What are Smart Goals in Google Analytics?

smart goals in google analytics

In a nutshell, Smart Goals measure the most engaged visits to your website and automatically turn those visits into Goals, even if you don’t have conversion tracking or ecommerce tracking.

Those Goals are then used to improve your Google Ads bidding. Not only are Smart Goals one of our favorite features of Google Analytics, but also a helpful resource for ecommerce merchants of all sizes.

Note: *updated* Can you even trust Smart Goals in Google Analytics?

How do Smart Goals work?

The Smart Goals feature in Google Analytics is the result of machine learning algorithms and configured at the view level.

These algorithms scan dozens of signals within your website sessions to determine which signals are most likely to result in a conversion.

Each session is assigned a score, with the “best” sessions being translated into Smart Goals.

So what are these “signals”? Session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser type are among the most popular.

To determine the best sessions, Smart Goals establishes a threshold by selecting approximately the top 5% of the traffic to your site coming from AdWords. Once that threshold is set, Smart Goals applies it to all your website sessions, including traffic from channels other than AdWords. After enabling Smart Goals in Analytics, they can be imported into AdWords.

Tip: Try Littledata’s Google Analytics app for free, where you can see your shopper behavior data directly in Google Ads.

What do I need before setting up Smart Goals?

If you’re an online store owner interested in using Smart Goals, you’ll need to have an existing Google Ads account linked to Google Analytics. You’ll also need edit permissions at the view level in order to complete the setup.

Note: *updated* Can you even trust Smart Goals in Google Analytics?

Before setting up Smart Goals, your linked Google Ads account must also have sent at least 500 clicks to the selected Analytics view over the past 30 days (if the linked account falls below 250 clicks over the past 30 days for the selected view, Smart Goals will be deactivated until the clicks rise again to 500 or more).

Google Analytics recommends that Smart Goals be used when you aren’t measuring conversions. In other words, they’re an easy way to use your best sessions as conversions.

You can then use Smart Goals to optimise your Google Ads performance based on the best sessions pattern.

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How to set up Smart Goals

If your user permissions are eligible, you can enable Smart Goals by selecting the goal type when following the regular goal setup flow:

  1. Sign in to Google Analytics.
  2. Click Admin, and navigate to the desired view.
  3. In the view column, click Goals.
  4. Click + New Goal.
  5. Select Smart Goal (if available).
  6. Give your Smart Goal a name and click Save.
  7. No additional configuration or customization is required (they’re called “Smart” for a reason!)

Set up smart goals in google analytics

How to import Smart Goals into Google Ads

  1. After you’ve activated Smart Goals in Google Analytics, sign in to your Google Ads account, click the Tools tab, and select Conversions.
  2. Click Analytics in the left-hand menu.
  3. Check the boxes next to the goals or transactions you want to import. Click Continue.
  4. On the next page, you’ll see settings that will apply to all of the goals or transactions you selected.
  5. Make your choices, then click Import goals.
  6. Click Close, or to import more goals, click Import more.
  7. Google Ads will begin importing the data from your Analytics account. Historical data prior to your import will not be included.

Your Smart Goals report

To see exactly how Smart Goals perform, use the Conversions > Goals > Smart Goals report.

This report shows how Smart Goals traffic differs from other traffic to your website. You can also include the Smart Goals Completed dimension in custom reports.

The Smart Goals report also shows how Smart Goals would perform even before enabling them in your view. This helps you determine if Smart Goals will be a useful feature for your ecommerce business.

Interested in getting help with any of these features? Littledata’s enterprise plans include complete support, a dedicated account manager, data analytics experts and ecommerce Google Analytics consulting.

We covered what Smart Goals are, but are they actually beneficial? Next, we cover the why (or why not) behind Smart Goals. 

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