There are times when people visit your website to purchase items and for whatever reason, that fails to take place. Maybe they got called away at the last minute to do something else and just forgot about it, or perhaps they were merely comparing prices from site to site. Maybe you needed them to complete a form to capture their data but they didn’t get that done fully. If you’re already trying to capture this information, you’re just a short step away from being able to re-engage the customer again to help them decide to buy, or finish completing that form.

The trouble is, how do you quantify what’s going on and where things are going wrong? I mean, you can see those sales taking place, but how many sales did you miss? You might be worried now that this could be something hideously complex and very hard to arrange. You couldn’t be further from the truth, though, and thankfully with the help of Google you could soon be discovering for yourself just how many baskets are being abandoned, or how many forms are not being completed.

In Google Analytics this is known as Reverse Goal Path Analysis, and I’m going to explain it to you now.

You want to start at the end (i.e. the goal) and work back from there. In Reverse. Hence the name.

Let’s assume this is someone buying something on your website. The last page they’re going to see is AFTER they’ve paid, where you say Thank you for buying from us. That’s where you start. You then only need to work backwards from there to see how they got there. This was hopefully the page where they put their payment details in. Before that there was the shipping address and purchase details page. Finally (or firstly, depending on your viewpoint), the journey began at the Basket page, where the purchaser finally agreed to start the purchase process. This of course assumes that you had a complete purchase.

A reverse goal path for this scenario should look something like this:

Start Page: Thank you page
Goal Previous Step – 1: Card Details Page
Goal Previous Step – 2: Purchase page
Goal Previous Step – 3: Basket

For a form completion it might be something like this:

Start Page: Thank you page
Goal Previous Step – 1: Person Interest Details page
Goal Previous Step – 2: Company Details page
Goal Previous Step – 3: Initial Capture page

Of course, your pages are not likely to be named like this but you should get the general picture.

How to setup Google Analytics Reverse Goal Path

So how do we go about setting this up? In Google Analytics, navigate to Conversions, then Goals, and you should see Reverse Goal Path in there. It is probably empty at this point. If it isn’t, then someone has probably set up goals previously.


Google Analytics


To set up a goal, Navigate to Admin, and on to Views, then to Goals. Click the +NEW GOAL button and follow the steps below:


Google Analytics


For Stage one of this process I’ve added a simple Name to describe what I’m trying to do. In this instance I’ve called it “Track Payment”. I’ve also stated that this is about reaching a destination (there are other options and they are relevant for other usages, but we’re interested in seeing how many sales drop out). Click the Continue button


Google Analytics


You can see now that the Goal Description stage of the process has been completed. Now we need to set up the Goal Details. To do this, we need to set the Destination to be Equal To a landing page (in this instance I’m going to the Thankyou page for payment which on this site is called /payment-thanks.php). I’ve left off Case Sensitivity in case I mis-remembered it. It’s better practice, obviously, to check to see what the page is actually called.

I’ve also provided for the option to specify a value. I’m not going to do this because as you can see from the note just below it, with an E-commerce plugin on the site this won’t be necessary. If you were building this for a form completion, you’d probably stipulate a value and leave it on. However as this is an E-commerce site, I’ll switch this off and let the Google Analytics E-commerce module populate the value.

I have switched on the Funnel so that I can add the steps to reach that page. I’ve specified the three previous pages here and given them easy to understand names (Shipping Confirmation, Address Details and Basket Details, remembering of course that these are in REVERSE order). For my purposes I wouldn’t need anything further but I can always add more steps if needed. Be aware that the more steps there are to complete a purchase the more likely it would be that someone would drop out earlier.

I’ve got the option to verify this goal. This is fine for E-commerce stores that are already up and running as the data will have already been collected. In my instance this hasn’t happened so there’s no point in me Verifying this goal. Click Save and this goal is now set up.


Google Analytics


You can now watch this in Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path


Google Analytics

Although this screen grab is from the Google Analytics Demo site, you can begin to see here where this information is showing us detail. If you were to set up Reverse Goal Paths for the previous stages (i.e. the Shipping Confirmation, Address Details and Basket Details pages), the numbers should increase overall. It’s this difference between these numbers that shows you how much traffic is being lost at each stage of the purchase (or form completion) process. Now that you understand these numbers, you can quantify exactly how valuable a Basket Abandonment or Form Abandonment add-on would be for your site.


In summary then, Reverse Goal Paths can help you understand the traffic through your site particularly when you’re looking to get the visitor to go to a specific page. Whilst it won’t tell you why it happened, it will at least point to the place you need to start investigating further.

It’s a great tool for proving out:
– How much traffic you’re losing to Abandoned Baskets and Forms
– Demonstrating whether an Abandoned Form/Basket solution is needed
– If one of these is in place, how much traffic is being directly generated as a result (remember of course, that attribution is based on last source, in Google Analytics)

And don’t forget it can be adapted for other purposes on your site, particularly any journey-based page sequences you want people to follow. Used wisely it can be a powerful tool for understanding and ordering page sequences on your website.

Marcus Webb
Senior Technical Support Executive