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Objectives vs Goals: Do We Need Both of Them Starting the Business Online?

By Maija Daujate

Goals and Objectives can cause confusion because online and offline these terms often have been used differently. Dave Chaffey, the author of several academic e-business and e-marketing books and co-founder of the digital marketing theory provides clarity in this case.

Where are  Objectives?

Where are Objectives?

Goals vs Objectives: Online and Offline

If you are starting your business – any – clicks, or clicks and bricks — have a glimpse into any business or marketing management book. Let’s look into the academic textbook Corporate Strategy for Irish Companies (Gallagher, 2011). It suggests that you have several criteria to decide at the beginning, such as your mission statement, vision, goals and objectives. It clarifies that goals represent your strategies at the corporate level, but your objectives represent the desired outcomes to be achieved and therefore should be SMART – an acronym for being Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-related. This is a basic system which helps to keep your business in track in any environment, online or offline.

However, searching for marketing topics online you will find that more often there are smart goals instead of smart objectives and sometimes there are no objectives, just goals. The situation online seems to be turned upside down and if you aren’t a specialist on this field yet you may get embarrassed. Therefore the question is: Objectives and Goals – how do they work online?

Let’s Ask the Expert!

It was quite easy to reach Dave Chaffey online. He always participates in conversations on his SmartInsights pages and if you are registered on this site you can start to speak to him. He answered almost instantly. This made me excited, because a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have even dreamed that I could reach such a renowned expert that easily.

My question was straightforward:

Me: “Hi Dave, as I know there are broad goals and specific objectives in business. At the beginning we set a goal showing our intention and then we set specific measurable objectives specifying things we want to achieve. Am I right? Why is it vice versa for the digital marketing?”

Dave: “Hi Maija, that’s right broad goals and specific SMART objectives – some say different. Perhaps it’s not helped that confusingly, in Google Analytics, goals are specific quantifiable metrics which are often used as KPIs and link to specific objectives. Even Avinash Kaushik of Google acknowledges this can be confusing in his post where he defines goals and objectives.

But that’s the way it should be:”

Goals and Objectives

The image from (Chaffey, 2013)

Dave Chaffey’s goals and objectives hierarchy, as his diagram shows, match with what is in the classic business management theory which states that goal is an intention behind the decision, but objective – anticipated end result of activity there.

Does It Really Matter If we Change Objectives for Goals?

For people who specialize just on the digital marketing, maybe not. They don’t really have responsibility for all processes of the whole business. They act on the digital layer – the top part of the iceberg called Business and Marketing – and focus on KPIs (key digital process indicators). All their game is played on Google Analytics and similar analytics instruments.

But if you are starting your own business and you wish to integrate digital marketing into your marketing plan, you take every word seriously, wherever it is said – online or offline, and you need clarity and consistency for all terms used. Otherwise, there could be a feeling that digitalists play their own game and there is no consistency in what they say all along with marketers.

By the way, the Oxford dictionary primarily associates goal with sports. ‘Goal’ sounds informal and energetic. It may explain why this term is chosen by Google and why it is more popular amongst digital specialists as a market segment.

Anyway, see the video:

In the Future: Goals vs Objectives?

WARC, a major site which provides trends, ideas and evidence for marketing people suggests that there is a “shift away from digital as a separate discipline, and a renewed emphasis on core brand-building programmes” (Tiltman, 2014). Thus, we can expect further more intensive integration of digital into conventional marketing and the goals and objectives of both may be married.


Chaffey D. (2013). Why and how you should define goals vs objectives carefully; 8th of; Available at: [Acessed:10th of March].
Chaffey D., Ellis-Chadwick F., Mayer R., Johnston K. (2009). Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. Harlow. Pearson education Limited.
Gallagher G. (2011). Corporate Strategies for Irish Companies: Text and Cases, 2nd edition. Dublin. Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.
Tiltman D. (2014). Warc Trends: Toolkit 2014 – How to keep your brand ahead of the competiton. WARC com ; Available at:; [Accessed: 1st of March 2014].