression match - when you have more complicated matching requirements
Destination pages:

It is important to note that Goal Funnels only work with URL destination Goals. Therefore, to measure conversion, you will need to set the URL destination goal to the "Thank you for filling the form" page rather than the "Please fill out the form" page.

You can set the "Thank you" page as the URL destination page to test conversions for the following:

  • Contact us page
  • Subscription page
  • Create an account page
  • Download an asset page
Metrics to track:
  • Time spent on pages
  • Pages visitors exit to
  • Most effective pathway in reaching the goal page by setting up multiple pathways with one URL destination)
  • Sign up forms (amount of text boxes and information required)
  • Conversion - Integrate with Google Content Experiments, create different versions of pages within a pathway, and set multiple pathways to identify which pages deliver better results
  • Pages skipped - this suggests a problem navigating through the website. If the page skipped was a 'Required Step', it will not be considered a success.
Time frames:

Some websites have suggesting a few days before checking the results on the Funnel Visualisation report. However this ultimately depends on the amount of traffic the website usually receives. For low volume sites, a weekly or monthly review may be required.

Based on the results, refine your pages and measure them again to see if further improvements can be made.

Further resources: