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Guide to Conversion Tracking in Google Analytics 4 (Key Events)

Last Modified on April 2, 2024

🚨Note: Conversions are now called Key events in GA4, but they’ll still be named conversions when shared/exported to Google Ads.

If conversion tracking in Google Analytics 4 is all you do, then you’re already missing out on the full potential of GA4 in understanding your users and increasing your results.

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This GA4 conversion tracking guide provides a roadmap to identify and boost key conversions.

Even big companies sometimes miss having a conversion strategy or stick to old GA4 logic to define conversions. This tutorial aims to change that.

By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to define your system around conversions and their setup that is truly data-driven and that will provide value to your business for the short and long term.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Let’s dive in.

What is Conversion Tracking in Google Analytics 4?

Conversion tracking in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) refers to the capability of tracking user interactions on your app or website that are crucial for your business.

You can use various methods to capture conversions, often involving Google Tag Manager (GTM) and GA4 for more complex tracking.

However, compared to previous versions, GA4 provides built-in features for tracking common types of conversions.

Examples of a Conversion in GA4

They include:

  • Making a purchase
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Submitting a form
  • Clicking a call to action button

What Are the Types of Conversions in GA4?

Conversions can be classified in any way you want.

A good approach is to associate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with them to measure and optimize. All the conversion types we’ll cover are essentially the same, but they are articulated differently.

We will explore two effective models that include best practices for optimizing your marketing.

The Micro and Macro Conversions Models

The first types of conversions are Micro and Macro conversions. The logic is to identify the steps that lead to your main conversions.

Micro Conversions: Steps leading to the main conversion. They have an indirect impact on your macro conversions.

Macro Conversions: Conversions that directly impact your site and business.

🚨 Note: The following example can help you understand the different types of conversions.

Example:

A user is looking for a school to continue their education. Before becoming a student, they download a brochure on a program that interests them to gather more information. Later, they decide to register and complete a payment on the site.

If we classify these steps into micro and macro conversions:

  • Step 1: Visit the program page
  • Step 2: Brochure download
  • Step 3: Program payment

Steps 1 and 2 are micro conversions, while step 3 is the main conversion.

The Marketing Funnel Conversions Models

This model is inspired by the AIDA marketing formula, which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. Although popular in copywriting, this formula has also been used as a framework to measure goals with analytics tools.

However, the framework can be simplified into three stages, namely, three types of conversion: awareness, consideration, and conversion.

Taking the previous example, you can see that micro and macro conversions can be united into three conversions. Here they are integrated into the three-stage funnel:

AwarenessConsideration Conversion
Step1: View the program pageStep 2: Brochure downloadStep 3: Program payment

This formula provides more clarity and insights into marketing activities. Moreover, it can be applied to any type of goal for your site.

Suppose two other important conversions are membership subscriptions or the purchase of your consultation service. Here’s how it could look using the three-stage model:

Main Goal NameAwarenessConsideration Conversion
Buying ProgramStep1: View the program pageStep 2: Brochure downloadStep 3: Program payment
Membership SubscriptionLands on your landing pageClicks the subscription buttonSuccessfully submits a form
Purchase ConsultationLands on your services pageGoes to the form page to fill out the questionnaireLands on the thank-you page

This framework exists under different names. One of them, the A.C.E model (Awareness, Conversion, and Engagement), is credited to Chris Mercer. You can read more about it here.

Feel free to add more steps, as the consideration stage can have more than one step.

If you’re tracking UTM codes in your campaigns, you can segment your data by the Session Source/Medium in GA4 to gain a clearer understanding of which channel excels at what.

For example, your Facebook campaigns may be good at creating awareness (e.g., sending people to your landing page), but your SEO is effective at consideration, and Google Ads might be good (or not) for conversion.

This way, you can design a better strategy to exploit the strengths of each and decide where to invest time and money. Without a doubt, you’ll need a good naming convention to make sense of this model in GA4.

An example of a proper GA4 Conversion Events naming convention

The above example follows the 3-stages model for a newly created program. It follows these steps:

  • Course_aware (users who landed on the course’s sales page)
  • Course_interested (the user who showed interest in the page by clicking the Join button)
  • Course_converted (users who bought the course)

What is the Difference Between GA4 and UA Conversion Tracking?

This table shows the main differences in conversion tracking in Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics.

Comparison GA4UA
TerminologyConversionsGoals
Goal/conversion TypesEverything is an EventFive goal types: destination, duration, pages per session, smart goals, and event goals
Event TrackingNo distinction between destination or event goalsEvent goals required following the Event-Category-Label structure
FlexibilityMore flexible, allows adding 25 parameters to any eventConfined to creating goals around the three UA layers: Event, Category, and Label
Web & App TrackingAllows tracking of both websites and applications within a single propertyMeasures screen views in separate properties
Goal LimitAllows up to 30 goals per viewAllows up to 20 goals per view
Automatic Event TrackingAutomatically tracks common events and provides enhanced event measurementRequires manual setup 
Automatic ParametersAutomatically tracks and adds parameters such as : 
Languagepage locationpage referrerpage titlescreen resolution
Not specified
Flexibility and CustomizationIntroduces pre-defined events and supports custom events, allowing parameter reuseLimited customization with predefined goal types and structure

Under UA, there are five goal types supported: destination, duration, pages per session, smart goals, and event goals.

The most popular method for tracking conversions in the previous version of GA was creating destination goals. You simply named a goal and added the link to the page that matters or where users visit.

UA also allowed the creation of Event goals to track actions such as clicks. However, it required the Event-Category-Label structure. This is not the case with GA4.

In GA4, all goals/conversions are Events. The conversion model is more flexible, allowing you to add not just three but 25 parameters to any event.

Google Analytics 4 Event Parameters are additional details like link_text for the text of a link or link_classes for the HTML class or button clicked.

Some events are tracked automatically in GA4, including automatically collected events and enhanced event measurement, which can for example track outbound link clicks and file downloads by enabling a toggle.

GA4 also introduced predefined events that can be used if they align with what you want to track. This feature helps leverage GA4 reports and current/future capabilities, such as predictive models.

If recommended events don’t fit your situation, you can create custom events. Moreover, you can reuse parameters (excluding those specifically reserved by analytics) from other event types to add more detail to your custom event.

The examples in the next section will make all this clearer.

How Do I Track Conversions in Google Analytics?

You can track your conversions in GA4 in two ways:

  1. GA4 Enhanced Measurement
  2. Google Tag Manager (GTM)

First, you need to decide what constitutes a conversion, using the model we covered earlier.

Next, choose which tool to use. We prefer GTM to keep everything in one place and for more complex tracking. However, if you prefer a simple zero-coding solution or not going through GTM, use GA4 Enhanced Measurement.

🚨 Note: GA4 Enhanced Measurement doesn’t always yield good results for form tracking. However, it works well for file downloads and other activities.

Here’s how you can easily track Scrolls, Outbound clicks, Site searches, Video engagement, and File downloads:

Go to Admin → Data streams. Click on your web stream.

Accessing the web stream

In Enhanced Measurement, click the settings icon.

Accessing Enhanced measurement settings

Turn on the interactions you’d like to track.

Turning on the enhanced measurements features

For more complex tracking, please visit our blog and type what you’d like to track, like How to Track Button Clicks in GA4.

What is a Good Conversion Rate?

Conventionally, a good conversion rate starts around 2%, while an excellent rate falls between 4-5%. However, these numbers can be somewhat misleading as they encompass all industries without being industry-specific.

🚨 Note: 2% is generally a good conversion rate. However, depending on your business or industry, a good conversion rate can be around 1%.

For example, marketers don’t often mention the issue related to exceptionally high conversion rates, which may signal issues within your analytics or marketing activities (e.g., too many users converting from regions you don’t target).

Don’t rejoice too fast, investigate first.

Only relying on these conventional conversion rate numbers can be unreliable and even disastrous, especially when you neglect segmentation or basic statistics.

Without segmentation, you might overlook the substantial conversion rate differences between your standard reports, which include all countries (including those that aren’t your desired customers), and your target market.

As for stats, you need statistical significance. Check your percentage (conversion rate) in comparison to the total number of users who converted vs your total number of users. Do the same if you look at conversions per session instead.

There are two types of conversion rates in GA4: the session conversion rate and the user conversion rate. This is how Google calculates it:

 the number of users who performed a conversion action divided by the total number of users

So if you have 1 buyer and divide it, e.g., 1 buyer will give you a 100% conversion rate.

To know what good conversion rates are, you’ll need more background.

💡 Top Tip: Check out our guide on the Conversion Rate in Google Analytics 4 to get started.

To begin, benchmarking against industry standards can provide a foundation. Intelligence tools or industry reports can help you determine conversion rates for your competitors.

If you perform below the industry average, then you should shift towards understanding your organization’s norms and how to gradually improve your performance.

Eventually, instead of only comparing yourself with industry averages, you’ll recognize what needs improvement and understand the averages specific to your company.

It can be more valuable to gradually improve your unique averages rather than constantly looking at others.

How Do You Optimize Conversion Rates?

Now that you know how to plan and organize your conversions, we suggest that you monitor the results of your channels over 2-3 months.

On the basis that your marketing activities don’t drastically change, your averages for each channel and each of the funnel stages we’ve discussed will be shown.

Focus then on increasing what works, doing less of what doesn’t, or if something doesn’t make sense, then you’ll know exactly where to investigate.

To go even deeper in understanding the paths your users take before reaching conversions or being notified about impactful changes in your analytics, check out our two guides:

FAQ

What are Conversion Metrics?

Conversion metrics are the numeric values you use to measure user actions that you track on your website. They help you evaluate your results.

Conversion metrics are any metrics you can associate with your conversions or those that you can find in your GA4 Conversion report. You can find most in the table below.

MetricDescription
ConversionsThe number of times users triggered a conversion event.
Total users (in the conversion report)The total number of unique users who have logged an event (a conversion event in our case)
Total revenue (in the conversion report)The sum of revenue from purchases, subscriptions, and advertising (Purchase revenue plus Subscription revenue plus Ad revenue).
Session conversion rateThe percentage of sessions that converted.
User conversion rateThe percentage of users who converted.
Predicted revenueThe revenue expected from all purchase conversions within the next 28 days from a user who was active in the last 28 days.
First-time purchaser conversion (FTP conversion)The percentage of active users who made their first purchase.
Non-Google cost per conversionThe average cost you paid per conversion for your advertising campaign.

What is the Difference Between Events and Conversions in GA4?

In GA4, an event is any interaction on your website that you track.

A conversion, on the other hand, is an event that you mark as a conversion to differentiate it from others due to its impact on business objectives, such as revenue or other relevant actions.

This is how an event marked as a conversion looks like in GA4:

Event marked as conversion

How Long Does it Take for Conversions to Show in GA4?

It can take a few minutes to a few hours for conversions to show up in analytics.

Normally, events marked as conversions will be visible after their creation in the RealTime report and the DebugView.

It should take 24 hours before seeing them in your standard reports.

How Many Conversions Can You Track in GA4?

You can track up to 30 conversions in GA4.

How Do I Track Google Ads Conversions in GA4?

To set up Google Ads conversion tracking in Google Analytics 4, you’ll have to first link Google Ads with GA4.

Go to Admin → Product links. Select one of your products and follow the steps to link them.

Selecting a product link

After linking your product, you’ll be able to access your Ads report in 3 separate areas in your standard reports: User Acquisition, Traffic Acquisition, and Google Ads Campaigns.

Access these by going to Report → Acquisition → Overview.

Accessing acquisition reports

You’ll find 3 cards for each report. Click the link to the report at the bottom of the cards.

What is GTM Conversion Tracking?

Google Tag Manager (GTM) allows you to easily install tracking codes on websites (like the GA4 tracking code on a website) and tags and send the data to other platforms like GA4, for example.

You can use GTM to track interactions that matter to your business like a button click. Some conversions are more complex to track than those from the GA4 built-in features, therefore GTM is beneficial for these requirements.

Summary

With the right system, you can leverage your analytics to maximize your conversions.

This requires thoughtful planning outside of GA4 initially. By organizing and monitoring these elements, GA4’s reports will clarify what works versus what doesn’t, guiding you on where to strategically invest your resources for success.

In practice, there are different ways to configure your conversions and this is why we recommend that you check our guide on how to set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics 4 to pick those that make sense to your situation.

If you have a different approach to measuring conversions, please share it with us!

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