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Goals vs. Conversion Events in Google Analytics

Google Analytics 4 replaces the concept of a “goal” with “conversion events”. In this short post I will explain the difference and provide a few helpful resources for setting up the new conversion events correctly.

What Goals and Conversion Events Have in Common

Goals and conversion events are both used for the same purpose: to track when users take the actions that are important to your business.

Unlike a typical click or page view event, these are special because you can share them with Google Ads to optimize your advertising spend (ex. maybe you’re willing to spend $20 for each lead form submitted).

How they are Different

Goals do not fit well into Google Analytics 4 because they are based on sessions, and the concept of a session is not emphasized as strongly in Google Analytics 4 as it was in legacy versions (more about that HERE).

The purpose of a goal is to provide a simple TRUE / FALSE value for the question: “Did the user complete a specific action during their session?”

When the legacy version of Google Analytics displays a count of goal completions, it is really showing you a count of sessions where the goal was TRUE (completed at least once). Goals do not increment if the action was completed multiple times during the session.

A conversion event, on the other hand, simply describes the user action. If the action occurs multiple times within a session, the count of conversion events will increment with each. This aligns Google Analytics with the industry standard approach for measuring conversions, and the Google Ads conversion pixel already works this way (as you can see in the screenshot below).

There is one important limitation of conversion events: in the legacy version of Google Analytics you could create 20 goals per view. If you needed to track more than 20 conversions, then you could duplicate the view and create 20 more.

However, Google Analytics 4 does not have views. To offset this limitation, Google allows you to set 30 conversion events.

Reporting on Conversion Events in Google Analytics 4

The Acquisition reports include a “Conversions” column that is similar to the familiar “Goal Completions” column in Universal Analytics. However, you now have a dropdown selector that allows you to choose a specific event.

Additionally, a new metric has been added to the Exploration technique called “conversions”. You can combine this metric with “Event Name” as a dimension to see all of your conversions in a custom report.

Helpful Resources for Creating Conversion Events

  • For instruction on how to make sure you are setting up your conversion events properly, take a look at THIS great article by Julius Fedorovicius at Analytics Mania.
  • Click HERE to read Google’s official documentation on conversion events.
  • If you need help importing your conversion events from Google Analytics 4 into Google Ads, take a look at the official WEB and APP guides from Google.

3 Replies to “Goals vs. Conversion Events in Google Analytics”

  1. Thanks for the mention, Ken! And thank you for for your GA4 learning resources. You’re doing a great work here.

  2. Hi Ken,

    great article, thank you very much!

    I was thinking a lot about if conversion events in GA4 work like goals in Universal Analytics when it comes to the incrementation during a session. According to my tests I concluted that conversion events can be reached multiple times within a session – which is different to UAs goals.

    I feel better now because you concluded the same. So many thanks for clarification! :-))

    Regards,
    Michaela

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