Google Analytics for Affiliate Marketers: The Best How-To Guide

Google Analytics for Affiliate Marketers

Google Analytics goals are one of the best and easiest things to set-up as an affiliate. Those same goals can become goals in Google Ads.

In this post we’ll explore exactly what that means and how to approach measurement marketing with a “one-step-at-a-time” mentality, instead of putting yourself into a constant state of overwhelm (like I did initially).

This is Google Analytics for Affiliate Marketers

There’s plenty to cover, I’m only going to focus on Goals for now. The “How” matters just as much as the “Why” and we want you to be super confident in your marketing moving forward as we build brick by brick.

You might be wondering how I learned this stuff, well it was my subscription to that got me over the hump after a few months of fumbling around learning from YouTube and different blogs.

Check out the W.I.N. pass here to get your GA game together quickly. You’ll need to focus, but you can learn the basics and be able to implement them in a couple weeks like I did.

Where were we?

Google Analytics Goals

Understand Your Business Model

The first step to creating meaningful analytics goals is to really identify what will matter for you in your business. Obviously you want each sale you make to be counted, but there is nuance in measuring much much more. Don’t worry too much about how you are going to measure them right now. Just make a list and get everything down on paper. Email sign-ups, pages visited, time on page, even scroll % can be counted! You are working to align everything that could possibly be of value at this time, we’ll clean it up later. Ask yourself “What do you believe are the five most important objectives for the business over the next 6-12 months.

Before I started working for clients, I created these goals for my own businesses. I admit, I really didn’t know what I was doing at first, so I had a ton of generic presets. Over time you will start to get a grasp for Google Analytics and be able to ask others – “What are this client’s three most important business objectives for the next 6-12 months?” Once you’re confident you’re on the right page, test the logic with a friend or maybe a community you’re part of, come to think of it the folks over at SEO Affiliate Domination‘s Facebook group would probably be pretty receptive to the idea.

It should be pretty simple to discuss at this point.Whoever you chose to test this with, talk directly with them. Let them know you are working to be a better affiliate, so you’re exploring Google Analytics and wanting to track specific business goals and get their input on what they believe is worth tracking. This is not only a great opportunity to learn more about your approach, but it’s a solid way to gain insight into strategies and thought processes that others might be using.

What are some of the goals you might end up with after this exercise?

  1. Product View.
  2. Newsletter Sign-up.
  3. Pageviews.
  4. Scroll depth.
  5. Product purchase.

The next step is to break these down into measurable business goals.

Break Down Your Business Objectives into Measurable Goals

Business objectives are often qualitative, like “Better leverage social media”. Measurable goals are quantifiable, like “Increase the Twitter retweets and Facebook likes for our blog content”. That’s quantifiable because we can measure the number of retweets each month and report if it is increasing or decreasing.

To create analytics goals, we must first break down qualitative business objectives into measurable goals. To do that, look over each business objective and, if necessary, rephrase it using terms that are quantifiable.

Once you have a list of measurable goals, review it and think about which of the items on the list can be measured using Google analytics. You may not know for sure but an example could be, “Increase revenue from online sales” is a good candidate for translating into an analytics goal. Online sales can be measured with Google Analytics Ecommerce Tracking. So now, you have a clean and easy way to measure your improvement and compare periods.

On the other hand, something vague like “Increase shareholder value” is not a good candidate. It’s arguable at best the measure of shareholder value with Google analytics. In this situation, it’s better that we break down this goal by listing some drivers of “shareholder value” that can be measured using Google analytics for instance:

  1. Increase revenue per visitor.
  2. If you’re running paid ads, reduce the cost of acquiring customers.
  3. Increase growth of newsletter signups.

Once you have broken down the objectives into measureable goals, you should produce a final list. In our case, the list looks like this:

Create Google Analytics Goals from your Business Goals

In order to create analytics goals, we need to look at each of the business goals and identify what part of it is measurable using web analytics.

If you look at each goal, you will notice that there is usually something to measure, and an action specific to the measurement that defines the goal. To produce the analytics goal, we focus first on what is being measured.

For example, consider #3, “Increase growth of weekly online subscription signups.” Here, we want to measure “online subscription signups.” We will worry about the “increase growth” part of this business goal, when we look at actionable insights.

To create the analytics goal for “online subscription signups,” have a look at your website and go through the subscription signup process. Most likely, there will be a “Thank You” page that you can use for defining your goal.

Creating a Goal from a Thank You page

For example, when you buy the Blue Highlighted Text Full Course you see this Thank You page:

Google Analytics Goals on Thank You Page

If I were creating the analytics goal for measuring buyers of this course, I could build and segment a list based only on visitors that reach the Thank You page. Naturally, this assumes they bought the course.

Once you know the URL, go into Google Analytics, under Admin > Goals and click “+ NEW GOAL”. The screen will look like this:

creating a google analytics goal

In my case I could enter a name for the goal – like “New Subscription” and click the option labeled “Destination.” Since the visitor would never reach the Thank You page other than through first purchasing my cours, that’s the type of goal used here. Then click “Next step”.

So, enter the page path of the URL of the Thank You page, as shown below.

goal set up

As you can see on this page, there are some additional options you can take advantage of when defining a goal. You can assign a value (this is clutch); and you can create a funnel. We are not going to use these options in this discussion, but if you are interested in learning more about them, see Google’s documentation for Set up, edit, and share Goals.

Google Analytics for Affiliate Marketers

What if there is no Thank You page?

More and more, the traditional Thank You page is being replaced by a window overlay, which does not have a dedicated URL. Below is an example of the confirmation that appears when you sign up for a newsletter.

thank you modal

You will notice the URL, circled in red, is just the Megalytic home page. We cannot use this for our signup goal, because then every visit to the home page would register as a signup.

In this situation, you need to use either a virtual page view, or an event to track the sign-up. In either case, you need to add special tracking code to your web site. Just so you know, I use events for this type of thing.

Events are usually a better bet because they do not artificially inflate your pageview count in Google Analytics. However, if you want to create a goal funnel (more beneficial for remarketing later), then you will need to use a virtual pageview.

Here is an example of the JavaScript code that we would insert through Google Tag Manager to fire an event that tracks the signup. Learn more about the basics of Google Tag Manager in the Analytics Mania FREE course, it’s worth it and it should take you a weekend to get through and get set-up.

<script> ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘newsletter’, ‘subscription’); </script?

The category for this event is ‘newsletter’ and the action for this event is ‘subscription’. Here’s where it goes deeper. We use these when setting up the goal from this event in Google Analytics.

Hint: At this point I know you’re thinking “This is a lot” trust me the best way to do this is open up another tab… go ahead do it now. And practice doing this as we go through it!

To do that, go to Admin > Goals, as shown above, only instead of selecting a “Destination” type goal, make it an “Event” type goal. You will then see a page like this, where you can enter the category and action that define the goal.

creating a goal from an event

The Label and Value fields are optional, and we are not using them in the definition of this event, so we just left them blank.

Goal Reports

Once you have a goal set up in Google Analytics, you can view the standard report for the goal by opening Conversions > Goals > Overview. When you first open the report, it looks like this.

annotated goal report

The labeled items point out some important aspects of this report to notice.

  1. Here, you can select the segment (group of sessions) to apply to the goal report. We are looking at all the sessions.
  2. Here, you can select which Goal you want to look at in the report.
  3. Here, you can select which metric to view. Usually, you want to look at either Completions (the total number of goal hits); or the Conversion Rate (the percentage of visitors who completed the goal).
  4. Here, you can see the overall Conversion Rate during the time period.

At this point, we have created an analytics goal and seen how to access a report. Let’s take a step back and remember the original business goal for which we created this analytics goal.

“Increase growth of weekly online subscription signups”

The report shows us the total number of goals completions each week, but it does not really provide any insight into the business goal, which is how to increase them. To achieve that, we need to think about actionable insights.

Actionable Insights (The Real Reason You Need Google Analytics Goals)

Earlier, we noted that for a measurable business goal, there is usually something to measure and a desired action. For the goal we are considering in this example, the desired action is to increase weekly online subscriptions. (Notice this is top of funnel, you would likely have your own goals set for other levels within the funnel).

What we want to discover, using analytics, is some action that the business can take to cause weekly online subscriptions to increase. We don’t want to just guess at it, but to back it up with data. That’s what we mean by an actionable insight.

A tried and true approach to discovering actionable insights with goals is to use segments. The idea is to look for traffic segments that produce a higher conversion rate than average, and focus on creating more traffic from that segment.

To select a segment, click on the “+ Add Segment” button at the top of the report, and select one of the options. We are going to look at the built-in segments for “Paid Traffic” and “Non-Paid” traffic. The modified report below shows the results of comparing these two segments.

paid vs non-paid segments

You can see that Paid Traffic has a conversion rate of 3.10%, whereas Non-Paid has a conversion rate of 2.11%.

Now, we are starting to get an actionable insight. To increase weekly subscriptions, we can recommend increasing the amount of paid traffic.

But, we can do even better using segments. We can focus in on the various types of paid traffic and see which is best. To do that, you will need to create advanced segments to isolate your specific sources of paid traffic.

We’ve created advanced segments for Paid Google Search, Paid Facebook, and Paid Twitter. Applying these segments to the Goal Report give us the results shown below.

breakdown of paid search traffic using segments

Here, we can see that the conversion rate for Paid Google Search is much higher than the average, and also higher than either Facebook or Twitter.

Now, that’s an actionable insight! We can formulate this insight as a marketing recommendation.

To increase weekly online subscriptions, increase traffic from paid Google organic search, and consider decreasing traffic from paid Facebook and Twitter advertising.


Looking at affiliate marketing through Google Analytics is essential. This is an edge that is just waiting to be exploited and understood as you build Goals. Did you know that those Goals can then be used in Google Ads to create a remarketing campaign?! Just like anything, one step reveals the next. Take a moment to get super organized and thoughtful about your approach. I know only a few affiliates that do really well, and they’ve admitted that then don’t keep a super tight lid on processes and organization. Analysis might do what it did for me, I have a reason to measure and account for each link clicked, each referral source, each visitor interaction..

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