Although analytics and reporting may sound the same, they aren’t. Dive into the difference between the two to learn which one you need.
Reporting | Sep 24
Jessica Malnik on September 3, 2021 (last modified on August 30, 2021) • 11 minute read
Measuring conversions in Google Analytics 4 (i.e. GA4) looks different than what you are used to with Universal Analytics. It is an entirely new product, and it allows businesses to collect and measure data across websites and apps in new ways.
One critical difference with Google Analytics 4 is that it tracks events instead of sessions. As a result, businesses can better monitor what users are actually doing on their site or mobile app.
In fact, 76% of the marketers we surveyed prefer this new conversion tracking method.
And more than 50% of the contributors we surveyed cited that the additional options in GA4 have helped them a lot when it comes to conversion tracking.
In this post, we’re sharing best practices for tracking conversions (formerly known as goals) in Google Analytics 4.
Let’s dive in.
Conversions are interactions that you’d like your website or app’s visitors to complete. For instance, some conversions or actions you want visitors to take can be downloading a lead magnet, signing up for your newsletter, or making a purchase.
Tracking these conversions helps you understand what is and isn’t working on your business’s website and apps.
This can also help you understand the different visitors to your sites. For instance, you can segment visitors based on behaviors like those who made a purchase. Then, you can analyze their behaviors, so you can better serve your audience.
As Andrew Ruditser of Maxburst explains, “It is important to keep track of important events on your website in order to measure your website’s effectiveness. You can do so by setting up Google Analytics 4 (previously known in Universal Analytics as “Goals”) in 3 different ways. This includes marking your events as conversions, automatically tracking your conversions, or creating custom conversions.
In order to automatically track your conversion, you will need to install GA4 codes within your site and add the appropriate tracking events. Once the codes are added to your site, GA4 will begin crawling those signals as conversions.
In order to mark your events as a conversion, you must go to the all events column in your account and toggle any item you want listed as a conversion. By using this option though, all events listed under this category (for example page views) will be listed as a full conversion, which may give you a false idea of how many conversions you are actually receiving.
If neither of those work for you, then you have the option of creating a custom conversion. You can do so by creating a separate event within your tracking. For example, if you add this within a page, you will then track two events when this page is viewed. Its page view, and conversion. If you do not want to add a separate event, you can create a new one altogether by adding in all the information of how this event should be triggered within your account.”
Another notable difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 is the lack of a conversion rate metric in GA4. Although at first glance, this might look like as a problem, the lack of this feature mostly didn’t influence marketers to switch earlier to the new platform.
Why? Because setting conversion tracking in GA4 is still a rather straightforward process. See more below.
As mentioned, many Google Analytics 4 users are finding the process of setting up conversion tracking surprisingly simple.
And this ease of setting up tracking is definitely welcome news. Additionally, the ability to track preset or custom events gives companies a variety of options.
To help streamline your setup, here are some best practices used by businesses for tracking conversions in Google Analytics 4.
GA4 makes it easy to set up tracking for specific events.
“To track conversions with Google Analytics 4 we have three options,” explains Miranda Yan of VinPit. “Using an existing event: Here an existing event in our report is enabled by us for conversation. With the help of it, we can track down the very broad activities of people on our website.
For instance, Andrew Fitzgerald of Cloud Infrastructure Services says, “On our website we’ve set up conversion tracking using Google Analytics 4. We track the following events:
To effectively track conversions, you’ll need to ensure that every website page has a Google Analytics events setup. Otherwise, you may not fully capture your conversions.
Sasha Matviienko of growth360 says, “GA4 simplifies the conversion tracking setup compared to the previous version of Google Analytics. However, one thing you need to know is that to track conversion properly in GA4 you need to be hundred percent certain every page on your website has a Google Analytics events setup. That’s an issue we see most often with enterprise-size clients, which have multiple business units inside the organization, often having separate tag manager instances.”
As Marc Bromhall of StorageBuddy points out, “Because GA4 now includes sessions and pageviews as events under a new category, I advise setting up custom events for your most important conversions.”
James Diel of Textel adds, To start with, you can use an existing event and enable it as a conversion. This is helpful if you’re tracking a fairly common action, like clicking on a link. You can easily mark specific events as conversions simply by using the ‘Mark As Conversion’ toggle switch in the ‘All Events’ report. Otherwise, if you’re looking to track something a little more involved like specific page encounters, you can create a new event within Google Analytics. Simply click the ‘Create event’ button, give it a name, set the conditions, and then the action will be marked as a conversion when users carry it out.
Now when a user is redirected to this page, your GA4 will record it as a conversion.”
Editor’s Note: If you are tracking sales, you can use this GA4 Monetization Overview Dashboard to see full insights.
However, this won’t work for historical data.
Brian Dordevic of Alpha Efficiency explains, “The only problem is, Google Analytics will not give you historical data from previous events. You’ll only be able to see these new conversions going forward. So set up these goals, and let’s start tracking so we can make logical and sound decisions.”
Since Google Analytics 4 represents a departure from Universal Analytics, you’ll want to initially invest time in setting up all the features, including linking to other Google features such as Google Ads if you use it.
Harriet Chan of CocoFinder suggests, “Before you start with your tracking attributes, set up Google Analytics 4 property and link it to the Google Ads. The Edit option will help you to make necessary changes to the property parameters.
Google Analytics 4 contains a web data stream to measure data in your webpage. You can also set up conversion events in Google Analytics 4. After completing the preliminary settings, sign in to your Google Ads account and tap the Settings icon. Then, in the ‘Measurements’ options, tap ‘Conversions’. Press the ‘+’ button and hit the ‘Import’ option, now add the Google Analytics 4 properties, and then tap ‘Web.’ Next, press the ‘Continue’ button. Enable the checkbox and click the ‘Import and Continue’ button. From the list of web conversion events, choose the one that is relevant to you. Finally, press the ‘Done’ option to complete the tracking settings.
All the web conversion events are available at the ‘Conversion actions’. You can tap on specific conversion to witness detailed data about it.”
While you may know some initial events you want to track, it’s advantageous for companies to understand the whole customer journey. Given the ease of turning tracked events on and off in GA4, you can initially set events that may be useful and then refine what you’re tracking as you determine what your business most needs to know.
Paulius Zajanckauskas of Omnisend says, “GA4 conversion tracking is totally based on the events. Some pre-defined conversions are available, but they will rarely satisfy your needs. GA4 has great new functionality to turn on and off the event to be tracked as a conversion. So it makes sense to set additional events around the whole customer journey and then identify what is worth tracking as a final conversion. This way you will identify the whole funnel performance, not only the final conversion. It will be easy to identify the drop-offs in the funnel with GA4 easily customizable funnel reports and find great insights for improvements.”
Editor’s Note: Want to dive deeper into your traffic sources and user behavior on your website? Use this GA4 Acquisition Overview Dashboard.
While GA4 simplifies the conversion tracking setup, it can be helpful to double-check that you’re tracking your visitors’ actions as you intended.
“The best practice for setting conversion tracking in GA4 is to ensure that your events that you set up as your conversions are configured properly,” says William Chin of Your Digital Aid. “I like to run tests on events on a test GA account that I have set up first and then go through the website to see if the conversions actually fire!”
Google Analytics 4 is the future of analytics tracking, but some features users are used to from Universal Analytics haven’t yet been added. Additionally, GA4 isn’t backward compatible with Universal Analytics, so some companies may fear missing out on data by switching to GA4.
Tim Haldorsson of Lunar Strategy says, “Start with using both the classical Universal analytics and just create a Google Analytics 4 property so that you can get used to the Google Analytics 4 data while still having access to classical Google Analytics.”
Mark Alves of GMMB agrees, “The future is GA4, but the present remains Universal Analytics (GA3) because of the features missing from the newer version. You’ll likely want to run GA4 in parallel with Universal Analytics (GA3) to get the best of both worlds. And to start building your historical record in GA4 since it’s not backward compatible with GA3 data.
Events work differently in GA4 so that means conversions based on events work differently, too. Say goodbye to event categories, actions, and labels. Say hello to event parameters. If you’re used to creating goals from a subset of a given event based on the category or action value, then you’ll need to adopt a new mindset. Break those broader events up because conversions are binary – either an event is always a conversion, or it never is. That’s because you first create an event and then decide whether to flip the switch in the mark as conversion column.”
Google Analytics 4 allows marketers to track the conversions that are most important to their business. While any change in tracking requires some new learning, many are discovering that switching to GA4 is worth it.
Additionally, the ability to use preset or customized events can allow you to capture insights about your website and app visitors to help improve your business.
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