Setting up a 404 page as a goal destroys the usefulness of any aggregate-level 'conversion rate' and success measurement. Goals are positive/useful outcomes; 404 errors clearly don't fall into this pot. Classifying them as goals mixes them in with your overall conversion rate, could skew 'value per' metrics accrued from/across other goals, and generally make a mess of top-level performance assessment. Also, given the finite number of goal slots available, it doesn't make sense to fill them with arbitrary and non-goal events.
I'd suggest using events, custom variables, or custom dimensions (for UA) to record errors. If you want to view the errors-to-visits(/visitors) ratios or as a percentage, say, it's easy enough to do the maths or to set up some custom calculations in spreadsheets, via the API, or using something like Analytics Canvas.
You can use visitor flow, event flow or behaviour flow to perform the previous-step analysis without compromising the rest of your reporting.
I'd definitely steer well-clear of using goal tracking infrastructure for anything other than goals, as you'll set yourself up for a profile full of nonsensical data...
A good solution to the 'messes with your other data' issue is to set up the goal in the 'raw' or un-modified 'view'/profile of your data.
Having said that, I often also need to use view filters to match on the Title field and then re-write the URI to include the 404 as well as URI requested and referring data all in one convenient place. A dedicated 'errors' view then becomes a good idea, complete with goals for all the other error messages you need to track.
Tracking errors and prioritising trying to reduce them is a great help for improving usability, I think. Events are ideal for this, but not if you want to build a funnel report for the error. I suspect we're all meant to go with the flow reports from now onwards.
- LinkdexHead of Insight, 2014 - present
- twentysixHead of SEO & Analytics, 2013 - 2014
- twentysixSEO & Data Insight Manager, 2011 - 2013
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