If you have a dynamic website and want to set up conversion goals within Google Analytics, you may need to use regular expressions to define the goal page.
These are extremely useful because they can be used to match specific sequences of characters in a URL. They’re a huge expansion on the common wildcard characters * and ? and tend to work out very well for ecommerce websites.
Here’s a typical example of how you can use them to great effect. Usually when you set up a conversion goal you have to specify a goal URL, that is, a page the user gets to which triggers that a conversion has taken place. In the case of an ecommerce website, it would be the receipt page, or “thank you” page once the user has purchased something. But in many cases the URL of that page is dynamic and may contain OrderID or CustomerID variables. Since this page changes every time, we need to use a regular expression so we can match the URL regardless of the value of those variables.
If you’re new to Google Analytics, you probably started off setting up a goal with your first attempt at a regular expression, going to your website to complete a test transaction, waiting approximately 3 hours then checking your stats. Not exactly the most efficient way of going about things, especially if you’re new to regular expressions.
If that’s the way you normally do it, here’s a massive time saving tip. You can test your regular expression live on previous data and it will take you just a matter of minutes to complete the goal.
1) Once logged in to Analytics, go to Content Optimization > Content Performance > Top Content
2) In the filter at the top of the screen enter your regular expression and hit enter.
3) Look at the content results and keep fine tuning your regular expression until you see the desired match appear
Here’s a real example used on an ecommerce site. The regular expression I used to filter the data was:
Click on the image to see a screenshot of the results:
Just be sure to scroll through all results, to make sure it didn’t pick up anything else, otherwise your conversion stats will be overinflated.
Google Analytics Regular Expressions Syntax
Google Analytics Support Pages
Google Analytics Google Group
Edit: Corrected syntax, thanks Mark.