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A Deeper Look at Goals & Conversions – Digital Marketing 201

This post is focused on setting up Goals and Conversions within Universal Analytics. With the move to Google Analytics 4 and sunset of Universal Analytics in Summer 2023, you can learn more about setting up Events and Conversions in GA4 in our blog post “Setting up Events in Google Analytics 4“.

Before diving into this article, be sure to read “Goals and Conversions” in our Digital Marketing 101 series where we introduced these concepts. In this post, we’d like to take a deeper look at goals and conversions. Continue reading for an in-depth and easy-to-follow explanation on how to set up goals within Google Analytics and link them to various ad platforms to ensure you are spending your advertising dollars most effectively. In our first article, we mentioned the use of Google Ads and Google Analytics in relation to goals and conversions, but here we will go even further and introduce another helpful tool: Google Tag Manager.

How To Set Up Each Goal

We previously discussed the four main types of goals and introduced a general idea of how each one works, now let’s set them up! You will need to ensure you have access to the appropriate Google Analytics account, property, and view associated with your website and each ad platform you want to track your goal conversions in. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the use of Google products and platforms. For certain types of goals, you will need access to the Google Tag Manager account associated with your site.

URL Destination Goals

If you remember, this type of goal enables advertisers to track a conversion every time a user lands on a specific page on their website. This type of goal is commonly used in conjunction with a “Thank You” page after users submit a specified form. Many institutions in the education and enrollment space setup a URL Destination Goal using the page prospective students land on following the submission of their admissions application. This can help the school determine which traffic sources are driving the most completed applications.

For this example, we will set up a URL Destination Goal for the following web page, Follow along with the below step-by-step guide. 

  • Login to Google Analytics
  • Navigate to the Admin Cog in the bottom left corner
  • Select the Goals tab located within the View column
  • Select the red “+New Goal Button”
  • Choose Custom
  • Select Destination
  • Add the page you would like to track, minus the portion
    1. For the web page mentioned above we will just add – /colleges/search/best-colleges/
  • Verify this Goal, to ensure everything is firing properly

Confirm everything you just set up aligns with the screenshot below and hit “Save.” Your first Google Analytics Goal is now complete! Later on in this article we will discuss importing this goal, and others, into your ad platform. 

Visit Duration Goals

These goals allow us to tally the number of people who remain on-site for a specified period of time or longer. This will help you compare various digital advertising efforts and determine which digital campaign is keeping users on-site.

For this example, we will set up a Visit Duration Goal to track users who remain on site for more than two minutes consecutively. To do this, we will follow the same beginning steps as before, except when given the choice of goal type, select “Duration” and hit save. Then simply plug in the desired hours, minutes, and/or seconds. Again, it’s always a good idea to verify goals as you create them. Then submit your final save and goal number two is complete! Reference the below screenshot as needed.

Page/Session Goals

As you can infer, Page/Session Goals track users that are viewing a specific number of pages on your website during a single visit. The setup and purpose of pages/session goals are similar to Visit Duration Goals, but rather than tracking users who remain on-site for a specified period of time, these focus on the number of pages users are visiting.

For this example, we will set up a goal to track users who visit two or more pages. To do this, we will follow the same beginning steps as we’ve previously laid out; except when choosing the desired goal type, pick “Duration” and hit save. Then simply plug in your desired number of pages. Again, always verify goals before creating them to ensure they work and no adjustments are needed. Then submit your final save and your third goal is in the books. The screenshot below is what your screen should look like while creating this type of goal.

Events Goals

The last goal type is an Event Goal. Events enable advertisers to track when users take a defined action on their site, like playing a video or clicking a specific link. These are perhaps the most valuable goals an advertiser can set up.


  • Open Google Tag Manager and access the desired “Container”
  • Select “New Tag” then give it a title
  • Choose the type: Google Analytics – Universal Analytics
  • Select “Event” as the Track Type
  • Fill in the following fields
    • Category (Required) names a group of objects you want to track, ie. Videos
    • Action (Required) is the type of interaction you would like to track, ie. Play
    • Label (Optional, recommended) defines what an event is about, ie. Virtual Tour
    • Value (Optional) designates a numeric value to an object, ie. Time or Money
  • Check “Enable override settings in this tag”
  • Enter your analytics Tracking ID (Follow the steps below to find your tracking ID)
    • Sign in to your Analytics account
    • Click Admin
    • Select an account from the menu in the ACCOUNT column
    • Select a property from the menu in the PROPERTY column
    • Under PROPERTY, click Tracking Info > Tracking Code
    • Your Tracking ID is displayed at the top of the page
  • Finish by pressing the save button

Once you have the tag set up within Google Tag Manager, you then need to set up the trigger that will fire the tag. To do this, follow the steps below:


  • Access Tag Manager
  • Navigate to the desired Container
  • Select the “Triggers” tab
  • Press the “New” button
  • Choose the Trigger Configuration: Click, Just Links
  • Select All Link Clicks
  • Title the Trigger and hit Save

Now you have your event tag and trigger set up. Enter preview mode in Google Tag Manager to ensure your event is firing correctly and then publish your changes. The final step to set up your event goal is to configure the same event tracking within your Google Analytics. To do that, follow the steps below:


  • Open your Google Analytics Account, Property,  and View
  • Navigate to the Admin settings cog in the bottom left of the screen
  • Click on “Goals” under the View column
  • Press the “+New Goal” button
  • Select “Custom” and save
  • Name your goal then select “Event” and continue
  • Fill in the Event Conditions using the exact details you used in Google Tag Manager
  • Click Save

In the example above we walked through how to set up an event goal to track when users click links within your website. You can also set up a goal for a specific button click, specific link click, or really anything that a user can do on your site that you can define within Tag Manager. To track a different action, you would follow the same steps outlined above, but you would change the trigger that causes the tag to fire.

Syncing Goals with Google Ads

In order to see conversion data for the goals you just set up in Google Analytics while in Google Ads, you will need to get the information flowing between the two platforms. This will also allow your ad campaigns to be optimized, through machine learning, for actions on your website.

To configure the goals you just set up, first access your Google Analytics account and select the desired account, property, and view.

  1. Navigate to the admin settings cog in the bottom left corner
  2. Select “Google Ads Linking” in the center of the page, under the “Property” column
  3. Click the red button to add a new link group
  4. Select the Google Ads account you want to configure
  5. Toggle on the “All Website Data” field
  6. Press “Link Accounts,”
  7. Press “Done”

Now to actually import these goal conversions you just configured into the ads platform. For this example we will walk through the steps on importing goals into Google Ads, a similar process can be done to import goals to other platforms, like Facebook Ads Manager.

  1. Access Google Ads
  2. Navigate to the Tools & Setting menu
  3. Select “Conversions” under the measurements category
  4. Click the blue plus symbol and select the import button
  5. Select “Google Analytics”
  6. Check the boxes next to each goal you’ve created, then press “Import and Continue”
  7. Press “Done” to complete 

Viewing and Interpreting Conversion Results

Once Google Ads and Google Analytics have been properly linked, conversion data can be seen in a number of different locations throughout each platform. One of the best ways to view these results would be within Google Analytics under Acquisition, Google Ads, then Campaigns. From here, you can compare the performance of various campaigns based on key performance indicators like Goal Conversion Rate, Goal Completions, and Goal Value. In addition to goal-specific KPIs, these campaigns can be evaluated based on some more commonly used metrics like Cost Per Click, Bounce Rate, and Pages Per Session. 

Within the Google Ads platform, similar comparison can be done from the campaign level. From here, you can choose to modify the metrics being shown within the results columns. You can choose to save a custom set of columns including any mixture of KPIs, see below for the conversion-specific options. Once again, because Google Ads and Analytics have been linked at this point, within the ads platform, you should now be able to see data typically only found in the analytics platform (ie. Bounce Rate and Pages / Session).

How Niche Can Help

We know that not all schools have the resources necessary to fully commit to running, managing, and optimizing their own digital advertising. So we’re prepared to help! Even if you are taking these steps on your own, we can help streamline the process. Niche’s Digital Marketing team is made up of specialists who are ready to share their knowledge. Niche’s team members are experts in their respective fields and strive to provide our College and K-12 partners with high quality digital advertising. We offer a number of different products and services with varying levels of customization suited for schools at any stage in their digital journey. We have the experience to know what good traffic looks like and the steps to take to improve your traffic. Whether you’re looking to start running your first-ever digital ads with us, or you’re looking to add additional content to your already complex media plan, we can help!

Notable Mentions

  • There are other ways to create Google Analytics Goals, including goals from a template or “Smart Goals.” Google has a number of helpful resources pertaining to these options.
  • Also not explored in this article, monetary values can be assigned to goals to further expand the insight possibly provided by conversions.
  • Google Analytics goals and conversions can also be linked to other ad platforms, like Facebook Ads Manager.
Larissa Cole is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Niche. She creates, monitors, and optimizes digital campaigns on behalf of Niche’s K12 and College clients.