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Experimentation and Testing Programs acknowledge that the future is uncertain. These programs focus on getting better data to product and marketing teams to make better decisions.

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We believe that research is an integral part of experimentation. Our research projects aim to identify optimization opportunities by uncovering what really matters to your website users and customers.

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Goal Tree Maps for Experimentation Programs 

Visualizing the metrics that matter to your business can be easily done with a goal tree map. By creating a goal tree, you are able to translate business metrics into concrete optimization goals and identify sub-goals that must be achieved first. 

This article will talk about: 

  • Why you should build goal tree maps 
  • How to build a goal tree map & which metrics you should consider 
  • How to make the goal tree map actionable (and put together the strategy)

Why do I need a goal tree map?

  • Are you struggling with getting clarity in your company on which teams are focused on various KPIs and goals? 
  • Do you see constant changes in your company strategy and find it hard for teams to stick to and focus on a common goal? 
  • Have you seen situations where stakeholders only care about top-level business goals and disregard improvements in smaller metrics?
  • Have you received requests for creating experiments or optimising the website for a specific metric, which doesn’t even have thorough tracking? 

If your answer to any of the questions above is “yes”, then you need a goal tree map.

Creating a goal tree map will help you facilitate internal discussions about company goals and align on which teams are contributing toward specific metrics. Once you have agreed on the company strategy and where the priorities lie, you can use this map to keep teams focused and to push back against a change of direction.

As there are numerous ways to contribute toward company growth, you also want to list out these paths (whether it’s via acquisition, increasing AOV, retention, etc.) and identify the metrics that can contribute to them.

While it can be difficult to get stakeholders excited about improvements in smaller metrics, just looking at transactions and revenue is not enough. You can use the Goal Tree Map to educate others in your company and illustrate how even the smallest improvements in secondary metrics (like progression to PDP, increased engagement with filters,  etc.) can contribute toward the business goals. Goal Trees essentially help us break down a large goal into smaller sub-goals that must be achieved first.

Last but not least - you won't always have tracking for all metrics and goals you want to work towards. This is a good opportunity to identify missing tracking early on, discuss this with your team, and fill those gaps.  

How to build a goal tree map

The metrics on your website either lead to "macro conversions" or "micro conversions." Macro conversions are the primary goal of your website. This can be generating more revenue, different types of conversions, or leads from the site.

In contrast, micro conversions are actions that users complete which either move them toward macro conversions or are not directly related to revenue generation.
Micro conversions are either process milestones or secondary actions. This can be the number of checkout visits, pageviews per user, cart adds, etc. But micro conversions are not KPIs.

1) Start with the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

BHAG is a long term objective or challenge that everyone in the company can understand and contribute to.

We are talking about a challenge that is so audacious, out-of-the-box, and difficult that it might feel impossible to achieve. Your BHAG should be based on your company's underlying strategy. Otherwise, it just becomes an aspirational statement or something out of thin air.

The value of having a BHAG is that it frees you from thinking too small.

Your BHAG should be:
- clear and compelling

- very ambitious, but achievable

- aligned with the company strategy

- measurable and quantifiable

Some examples of a BHAG: 

- 35% revenue uplift in 2022  

- 40 million turnover in 2022

- 1 million paying users in 2022 

2) Business metrics and KPIs 

KPIs are the primary goal of your website and business. 

These goals should support your BHAG and measure your progress towards it.

Common Business Metrics for SaaS:

  • Sign-ups
  • Purchases 
  • Revenue

Common Business Metrics for B2B:

  • Lead capture
  • Purchases
  • Revenue

Common Business Metrics for Ecommerce:

  • Transactions
  • AOV
  • Retention

3) Tactical metrics (i.e. micro-conversions)

Just looking at transactions is not enough for experiment analysis. We want to look at how the test changes had an impact on various goals and user behaviour on the site. This is important for understanding the WHY behind our experiment results and without this analysis, we will not be able to learn as much about our customers. 

As a next step, you want to start thinking about how each KPI breaks down into a smaller set of tactical metrics you can tackle with your experimentation or optimization efforts.

If your primary goal for an experiment is conversions (i.e. transactions), you should also look at cart additions, progression to checkout, checkout completions, etc.
These tactical metrics depend on where your experiment is and what your hypothesis is.
e.g. If you run a test on the product listing pages, with the goal of pushing visitors further down the funnel, you should also look at progression to product pages, cart additions, and progression to the basket page.
If your experiment focuses on generating more revenue, you should look at AOV, RPV, and UPT and list those as business metrics in your goal tree map.

Example of Business Unit Metrics & Tactical Metrics for SaaS

4) Engagement metrics  

We talked about business metrics and tactical metrics, but for a thorough post-test analysis, we should also look at engagement metrics.

The most common engagement metrics are bounce rate, exit rate, pages per session, and time spent on site. However, these are not enough to allow us to maximize experiment learnings.

E.g. If you are working on improving the site filters, your primary goal is to improve the product discovery, which should increase the number of users who progress to product pages and add items to the cart. To get a better idea of how the new filters impacted user behaviour, you should also track how many people use filters in their session, how many filters get added per user, etc. For the “visits to PDP” tactical metric, you can list “filter engagement” as an engagement metric underneath it. 

Examples of completed goal tree maps with listed engagement metrics:
(you can also find a template to use at the end of this article)

If you are unsure where to get started and get stuck with listing your engagement metrics,  list customer touchpoints throughout journeys on the website. You can simply list all pages and elements that users might engage with and the related metrics you are aiming to improve. This is the ideal task to identify any missing tracking on your website, too. 

Make it actionable

Once you have completed your goal tree map, list strategies and tactics to move the needle.
Create a board for each KPI you identified earlier in your goal tree map and then list out the strategies and tactics underneath.

The strategies should come from user research after you have identified the biggest opportunities and customer problems.  
Ideally, you want to have a mix of both qualitative and quantitative research methods to identify the optimization opportunities.
Once you have concluded your analyses, you can start mapping out all of the research insights and findings to identify the common themes from various data sources. See Speero’s conversion research service.

e.g., If you have identified that your customers struggle with finding a product that fits their needs or find the website overwhelming (in terms of having too many options to choose from), then you can list “product discovery” as one of your strategies and themes to focus on.

Underneath strategies,  list different ways to solve that customer problem through different tactics. These are essentially the experiment ideas or JDIs (Just-Do-Its) for website improvements.

Example of a list of tactics in Airtable supported by various research insights

You can now list all of the experiment ideas and JDIs underneath the strategies and put together a plan for website optimization.
Note: Make sure that all of your tactics are prioritized. Ideas that are derived from opinions have a lesser chance of success. Read more about prioritization here. 

How many goal tree maps should you have?
Clients frequently ask how many goal tree maps they should have as a team or company. Know that you can have more than one. Sometimes companies will have one per brand. Sometimes they will have one per experimentation target area/channel (e.g., website, product, app, kiosk, email, search, social, etc.).  Sometimes there are aspirations that can’t make it into an “actual” version of a goal tree, and that’s okay, too. It’s even an option to have “actual” vs. “aspirational” trees (e.g., your team thinks CLV should be included as a BHAG but executive leadership doesn’t agree…make an aspirational tree for your team that includes CLV). 
It all depends on your use cases, of course. Just freakin’ have one…if not more!

Haley Carpenter, Optimizely

Summary and key takeaways

  • Using Goal Trees, your team can focus on building campaigns and experiments that are relevant to your company's growth.
  • Goal Trees allow you to break KPIs into a smaller set of metrics you can tackle with your experimentation or optimization efforts. 
  • Improvement even in the smallest metrics can contribute to your company objectives. 
  • Connecting your goals with the strategies (identified in research) and tactics can help you create the grounds for a successful optimization roadmap. 
  • This also keeps us accountable for the research we conducted and ensures that we are actually working towards solving the identified customer problems. 
  • More than one goal tree map is allowed.

If you’d like to get access to the free Miro template for creating goal tree maps, use the link here.


  • We should also track program metrics to ensure the success of your experimentation program. For starters, you should track experiment velocity: the number of winning tests and learnings to communicate to the wider business.

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