The Big Questions
There are hundreds of reasons to set up Google Analytics (GA) on your website to track performance, usage, ecommerce dollars, device usage, user flows, and on and on and on… But why bother setting GA up if your not going to set up trackable goals that match your business goals, tracking them, and analyze ways to improve performance, goal completions and conversion rates.
If you have ever set up a destination goal with required conversion funnel steps, you’ll know that some are easy to set-up while others just wont work and track properly. If your site is fairly simple, has no dynamic page types, page names are clean, url structure doesn’t use gawky characters that have functions that can be interpreted literally (example: +, *), and/or you don’t use query strings at all, you’ll probably be able to use the “Begins With” destination url option in GA.
Simple “Begins With” Goal Destination Example
If you make or want to make GOOD money online, this is probably NOT enough for you.
For those of you who have a website that is complex dynamic data driven engine–you’ll probably be required to employ the regular expression (RegEx) destination url option.
More Complex “Regular Expressions” Goal Destination Example
Real World Use
The previous example is an ecommerce sales conversion goal we use for a few of our Ski Resort clients to track the conversion funnel of sales of variety of their products online including season passes, day lift tickets, ski and snowboard lessons, concert and special event tickets, and more. This goal is used specifically for tracking Resort Technology Partners‘ (RTP) proprietary online store product (known to those in the industry as the eStore), which gives resorts many opportunities to showcase and sell their products.
The complication in tracking conversion goals here comes from their url strings utilizing the plus character (+). That is a special character which needs to be ‘escaped’ using RegEx or it will be treated as an operational character, not just a symbol. Therefore http://eStore.SkiResortName.com/StepName=Review+and+Pay can’t be tracked as a step beginning with “/StepName=Review+and+Pay”.
Use a RegEx Match that queries and records any URL that (syntax and expressions explained and highlighted below):
- Starts with any character ‘.*‘ with zero or more of the proceeding elements (this covers your base url),
- directly followed by ‘StepName=Review’,
- followed by the escaped ‘+’ character (‘+’),
- followed by ‘and’,
- followed by another escaped ‘+’ character (‘+’),
- followed by ‘Pay’,
- followed by any character ‘.*‘ and zero or more proceeding elements (this covers any variety of both the estore and GA’s query string parameters following the page name you’re tracking).
Data & Results
Using this RegEx goal process you’ll be able to tackle more diverse and dynamic Google Analytics goals. As you can see by the the reporting from this funnel. The store converted nearly 19% of all visitors that enter the store within this specific date range.
Many more users entered the store at the product level rather than the home page–which was the result of successful email marketing efforts and hearty SEO set up bringing in organic search visitors. Once the user visited a product page, over 50% of the users went to the shopping cart, from there the rate of conversion improves step by step. Nice.
Here are a few thoughts:
- activeNetwork/RTP eStore doesn’t have a mechanism to stop resubmitting the GA pageview for the estore sale confirmation page when the user refreshes that page, which as a result marginally inflates successful conversion data. It would be ideal to only allow the cookie to be loaded once per successful conversion.
- By not requiring steps in this GA goal funnel (since you can’t control the user and where they go on the site), the funnel records all users that enter on dozens of pages. We’re not able to separate the users that are window shopping and those who are looking to complete the purchase on this visit. In the eStore environment, it would be worth testing the removal of the main navigation on the page once the user logs in after viewing their shopping cart. By focusing more on converting the user to complete the sale, and removing as many options to be distracted it’s likely that the conversion rate would increase.