As marketers, we all know that there is a fair amount of turnover throughout the dynamics of the client/agency relationship. This post series covers solutions to many common problems that may arise while inheriting a Google Analytics account.

One of the key objectives in value added Web Analytics is answering the question "what is the point of this website" and "what do we want visitors to do when they visit."  The metric we use to determine success is a conversion occurring during a site visit.

This is a pretty elementary aspect of web analytics, and a fundamental foundation for a solid analytics install... or is it?   From my experience, this is often overlooked.  The fact is that most web analytics installations do not have even the most basic fundamental configuration elements in place.

So what do you do when you inherit a Google Analytics account and no goals are configured?  You get creative!

There are plenty of creative ways to figure out how many goals occurred in the account that you are inheriting.  For the purposes of this post, I will concentrate on two of them.

1) Counting visitors to the "thank you" page on the site

Thank you PageWith some digging, it should be fairly easy to find the URL of the "thank you" page of the website that you are inheriting; it should be as simple as filling out the form with some generic information like "test user" and "" and upon submission, checking the URL in your browser for the thank you page (be sure to warn the recipients of this form that this is coming or else you might get an angry email or phone call).

Make note of the URL of the thank you page, and then go into the Google Analytics content section.  Next, go to the top content report, and then filter on the first part or all of the URL of your thank you page.   Write down this number: this should now be able to get an accurate figure of the number of people who converted on this site!

Filtering the Thank You Page

VisitsNow all that you need to do is divide this number into the total number of people who have visited the site during the same time period.  Conversions/Visits = Your Conversion Rate.

So let's say that your site had 522 conversions during a given time period on 10,000 visits.  Inferring goals allows you to infer the true conversion rate of 5.2% - Nice work!

Now all that you need to do is set up goals for this account so that you don't need to do so much heavy lifting in the future!

2. Normalize conversion baseline using redundant conversion data

While scenario #1 above shows an ideal scenario for calculating past conversions, this scenario isn't always feasible given the technical architecture of the site you are inheriting.  For many sites, there is not a dedicated URL for the "thank you" page.  Scenarios in which this may happen include:

  • The form submits to itself, and the resulting page has the same physical filename (for example, contact.php has a form handler that submits to contact.php)
  • The form doesn't display a success message at all, but rather just redirects visitors to the home page of the site
  • The form utilizes AJAX for submission and validation, so the user receives a success message without the page refreshing

When a site is designed by developers with minimal knowledge of client side JavaScript based Analytics, they generally will develop a conversion form in one of the methods outlined above, because it is the easiest way to get a form up and running with minimal pages of code (I know this is how I used to design forms before I knew any better).

While most developers will gladly modify their code in order to help you track goals moving forward, you will still have difficulty inferring what happened in the past.  Thankfully, there should be a last resort; redundant conversion data!

Chances are, the site you are taking over has at least some type of redundancy in place that will help you figure out the past conversions on the site.  Generally, you will find this redundancy in the following data points:

  • CRM Database Records
  • E-Commerce Transactions
  • Lead Forms Received via Email
  • Other actions that can be easily tracked (blog comments, product review submitted, article emailed to a friend, etc.)

Now that you have identified where to find past conversion data, the most difficulty you will experience moving forward is simply rounding up all of the conversion data from these sources.  Once this is done, you can easily baseline the historical conversion rate for the site over a given time period.

Remember: Conversions/Visits = Your Conversion Rate.

Be sure to check back for the rest of our series on Inheriting a Google Analytics Account:

  • Inferring Conversions when No Goals are Configured
  • Filtering out Internal Traffic Through Advanced Segments
  • Normalizing Data when you Have no Idea what Needs Normalization
  • Defending Misconceptions with Historical Data
  • Separating Paid and Organic Search Traffic