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Segment your Goal Funnel in Google Analytics

What is a Funnel?

Your goal funnel is the set of required pages leading up to your final goal, such as a purchase. You may be familiar with the Funnel Visualization report in Google Analytics (GA). It shows you how many visitors go to each step and how many leave the funnel at that step. You can spot trouble points with your funnel and take steps to correct the issue. Here’s what the report looks like:

Example-Goal-Funnel

The Problem:

While you can segment goal metrics such as goal completions, starts and values in GA, you can’t segment the Funnel Visualization report. You can’t see how different types of visitors may leave the funnel at different steps. For example, you may just want to see where new visitors abandon your goal funnel, compared to returning visitors. When you look up at Advanced Segments in the top right of the Funnel Visualization report, here’s what you see:

The Horizontal, Segmentable Funnel

I want to show you a method that will allow you to see your goal conversion funnels in any report, segmented however you want. I’m going to name it the “Horizontal Funnel” since we’ll be viewing it left to right, instead of top to bottom.

Let’s start with what you’ll get, using this method.

The traditional GA Goal Funnel report shows

  1. Number of visits to each step in the funnel
  2. The percentage of visits that continued to the next step
  3. Where exiting visits went.

With the Horizontal Funnel method you’ll see

  1. Number of visits to each step in the funnel.
  2. The percentage of visits that did not continue to the next step

You don’t get to see where exiting visitors went. . .but you WILL be able to:

  1. Apply Advanced Segments
  2. See the funnel for multiple segments in the same report

Let’s look at an example of what a traditional e-commerce funnel that looks like:

Shopping Cart –> Address Info –> Payment Info –> Review Order –> Thank You

In the image below, the values outlined in blue are the visits to each step, and the values outlined in orange are the exit rate between steps.

HorizontalFunnel21
It’s like a regular funnel, just flipped on it’s side, using goals, first steps in funnels, and custom reports – more detail below. As you can see, this is in a keyword report. So, the funnel can be seen in-line in the report, for whatever segments you want; in this case for individual keyword phrases. And you can apply Advanced Segments or Secondary Dimensions to the report.

That’s the “what”. Now for the “how”.

1. Create the Goals

For each step in the funnel, we create a separate goal in GA. This provides the values in blue: how many visits touched each step. Now we want to be able to get the values in orange, the exit rate between steps. In each of the goals following the first step in the conversion process, we create a funnel. Each funnel contains a single step which is the Goal URL for the preceding goal. That’s the key. The preceding goal becomes the Funnel Step 1 URL for the next goal.

3-steps-with-last-arrow

2. Create the custom report

Now that the goals are set up we can create the custom report we need to view the data. To set up the report we are going to use two different metrics, Goal Completions and Abandonment Rate.

The Goal Completion metric is the number of visits in which a particular Goal URL was visited at least once.

The Abandonment Rate metric is the percentage of visits that started the funnel (saw Step 1), but did not complete the goal.

In our Goal #17, we made the Funnel Step 1 = Goal #16 Completion. So, Goal #17 Abandonment Rate = percentage of visits that saw Goal#16 but did not complete Goal #17 = Exit Rate between the 2 goals. In this example the first step in the funnel is in Goal Slot #16, so Goal 16 Completions goes first. The second step was in Goal Slot #17, so we place Goal 17 Abandonment Ratenext, followed by Goal 17 Completions.

Then Goal 18 Abandonment Rate, followed by Goal 18 Completions.

And so on.

create-the-custom-report

After you have all the goals in place in the Metrics section of the report, it’s time to move on to the Dimensions. In this case, we chose to dimension by Keyword. But you may wish to see your goal funnel report by City, State, Browser, Landing Page, or whatever is most appropriate for your situation.

That’s it. Happy Funnel Segmentation.

Small Update:

As Ophir Prusak helpfully pointed out in the comments section, it would be a good idea to note that the values you get using this method may be a little different from what the Funnel Visualization report shows.

One of the reasons for this is that the Funnel Visualization report makes the assumption that If a visit includes Step 3, for example, then it MUST include Step 2 and Step 1.

So if an actual visit sees Step 3, But DOESN’T see Step 2 or Step 1 — what does GA do?  It adds a count to Step 1 and Step 2 ANYWAY.

This Horizontal Funnel method does not do this.  So if you have a funnel with entrances into the middle of the funnel, numbers may be different.

There are probably other good reasons why they could be different as well, but that is the most obvious one and definitely needed to be pointed out.

For more about tricky funnel issues in GA try checking out this post on our blog: Funnel Problems in Google Analytics

-John

http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2010/06/04/segment-goal-funnel-google-analytics/

39 Responses to “Segment your Goal Funnel in Google Analytics”

TechPad says:

Thanks. This looks like a really useful technique. I must give this a go! I’ve recently created a gazillion segments for one of the sites I look after, so this could bring some really valuable insight.

David says:

Interesting hack to get around the funnel limitation, i would suggest that you create a new profile just for this rather than screwing up existing tracking.

Interesting approach.. I use funnels alot for split testing landing pages or website layouts

Patrick says:

This indeed is a very interesting report. I’m always looking at the sources and the conversions they generate, but this will shed some more insight into why some sources are converting better than others.

John says:

David,

Creating a profile for something like this is a fine way to go.

However, in this case, the only thing that would get Screwed Up would be the aggregate Goal Completion Rate (the one that adds up the completions rate of every goal in the profile). If anyone uses that particular metric for making decisions, then definitely set this up in a new profile if you want to try it out.

Otherwise, this method does not alter any other data (that I can think of) and can be used safely in any profile, if you have the goal slots for it.

Joao Correia says:

A very creative and pratical approach. I just implemented this on an additional profile.
Thanks for sharing

This was very helpful to me and my clients as some have difficulty interpreting the funnel visualization. Representing the data in this manner made it easier for some I work with. Many thanks.

Ophir Prusak says:

Awesome idea (as always)

You might want to point out the differences a user might see between the standard funnel and your goal based funnel due to back filling goal steps.

Hugh Gage says:

An excellent approach. In this incarnation it looks like it can only cater for a max 5 step funnel. If you used tabs in your custom report to show the different metrics i.e. completions, abandonment, conversion etc then you’d be able to extend to a max 10 step funnel, the only problem being that you’d need to switch back and forth between tabs to look at the alternative metrics. I could be a trade off worth experimenting with.

John says:

Yes, in a single tab you are limited by the number of “Metric” slots you have available in the report creation interface.

Using additional tabs for additional steps would be a reasonable way to extend this method.

Thanks for sharing this. One of the best and creative hacks, I’ve seen in years.

I’ll use this first thing tomorrow.

Kind regards,

Daniël

Alan says:

This is simply beautiful John!

I was disappointed that setnamespace wasn’t named after you. Maybe if the segmented funnels become a standard feature one day, we can call it THE HENSON :)

Take care,
Alan

John says:

Thanks Alan ;)

I am wondering, I’m in affiliate marketing and don’t have any of my own shopping carts since the visitors click-through to my affiliate sites. I suppose this info would not be that useful to me.

SteveB says:

This is great, something that I was looking for for the past few weeks!

A problem though: I am trying to track 2 different methods of adding items to carts we have available to our customers. Of the 4 possible steps in each path, the first step is unique, the last 3 are shared to both possible paths. The problem is that the 2nd step of the process (Being the item/s added to cart) is showing more completions than the previous step. I have created a unique Product -> Cart page that has the previous page as a “Required step” which works in Funnel visualisation to ignore path entries from anywhere but the previous step, however its not working for this.

I hope that makes sense. Any ideas?

Greta says:

I’d also like an answer to SteveB’s question

John says:

Steve

This method shows the number of visits that completed each goal.

Unfortunately it isn’t able to benefit from the “Required first step” functionality of the goal funnel. This makes shared steps for multiple funnels, such as in your situation, display as you have noted.

The best option may be to pass along a URL query parameter to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th steps that designates which path the visitor is going down.

Curtis says:

I had done something similar to this to segment the goal funnel based on the medium. Since I only had to look at one segment, I just created profiles for the individual mediums and filtered them by that medium (cpc, organic, direct, referral). The business requester wanted to see the step conversion rates between traffic source mediums. Using advice from Avinash Kaushik I asked “So What?” 3 times…and the last answer was “because I am in charge” So I did it and after a few weeks showed him the comparison…and not surprising to me, since we use the same conversion funnel across all of the segments, they all performed relatively the same. The correlation coefficient for all the data was a perfect 1.0. So we fixed the step that had the worst conversion and bang….the business requester was a hero. Only he would have had the same answer 3 weeks earlier had he listened to me when I explained to him we already knew which step needed to be fixed and we don’t need to segment everything to find it!

So after all that I have a real hard time understanding why anybody would need to do this. What question do you hope to answer that isn’t already answered in a goal conversion report?

Gavin Doolan says:

Wow, sweet work around I like it. I previously have used the technique on ROI revolution called Funnels on the Fly Or MacGyver funnels as I call them ;).
http://www.roirevolution.com/blog/2009/11/funnels_on_the_fly_in_google_analytics.html

However this technique is much easier to pull data for, the only disadvantage is you have to have the foresight to see it up in advance I would imagine.

bruno roldan says:

Google states the following on the funnel:

Note that the ‘Required step’ checkbox only affects the Funnel Visualization report. It does not keep a goal from showing a conversion in any other goal report.

Which means that inserting goal 1 in required step for goal 2 does not impact the goal itself.

Given this, can you rely on this?

Bruno

Webmaster says:

@bruno, you can rely on the funnel visualization to do “its thing,” i.e. show you how the funnel works when the first step is required. And you can rely on all the reports with goal tabs to correlate that report (e.g. “visitor language” or “country”) with the goal, but that goal percentage achievement might be larger than it was in the funnel visualization. Reason: The ‘Required step’ checkbox only affects the Funnel Visualization report. It does not keep a goal from showing a conversion in any other goal report. Does that help?

Watch NHL says:

If anyone uses that particular metric for making decisions, then definitely set this up in a new profile if you want to try it out.

Daniel says:

A great post but Google doesn’t offer enough funnel steps for my website. Does anyone know if there is anything else that can offer more steps in the funnel?

Robbin Steif Robbin says:

No but…. you probably can combine some steps. Why don’t you obscure your domain and tell us what the steps are like this “/shipping (this one is where they tell us what the shipping address is)” and we’ll see if we can help you if you post it on our facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/lunametrics — Robbin

Jason Hotham says:

I am finding that segmentation by source is working great!(in my case referral etc. e.g. moneysupermarket.com)
Only problem for me is that the first funnel step, which just contains the goal URL, is showing zero Abandoned.
Somehow i just can’t believe that.
What might be the causes?

Robbin Steif Robbin says:

Jason, I just don’t think I understand what the first funnel step is (and why you would include the goal URL in the first step, which would be in the last step, so maybe you can explain more?) Sorry for the tardy reply

Real Pereira says:

I´m going to try to implemented this on an additional profile.
Thanks for sharing

maria says:

Hi,

Thanks for a great article.
Just a question: do you know if the visitors taken into account in the goal funnel visualization are unique or not?
I am trying to find the answer on the analytics guide but still haven+t found it.

thanks!

@Maria: The goal funnel visualization uses unique pageviews to specific pages and not unique visitors.

Ronnie Reid says:

Very cool idea.

We just implemented Guest Checkout and I’m trying to measure checkout funnel success rates between guest users and those registering for new account.

They both follow the same path except for one split step. Example: Both start on login page, then guests go to pageA, registering users go to pageB, both converge on pageC, then both to page D, etc.

This solution almost works, but not quite… due to the split path, right?

Can you think of a better solution?

Thanks!

Hey Ronnie -

Have you looked at the newer Goal Flow report? They seem better suited for the type of visualization you’re looking for. Unlike the older Funnel Visualization report, the Goal Flow report allows you to apply advanced segments (including custom advanced segments).

I’d like to hear if that solves your problem.

Jim

Megan T says:

I am trying to track completions, conversions, and abandonment rates for 2 goals that flow down the same path.

Step 1, 2, and 3 are the same for both goals, but with Goal A users continue on to steps 4, 5, and 6 (a purchase). With Goal B, users skip to step 6 (not a purchase).

Is the solution above the best option or is there something that would work better?

Hi Megan -

I’d take a look at the Goal Flow reports (in the new interface, go to Conversions > Goals > Goal Flow). This should show you what you’re looking for.

For an overview/refresher, read this flow visualization reports blog post we wrote when they came out last October.

Let me know if that works.
Jim

Megan T says:

Thanks for the quick response Jim. This will work, except for one thing: I was hoping to set up a flow/funnel that I could just log in and view the numbers each time. For steps 1-3, the goal flow is fine. I set up a “horizontal funnel” like the one in this article for steps 4-6. I’m hoping by clicking in those 2 places, it shows my complete funnel at a glance.

Otherwise, I believe that examining incoming/outgoing traffic for steps 4-6 and recording the numbers each time is another option.

Vijay says:

I followed the steps in the article precisely, but my custom report shows no data. Am i missing something? Please help.

Vimlesh says:

Thank you very much for sharing such a useful information.

Reuben says:

Like Vijay, I also followed the instructions to the letter but have no data in the custom report. My existing goals still report data ok.

I am curious. Why are you using the Abandonment Rate instead of the Conversion rates?

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