Smart goals are a new form of engagement/conversion that Google introduced in December 2015, designed for the “hundreds of thousands of small and medium businesses [that] aren’t measuring their website conversions today”.

As an online marketing agency we report back to our clients how their website is performing by the goals that are being achieved by it and try to help them increase the number of goals being completed and/or the rate at which those goals are achieved.

Website owners and agencies all want to see as many users as possible carry out the actions that the site has been designed to capture. Whether that be a new customer sign up, purchasing a product or just downloading a whitepaper/PDF, there are many ways to track and report these goals.

The main ways are via Google Analytics goals, which are ideally set up at destination URL level or via eCommerce tracking, or you can also track on-site conversions using AdWords conversion code, when using AdWords advertising. However the new ‘smart goals’ have been designed for those sites that don’t have on-site conversions to track or the resources to implement conversion tracking. This may be a site that encourages phone enquiries but doesn’t use call tracking for example or one that is a catalog / non-eCommerce site used to promote a physical store or event.

In scenarios like this it can be hard to know what keywords are working and which are not, you can look at on-site engagement, such as bounce rates and time on site, but sometimes these can be deceptive and aren’t a true representation of the quality of traffic.

This is where smart goals are designed to come in. Google describes how they work as follows: “To generate Smart Goals, we apply machine learning across thousands of websites that use Google Analytics and have opted in to share anonymized conversion data. From this information, we can distill dozens of key factors that correlate with likelihood to convert: things like session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser. We can then apply these key factors to any website. The easiest way to think about Smart Goals is that they reflect your website visits that our model indicates are most likely to lead to conversions.

The idea is to import these smart goals from Analytics into AdWords and then use the data to optimise your AdWords campaigns.

There are prerequisites however, needed to be able to track smart goals:

  1. AdWords and Analytics must be linked
  2. You need to have had 1,000 plus AdWords clicks in the last 30 days
  3. Your site is not allowed more than 1 million hits a day
  4. The Data Sharing setting for Google products and services must be enabled

When looking at the Smart Goals section in Analytics you see data for Acquisition, Behaviour and Conversions for the traffic that did and did not complete a smart goal:


For the clients we have set them up for the sessions that did complete a smart goal, spent way over the average time on site and viewed a lot more than the average pages, during their visits, so it would appear that they are the high quality / highly engaged users that could have converted. I therefore think that smart goals are a good additional tracking metric for sites that can’t track actual conversions, for whatever reason.

But what do you think? Have you had experience with smart goals yet? Let us know your thoughts…