One of the most useful—and yet most underused—features of Google Analytics is the ability to track visitors through your web site to the completion of a goal that you've set up. Remember from the last chapter (Chapter 11: Setting Goals) that goals are a pretty important part of monitoring the traffic on your web site.
But what good does it do to have a goal if you don't know how visitors reach that goal? Well, you can look at other reports (such as the Goal Verification report) to see if your goal was reached, but all that tells you is that visitors performed whatever action that goal represents—like signing up for a newsletter or reaching the confirmation page for an order.
How did users get to that point? If you left them to their own devices, some of them probably would get there accidentally. But much as with goal conversions in brick-and-mortar stores, few site visitors will reach those conversions without some help. That's why you go through specific steps when you enter a store: browse the products, make a selection, go through the checkout line, make a payment, receive a receipt. If you're lucky, you'll also receive a "Thank you, please visit us again," and a smile.
That process—from product selection through receiving a receipt—is considered a funnel. It's the most likely path that visitors to a store will take, and at each step the merchant leads you along to the next. In the case of product selection, advertisements and ...