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

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This article is part of The Optimization Methodology series.

When you build an optimization strategy for your company, align your program’s testing efforts to your company goals by creating a goal tree. Without a strategic guide, you risk building unfocused or inefficient tests that consume time and resources without producing results. Start by focusing your testing program on achieving quick wins with impactful tests that affect the bottom line. You can decide where to focus your optimization efforts and find multiple avenues to generate impact through optimization. A goal tree also helps stakeholders grasp the value of your optimization efforts in a language they understand.

As you can see in the example above, each goal is a set of smaller goals. For example, to reach the 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 depend on reaching several other, more granular goals. Top-level metrics roll directly into smaller KPIs for which you optimize. See Set up revenue tracking for more information.

You only need to build a goal tree once and consult it multiple times throughout the iterative optimization cycle:

  • Use it to judge the impact of each potential campaign or experiment when prioritizing your backlog or building your roadmap.
  • Consult it when designing specific tests.
  • 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 might 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 update the goal tree if your company’s business model changes. Team members focusing 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
Deliverables
  • 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.

Build a goal tree

Download a goal creation workbook. Choose the template for your industry vertical:

Modify the template by asking yourself how the company generates revenue and how each metric breaks down into smaller metrics.

Remember that the smaller categories should equal the larger category in value.

Use a goal tree

Focus your testing efforts on the KPIs at the bottom of the tree. These metrics are opportunities to optimize for profitability. Focusing on smaller pieces can help you raise the win rate because experiments run faster and are more likely to reach statistical significance. The lift you generate rolls directly to the metric at the top.

Combining your goal tree research with data from your analytics platform can help you determine where to optimize for the biggest impact.

If you see an improvement that confirms your hypothesis, consider utilizing this insight through personalization. For example, display a banner for building up a stock of pet food 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, ensuring that your team’s efforts to design and manage campaigns and experiments have an impact.