Note: If you're looking for more information on issues within Google Analytics 4, check out our post on reasons why GA4 could be misbehaving.
Goals are the bread and butter of Google Analytics. Using goals, you can mark what’s essential in your reports and track the most important interactions and behaviors on your website and mobile apps. So, it’s super frustrating when your goals aren’t working how you expect.
So how do you fix your goals when they aren't working?
There are many reasons your goals may not be working. Checking your match type and making sure you’ve entered all information correctly is the key to correctly configuring your goals in Universal Analytics. Pay attention to the details and default to someone experienced if you’re having trouble.
Today, we’re going to walk you through the reasons your goals may not be working and what you can do to fix them. We’re only focusing on Universal Analytics today since Google Analytics 4 does things differently. So, if you’re using Universal Analytics and your goals aren’t tracking properly, come with us to learn about the common reasons why and what you can do to fix the issue.
What Are Goals in Google Analytics?
Okay, so first let’s discuss the basics. What exactly are goals in Google Analytics? A goal is something you can set up in Google Analytics that allows you to track specific interactions and behaviors.
You can make pretty much anything a goal in GA—from a form submission to a product purchase to a video click. You can set up anything you want to track as a goal in Google Analytics, and Analytics will track that goal as a conversion.
Goals are the essence of your Google Analytics experience. Without having goals set up, it’s impossible to track the important interactions you need to monitor on your site. That’s why it’s so important you understand how to set them up correctly. We’ll discuss the basics of setting up goals in the next section and then move on to show you common issues and how to fix them.
How To Set Up Goals In Universal Analytics
Now let’s talk about setting up goals in Universal Analytics. Again, remember, you can set up a goal for any interaction/behavior you want to track, so the sky’s the limit here.
To set up a goal in Universal Analytics, just follow these steps:
1. Log into your GA account and go to “Admin” on the bottom right.
2. Under “Views,” click “Goals.”
3. Click “New Goal.”
Once there, you have a lot of choices to make. We won’t take you through all the basics of setting up your goals today because this post is focused on when your goals aren’t working, so we’ll go over a lot of technicalities in the next section. But if you want to learn more about setting up goals in Google Analytics, check out our previous post on goals in Google Analytics here.
Reasons Why Goals May Not Be Working
Alright, so now let’s get to the frustrating part—when the goals you’ve meticulously set up aren’t working. You may see the events you marked as goals showing up in your real-time reports, yet your goals themselves aren’t being tracked. Or you may be getting falsely inflated metrics. There are lots of issues that can come up, which is why understanding the common issues is so important.
However, in the new GA version, goals are called conversions. You can find these back in the GA4 Realtime report.
Setting up your goals is very precise, as with all things in GA, so there are a lot of reasons your goals may not be tracking. But going through and trying to figure it out on your own is a big undertaking, so we’ve made you a helpful list!
Here are some reasons your goals may not be tracking and other issues you might run into when setting up your goals (and what you can do to fix them):
1. Wrong match type: This is one of the most common reasons your GA goals aren’t tracking. You must select the right match type when setting up your goals, and it can be a little confusing. In Universal Analytics, you have three different match-type options to choose from. Let’s discuss each one to see if this is your issue.
- Equals to: Only use this match type when the URL/word is the exact same each time the goal is triggered. You must be very precise, so understand that all spaces and punctuation need to be entered exactly. For example, if you enter “thank-you,” then “thank-you.html” will not trigger this goal. Watch out for capitalization here too and trailing spaces.
- Begins with: Here, you have a little more flexibility than the previous option. When you use this, the beginning of the URL/word must stay the same, but there can be different endings. For example, the words “with” and “without” will both trigger the same goal.
- Regular expression: This last option is more complex than the rest, and you’ll only want to use it if you’re comfortable with regex. To learn more about using regular expressions in Google Analytics, check out the GA regex guide here.
2. Greater than/less than issues: Another problem is making a simple and common mistake when selecting “greater than” or “less than” as you configure your goal. Remember, if you want your goal to fire for the number 3, selecting “less than 3” will not work for you. Note, you’ll only run into this when setting up “duration” and “pages/screens per session” goals.
3. Inaccurate page path: Another issue you could run into is using an incorrect page path. By default, Analytics will report just the page path, not the entire URL. Take a look at the Google Analytics demo account below to see what we mean.
If you see your web pages written this way, just including the page path, then this is exactly how you should write it when filling out your destination goal settings. Using the above example, you could select the “equals to” option and then fill in exactly “/home” to fire your goal.
4. Same goal completed in the same session: Another issue you may run into with your goals is when you fire the same goal multiple times in a single session. This can be a little confusing, so let’s give an example:
Say you’re going through and testing your goals and you complete the same goal several times in a single session. Then you go to your reports and see that the goal count is much lower than you anticipated. Well, that’s because in Universal Analytics, if the same user completes the same goal multiple times in a single session, Analytics will only count it once in your standard reports. This isn’t anything you have to “fix,” but it can still be confusing. Note that, by default, a “session” ends after 30 minutes of inactivity.
5. No tracking ID: Even though this may seem simple, it could be the cause of your issues. If you don’t include your tracking ID on a page containing a goal, Analytics can’t possibly track that goal.
6. Tracking the wrong page: Another common issue with goals is when you use a destination goal but enter the wrong information. For example, if you’re trying to track when users complete a form submission, you need to enter the confirmation page along with the destination goal. If you just enter the form itself, you’ll be tracking a goal every time that form is viewed, but not when it’s actually completed/submitted.
Another way you might end up tracking the wrong page is by not confirming the confirmation URL. For example, you might assume the URL ends in “/thank-you-newsletter,” but it actually ends in “/thank-you-for-subscribing.”
And lastly, you must be patient with your goals. Remember that your standard reports are not the same as your real-time reports. This means it can take up to 24 hours for your completed goals to show up in your reports, though you’ll usually see them sooner.
Also note that, by default, Analytics doesn’t include today’s date in your standard reports. You can change that by clicking up at the top of any standard report.
How to Test Your Goals
Before you move forward with your data collection, you must take the time to test your goals. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending lots of time setting up goals only to find you’re not collecting data from them, or that you’re collecting the wrong data.
Luckily, testing your goals in Universal Analytics is very easy. Just follow these steps:
1. Set up your goal as we explained above.
2. Head over to your website and complete the steps needed to trigger the goal.
3. Go back to Google Analytics and click “Realtime” > “Conversions.”
4. You should see your goals here if they’re configured properly.
Remember that it can take some time for your goals to start tracking, so give it a little time before assuming your goals aren’t working.
Goals in Universal Analytics
In closing, your goals in Google Analytics can be very sensitive. The key to getting them to track properly is checking the details and making sure you know what completed action you want to track.
If you continue to have problems with your goals, we recommend working with a developer or someone experienced in Google Analytics to help you make sure your goals are tracking how you want. Also, always make sure to test your goals before assuming they’re tracking properly. This can save you a lot of confusion down the line.
Have you run into any trouble configuring your goals in Universal Analytics? Let us know!