Goal Analysis (Part II) – Measuring Distances to Goal Completion

In the post about the differences between first, total and unique goal completions, I talked about the possible differences between site goals and business goals, and how different metrics might be required to measure the latter. In a nutshell, there are goals where the total number of completions is important, such as total number of purchases, or goals where the total number of unique visitors who completed a specific goal is important, or goals where only the first completion per visitor is of value, such as first purchases.

Although there is great need for this data, Google Analytics and most other tools do not provide the kind of metrics required to obtain it. In my last post I described how some of this data can be achieved using Google Analytics. I also mentioned that working with an anonymous ID per visitor allows you to achieve much more than just these three metrics mentioned above.

In this post I will quickly review how some of this data can be obtained through two other tools: KISSMetrics and Performable. Then, I will show you why “distances” are important and introduce you to my Ultimate Goal Analysis Report, which is based on the Goal Analysis Report that is available in the latest version of CardioLog – SharePoint Marketing Suite.

Achieving Firsts, Totals and Uniques Using KISSmetrics

The last time I checked KISSmetrics was about half a year ago, when I wrote about the issues I had with tracking chronological funnels. I have to admit I was amazed by the progress and the maturity of their platform over these past six months. I never doubted their capabilities but I really do think they did an amazing job.

First of all, it seems like most of what I mentioned in my previous post has already been implemented. You can now create metrics for each step along the funnel and even determine if you would like to see the number of times an event has occurred (total) or the number of people who did the event (unique). The only thing missing now is how to check the amount of “firsts”, but this can be achieved by defining a separate event for the first time the event occurs and sending an extra event to KISSmetrics.

Another great thing KISSmetrics now offers – and this is actually the subject of this post – is the option to see the time distance between two events. Luckily, you can even define if you want to see the distance to the first occurrence ever, or the distance to all conversions during a specific selected time frame. If, however, you choose the second option, you will only be able to see people who did both events, and within the time frame. While I am not sure I completely understand this limitation, it is still far better than what is offered by other platforms.

The most impressive thing about the current version of KISSmetrics is that it seems like finally, someone has implemented a real methodology on a web analytic tool. Most of the tools out there just provide reports and metrics. KISSmetrics on the other hand leads you through a serious of questions and wizards so that even if you have zero knowledge about web and funnel analytics, you can still achieve everything you need within minutes. You have almost no work to do, such as defining funnels, KPIs or metrics. All you have to do is answer a few questions and you are good to go. In addition, by combining modules such as objectives, tasks and team management, KISSmetrics can provide you with the perfect tool for carrying out your ongoing web analytics and marketing optimization tasks.

Achieving Firsts, Totals and Uniques Using Performable

Now let’s take a look at Performable (acquired by hubspot).. Unlike KISSmetrics, Performable looks at goals rather than funnels. Another major difference is that Performable tracks all of your sites’ pages and can provide you with the list of pages your users visited prior to completing the goal (not just the pre-defined events). This second feature provides two very important reports:

  • A list of assisted pages – a list with the most popular pages visited by users prior to goal completion. (Although this does not necessarily mean that a specific page on this list pushed the user to complete the goal, you can assume that it played a certain role in converting the user).
  • A detailed trail report – a report depicting the exact trail (i.e. all the pages) that the user went through prior to completing the goal/converting.

Although Performable also provides Time to Completion, as does KissMetrics, you do not get it as a metric and the resolution is in days, which makes this chart almost useless for some of your goals:

Measuring Distances

As both KissMetrics and Performable (and probably other such tools) provide quite a lot of metrics, charts and other useful information about your site’s goals, I will spend the next few paragraphs presenting which metrics I think are the most basic metrics necessary for analyzing visitor behavior and site goals.

One important aspect of goal analysis, in addition to the need to look at first, unique and total goal completions, is the distance between the first visit of a visitor and the completion of a goal / the conversion event. There are four types of distances that are of interest:

  • The time it takes a user to convert, from first visit to goal completion.
  • The total number of visits to the site by the user from the first visit to goal completion.
  • The total number of page views from the first page view to goal completion.
  • The total amount of different channels that a specific visitor used to get to the site from the first visit to goal completion.

Determining whether to measure the distance from the first visit to goal completion, or from a specific event to goal completion, depends on the type of goal we are analyzing. Taking a look at first goal completion is usually important when measuring the distance from the first visit to a certain goal, for example, the number of visits to sign up, or the time to first purchase. Calculating the average time to purchase, when purchase is an event that a user can complete more than once, is rather pointless, as it is pretty clear that the time it takes a user to make a first time purchase differs from the time it takes the same user to purchase again.

Analyzing User Trails

In order to achieve a complete overall view of my site’s goals and be able to analyze my users’ behavior, I need to be able to analyze each user’s behavior and see exactly what he/she was doing prior to completing the goal.

The fact that you are able to obtain all this information does not mean that you need to look at each and every user trail. This information is great to use if you see types of activities that you cannot explain. For example, if most of your users sign up during their first few visits, you might want to check your converted visitors who visited the site more than that and see what they were doing and why it took them so long to convert.

When analyzing the average time to conversion, keep in mind that you will often have a few users that “ruin” your average distance. For example, if it takes 2 minutes to convert on your site, it is enough to have one user that converts in 10 days to give you the wrong impression about the average time to conversion. However, before filtering these users out, take a look at what they did and why it took them so long to convert. This can be extremely useful information.

A most useful feature for dealing with users with abnormal behavior is being able to create a dedicated survey or content to present to these users. In the upcoming version of the SharePoint Marketing Suite we have added such an option for creating a survey or personalized content for a specific user or users. For example, if the average amount of visits to completion is 4 visits and you have a specific user with 20 visits, you can present a popup asking the user if he/she wants to chat with an online agent.

The Ultimate Goal Analysis Report

One of the new reports that we have recently added to the SharePoint Marketing Suite is the Goal Analysis Report, which contains everything I described in this post and in the previous one. For means of this post, I have connected the report to the Google Analytics API and, with some minor JavaScript modifications to the default GA tracking code on my site, I was able to obtain metrics such as unique completions, time distance and others, including user trails, as described earlier in this post.

With this report you can view a great deal of important information, including:

  • Number of unique people who completed the goal
  • Average time to completion
  • Average number of visits to completion
  • Average number of page views to completion
  • Average number of different traffic sources the visitor used to get to the site before converting.

With the help of this report you can also filter the results according to traffic sources, for example: the average time to completion just for non-paid traffic.

The report also contains a list of visitors with detailed information about the time to completion, number of visits and page views, and the number of traffic sources per visitor.

After defining the report, simply click on any anonymous visitor who completed the goal and a log will pop up, detailing everything that visitor did on your site. An indicator will appear next to each goal that was completed and next to each new traffic source used by the visitor to get to your site.

Pretty cool, huh?

In my next post I will provide all the necessary information on how you can implement this report on your site, providing you have GA. If you can’t wait and want to give it a try sooner, feel free to contact me and I will help you set it up.