Google has completely overhauled conversion tracking for Google Analytics 4 (GA4), implementing some much-needed flexibility as well as impactful features and functionality that were unavailable in Universal Analytics. The new conversion events model gives marketers powerful tools for analyzing user behavior for critical insights to make smart, data-driven decisions for their business.
Goals in UA
Before we dive into what’s new with conversion tracking in GA4, let’s quickly review how goals work in Universal Analytics.
- Limit of 20 goals per view
- Limited types of goals that can be created (destination, duration, pages/screens per session, event, smart goal)
- Unable to delete existing goals or easily repurpose them because they keep historical data
- Limited ability to do advanced conversion analysis
When you consider how critical conversion tracking is for measuring the success of your website’s target objectives and your business strategies’ overall success, the last thing you want to deal with is limitations in that area.
Conversion Events in GA4
Introducing conversion events in GA4! Goals, as we know them in Google Analytics, are gone and have been replaced by conversion events. Right away, there’s a lot to like about the overhaul.
- More conversions: Each property is allowed up to 30 conversion events (50 for GA360).
- Ease of use: Conversion events are easy to set up within the platform, with multiple options to do so.
- Flexibility: They offer a lot of flexibility in what you’re able to track as a conversion event, far outpacing what was possible in Universal Analytics. This flexibility allows for advanced data analysis beyond the capabilities of Universal Analytics.
- Easily retiring old conversion events: When you no longer need a conversion event, you can turn it off and free up a slot for a new one.
Each GA4 property comes with five predefined conversion events you can’t remove, but they don’t count against the 30 (or 50 for GA360) limit of conversion events.
GA4’s predefined conversion events
- first_open (applies to mobile applications)
- app_store_subscription_convert (applies to mobile applications)
- app_store_subscription_renew (applies to mobile applications)
- in_app_purchase (applies to mobile applications)
- purchase (applies to websites and mobile applications)
Just as the GA4 data model is event-based, conversion events are event-based. Once you’ve created events to track user interactions on your website with Google Tag Manager or gtag, and/or if you’re using enhanced measurement for automatically collected events, you can start setting up conversions within the user interface.
Creating conversion events from existing events
Within the GA4 admin section, go to Events to view your existing events list. These events are ones already sending data to GA4.
There, you can select which of these events you want to track as a conversion. Swipe the toggle under Mark as Conversion to the right and that event is now a conversion event.
You must have editor or administrator access to set this up. It will take up to 24 hours for the conversion to show up in standard reports. Realtime reports update sooner, after a user triggers a conversion event.
Create a new event to be a conversion event
If there’s a new interaction you’d like to track as a conversion event, you can create a new event in Google Tag Manager or gtag to send that event data to GA4, and mark it as a conversion.
Or, you can simply create a new event within the UI!
Within the GA4 admin section, go to Events and click on the Create Event button.
Select your data stream and click Create.
We’re setting up an event for views of the resources page by using the existing event page_view and modifying it with: page_location > contains > resources.
The operator offers options such as equals, does not equal, contains, does not contain, starts with, ends with, greater than, equal to or less than. Google recently added regular expressions to the options available but cautions users to be careful with using regex to avoid site performance issues.
It will take up to 24 hours for your new event – whether you created it in the platform or in GTM or gtag – to show up in the existing events list. From there, you can mark it as a conversion (see below).
Recently, Google updated the conversion counting methods. Users can select Once per event, meaning the event will be counted as a conversion every time it occurs. For example, if a user views the Resources page five times in a session, it will count as five conversion events. This is Google’s recommended method.
The other option is Once per session, which means the event is counted as a conversion only once it occurs in a session. For example, if a user views the Resources page five times in a session, it will count as one conversion event. Once per Session is how Universal Analytics properties count goals.
Users can select the three dots to the right of the goal to open the counting method window (noted above).
You can check the Conversions by Event Name in the Realtime reports to verify if GA4 has registered your event as a conversion event.
Create an audience and mark it as a conversion
Finally, one of the most exciting functionalities for conversion events in GA4 is the ability to create an audience and mark it as a conversion event. Any time a user fits into an audience definition, that will trigger a conversion event.
Audiences are a powerful tool in GA4 that allows you to segment your users by dimensions, metrics and events to include myriad subsets. You can learn more about GA4 audiences here.
Once you’ve created an audience, you can set an event trigger for it when a user meets the definition of the audience. The example below defines the audience as users who read a blog and then viewed the Contact Us form within five minutes. On the right, you can set up an audience trigger, name it and it will log an event when a user becomes a member of the audience. Then you can mark that event as a conversion event as outlined earlier.
Being able to use simple or complex audiences as conversion events allows for much more advanced analysis of user behavior that would have been impossible, or at least incredibly difficult, to do in Universal Analytics.
Once your conversion event has been registered and is collecting data, you can find it in the Conversions report in the platform:
Another key feature of GA4’s conversion events is the ability to include the conversion events metric in all reports. In Universal Analytics, goal completions weren’t available in content reports because different hits and scopes weren’t compatible with each other. GA4’s event-driven data model allows you to include conversion events metrics in all reports as well as in exploration reports for deeper analysis.