Build a goal tree to improve metrics that matter with your optimization program

  • Updated
This article is part of The Optimization Methodology series.
This topic describes how to:
  • Align your optimization program with goals that are important for your business
  • Quickly build a goal tree using our templates, based on industry verticals
  • Decide where to focus your optimization efforts

When you build an optimization strategy for your company, you will first align your program’s testing efforts to your company goals. Without a strategic guide, you run the risk of building unfocused or inefficient tests that consume time and resources without producing results. How do you ensure that your tests will make a real difference? Where should you focus your efforts?

We recommend that you start by focusing your testing program on achieving quick wins with impactful tests that affect the bottom line. A goal tree can help you meet this challenge.

A goal tree is a map of the metrics that are critical to your company’s success. The discovery process for creating a goal tree helps you translate business metrics into concrete optimization goals.

The numbers in this goal tree are hypothetical. Your organization's goals are different and should be driven by your company's unique strengths, constraints, and long- and short-term objectives.

As you can see in the hypothetical example above, each goal breaks down into a set of smaller goals. For example, to reach its revenue goal of $2.0M, this company estimates it has to hit two other goals first—getting 2 million site visitors and generating an average of $1 of revenue from each. Those two metrics in turn depend on reaching several other, more granular goals. Top-level metrics roll directly into smaller KPIs for which you optimize.

You can track revenue through an Optimizely Experimentation goal. Check out our article on revenue tracking.

You might also like our Optimizely Academy course, Align Experimentation to Your Business.

A goal tree helps you:

  • decide where to focus your optimization efforts

  • break down broad organizational imperatives into bite-sized tests

  • find multiple avenues to generate impact through optimization

  • optimize for smaller KPIs and understand how these impact your business goals

  • help stakeholders grasp the value of your optimization efforts in a language they understand

You only need to build a goal tree once, but you will consult it multiple times throughout the iterative optimization cycle. You use it to judge the impact of each potential campaign or experiment when prioritizing your backlog or building your roadmap. You might consult it when designing specific tests. You should also examine it when analyzing your results to consider the impact on key performance indicators (KPIs). Use the goals in your tree to identify other departments that care about the same metrics; these departments may be able to offer additional resources and support for your program. You can also use the tree to communicate optimization goals and gains to an executive sponsor.

The optimization program manager should be responsible for updating the goal tree if your company’s business model changes. Team members who focus on A/B testing strategy and analysis should also work closely with this document.

Materials to prepare

  • Company-wide and business-unit key performance indicators
  • Benchmark performance metrics: conversion rates, RPV, LTV, AOV
  • Leading indicator metrics: test velocity, efficiency, quality, agility
  • Program budget

People and resources

  • Program manager
  • Team leads (technical, design, analytics)
  • Executive sponsorship

Actions you will perform

  • Benchmark KPIs and baseline modeling
  • Goal trees exercise
  • Align with stakeholders on optimization program goals
  • Revenue tree or similar outline of hierarchy of goals
  • ROI Models
Watch out for:
  • Many organizations have an internal debate about the most important metrics, but it is important to focus on the right top-line goals
  • Leading indicators are important to test, but often poorly understood and under-tested
  • This article is a part of the Optimization Methodology series.

Building a goal tree

Ready to create your own goal tree? Download a goal creation workbook. Choose the template for your industry vertical:

Modify the template by asking yourself:

  • How does my company generate revenue?

  • How does each metric break down into smaller metrics?

Remember that each category of the tree branches into smaller categories that should equal the original in value.

Using a goal tree

We recommend you focus your testing efforts on the KPIs at the bottom of the tree. These metrics—like average order quantity —are opportunities to optimize for profitability. Moreover, focusing on smaller pieces rather than the top metric can help you raise the win rate since experiments are faster to run and more likely to reach statistical significance. The lift you generate rolls directly to the metric at the top.

It is a good idea to combine your goal tree research with data from your analytics platform. This can help you figure out where to optimize for the biggest impact.

Imagine that the KPI you are targeting is the average order quantity.

Maybe your analytics tell you that certain products are purchased in larger quantities: non-perishable pet food are purchased in greater quantities than expensive televisions, for example. You may want to test a strategy that promotes those products, by offering a discount on pet food bundles or suggesting certain purchase quantities on the checkout page.

If you see an improvement that confirms your hypothesis, consider leveraging this insight through personalization. On your landing page, display a banner that suggests that visitors will build up a winter stock of pet food; show this banner to visitors who have browsed pet food in the past. Match your site experience to SEM campaigns that promote high-value pet food brands. Create humorous pet food campaigns for younger audiences and value-oriented messaging for discount shoppers.

Goal trees focus your optimization strategy on concrete metrics, so your team’s efforts to design and manage campaigns and experiments make an impact.