November 19, 2020
How to Track Conversions with Google Analytics 4 (previously known as Goals)
In my previous Google Analytics 4 tutorials, I have shared how to install GA4 (or how to upgrade to it), then how to track events with Google Analytics 4 and Google Tag Manager. Now, the time has come to configure conversions.
In other words, we’ll tell Google Analytics, that some events are more important to us.
Today, I am going to show you how to track conversions with Google Analytics 4. And there are several options/gotchas you need to know. Also, I’ll take a quick look at a thing called Google Analytics goals (the definition of conversion in older GA versions).
Table of Contents
+ Show table of contents +
- Video tutorial
- How to track events with Google Analytics 4
- What is a conversion in general?
- Goodbye, Goals. Hello, Conversions!
- Predefined Conversions
- Toggle Conversions (or Enter Event Name Manually)
- Create events and mark them as Conversions
- Try planning your event naming convention better
- Check the data in Google Analytics 4 DebugView
- Where can I see the conversion data in Google Analytics 4 reports?
- Useful resources
- Final words
Video tutorial on how to track conversions with Google Analytics 4
If you prefer video content, I have recorded a tutorial on my Youtube channel. And as always, I recommend that you do both: read this blog post and watch my video (because they complement each other).
How to track events with Google Analytics 4
If you are new to Google Analytics 4 (but you have worked with its previous versions (e.g. Classic or Universal analytics), you need to understand this. GA4 is an event-based analytics tool.
Everything is an event now. Purchases, page views, etc.
So if you want to configure conversions, you first must configure event tracking in Google Analytics. Then you will need to instruct GA4 that some events are more important than others.
What is a conversion in general?
I realize that some of my readers who land on this page might be completely new to web analytics and the concept of conversions. If you are one of them, here’s a quick introduction. And if you already know what conversions are, feel free to skip to the next chapter of this blog post.
A conversion is an important interaction that you want your visitors/users to complete. Conversions can be split into micro and macro conversions. An example of a micro-conversion can be a newsletter subscription, a download of a whitepaper, etc.
Micro conversions are usually described as conversions that put your visitors/users one step closer to the main (macro) conversion.
Macro-conversions are the most important interactions, such as a purchase.
By tracking conversions, you can better understand what is working for your business and what isn’t. For example, you can create a segment of your users who have made a purchase and then try to understand what they are doing, what is their behavior, etc. Also, conversions are used to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and then redistribute your advertising budget.
Hopefully, this super-brief introduction gave you a better understanding of this concept.
Now, let’s learn how to actually track conversions with Google Analytics 4.
Goodbye, goals. Hello, conversions!
Those who have worked with the previous versions of Google Analytics, for example, Universal Analytics, are familiar with the term “Google Analytics Goal”. Basically, that’s how GA was calling conversions in the past.
If you want to treat a page view of the order confirmation page as a conversion, you could create a destination goal. Speaking of other types of Google Analytics goals, you could create goals that:
- Were based on events and their parameters
- Or that were based on the duration of the session (if a visitor spends more than X minutes on your website)
- Or that were based on the number of page/screen views per session
Also, it’s worth mentioning that you could create up to 20 goals per GA view. In GA 4, that limit is 30 conversions per property.
Well, with the rise of GA4, the concept of Google Analytics goals is gone. Now, the most important interactions are called conversions (this term has been adopted by the industry and other marketing/analytics tools for many years and even GA users were often referring to goals as “conversions”).
So in reality, it’s a welcome cosmetic change that’s been long overdue. However, the name is not the only thing that has changed. Many things are now different in Google Analytics 4 when it comes to conversions:
- The way we have to configure them is different
- The types of conversions are different (no more out-of-the-box destination, session-duration, or number-of-pageviews goals)
It’s all about the event now. It’s your job to send them and mark the most important ones as conversions.
Speaking of ways how to configure conversions in Google Analytics 4, there are two options (that you can control) and one that’s predefined. Let’s start with the latter.
There is a bunch of predefined conversions that you cannot disable:
- 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)
Speaking of purchase, here is a guide by Simo Ahava that explains the entire implementation process in great detail.
If you go to your Google Analytics 4 property and then click Conversions (in the left menu), you will see the list of those predefined conversions (they will be displayed there if you have received at least one event of that particular name). If you have only the Web data stream connected to the property, your only default conversion will be purchase (and it that cannot be disabled).
If you have connected any of the app data streams, then you’ll most likely see the rest of the aforementioned conversions too. But since there isn’t much we can configure, that’s all I can say in this chapter.
Now, let’s move to the next group of conversions.
Conversions that can be turned on (or you can enter the event name manually)
Now, if you want to mark an event as a conversion, you just have to go to the list of All Events (on the left sidebar) and then switch the toggle next to the event that’s important for your business.
So, for example, if you have an event called ebook_downloaded, then you can flip the switch and turn it into a conversion (note: this will apply only to the new data. The events that were collected in the past will not be turned into conversions retroactively).
Alternatively, you can go to Conversions (on the left sidebar), then press New conversion event and enter the name of the event, for example, ebook_downloaded. There is no difference between entering the name of the event manually and flipping the toggle button in the All Events list. Except that if you decide to flip the switch, you will first need to wait until that event appears in the list.
Once you do that, wait for up to 24 hours, and you will start seeing conversion data in the list of all Conversions. Click on the conversion that you wish to inspect closer.
And you will see a report (by default, it’s the Conversions by Event Source).
If you want to find out about other places where the conversion data is available in the Google Analytics 4 interface, jump to this chapter of the blog post.
Create events and mark them as conversions
I bet that some of my readers have one question now. What if you don’t want to mark ALL events (of a certain event name) as conversions?
Example: you have a “Thank you” page to which users are redirected when they subscribe to a newsletter. Let’s say that the URL is https://www.mywebsite.com/thank-you/. If I mark page_view event as a conversion, ANY pageview will become a conversion. How can I separate only those pageviews that happened on the /thank-you/ page?
You can either send a dedicated event (with a different name) from Google Tag Manager/Gtag.js, or you can use the Create Event feature in the GA4 interface.
This feature allows you to create a new event based on other incoming events. On the All Events page, click Create Event and then click Create.
Then you will need to enter the name of the custom event. Once again, you can name it whatever you want. Just make sure that the name clearly communicates what it means. thankyou_page_visit might be a good option.
Then let’s move on to the Matching Conditions section. Here we must tell GA4 what kind of event are we looking for. When that particular event will be spotted, then our thankyou_page_visit should be created as well.
In my case, I need to enter the following conditions:
- event_name equals page_view
- page_location contains /thank-you/
If you want to copy all the parameters from the page_view event to the new event, keep the checkbox Copy parameters from the source event enabled.
If some of the parameter’s name is incorrect and you want to fix it as well, you can Add Modification in the Parameter Configuration section. For example, if an event contains the parameter pricingPlan but you want it to be pricing_plan, you can introduce a new field (and reuse its value) while removing the incorrect parameter (by leaving the New Value empty).
Take a closer look at [[pricingPlan]] in the screenshot above. Double square brackets mean that GA4 will reuse the value of the parameter pricingPlan in that event.
Once you save the changes, you will be able to view them in the Real-time reports and the DebugView of GA4.
Also, when you create that new event in GA4 (and you want that to become a conversion), don’t forget to mark that event as a conversion in the All Events report.
If you don’t like to wait for up to 24 hours (because that thankyou_page_visit will not appear in the list of all your events immediately), you can create a new conversion immediately. Click the Conversions section on the left sidebar of your GA4 interface.
Then click New conversion event and enter the name of the event that you have just created. Click Save.
That way, you will mark the newly created thankyou_page_visit event as a conversion (without the need to wait for 24 hours until it appears on the “All Events” page.
Or try planning your event naming convention better
I’m just continuing the previous chapter of this blog post here.
If we are talking about events that you are sending from the web site’s code or Google Tag Manager to GA4, you could just plan your event naming convention better and create more distinct events.
Imagine that you track various form submissions with the event name form_submission but you want to treat only certain types of forms as conversions. Let’s say that you track contact form submissions, search form submission, and registration form submission events, but you only want to treat the registration form submission as a conversion.
In that case, you could track 3 separate events:
And then mark only the sign_up event as a conversion. This, of course, requires more thorough planning upfront but every solid setup starts with one.
Check the data in Google Analytics 4 DebugView
Once you configure your conversions, it’s time to test them. The primary feature built for debugging GA 4 data is the DebugView section. You can find it at the bottom left corner of your GA4 interface. Click it.
That’s the place where your debugging should take the place. Do not mix this with the GTM Preview and Debug mode. They are two different beasts.
To enable the debug mode in GA4, it’s enough to have the GTM Preview mode enabled. Then all events that are sent to Google Analytics 4 will have a debug_mode parameter attached to it. As a result, this data will be visible in the GA4 DebugView.
There is also another option on how to enable the debug_mode in Google Analytics 4. Install the Google Analytics Debugger Chrome extension here, and then click its icon (so that you can see the ON ribbon). From this moment, you will start seeing your events coming into the DebugView.
When the data starts coming into your DebugView, you can click on every individual event and then a list of parameters will be displayed.
Click on that parameter to see the value that was received by GA4.
Also, make sure that you have selected the correct Debug device in the top left corner.
If multiple visitors have enabled the debug view (e.g. they all have enabled the Chrome extension), you will see multiple devices there and it might require some time to find yourself.
Anyway, once you start seeing data in DebugView, things will look like this.
Events are marked with blue icons, conversions with green. Please ignore the fact that I treat menu_click events as conversions. This is just for demonstration purposes 🙂
If you click the event, you will see the parameters that were sent together with an event. Click on the parameter to see its value.
Once you made sure that the data is coming in and it is displayed properly, you should submit your GA4 changes in the GTM container and publish it.
Where can I see the conversion data in Google Analytics 4 reports?
The conversion data is available in various places of the Google Analytics 4 interface. To name a few (but this list is definitely not complete):
- Conversions section in the left sidebar menu. You can click on any of those conversions to see how the data changed over time and the main traffic sources for that particular conversion
- Acquisition > Traffic Acquisition and then there is a column Conversions in the table
- If you have implemented Ecommerce tracking, the data will appear in the Monetization reports
- Analysis > Analysis hub. For example, you can include the metric Conversions in the Exploration report.
Here are some additional useful resources about this topic:
- Measure web conversions from Google Analytics 4 properties (Google)
- About conversion events (Google)
- Creating custom conversions in GA4 (Charles Farina)
Final words on how to track conversions in Google Analytics 4
The word “goals” is gone from Google Analytics 4 vocabulary. From now on, they will be called “Conversions” (and this should have happened a long time ago). But this is not the only change that was introduced in the new version of Google Analytics.
The entire process of conversion configuration has changed in GA4. If you want, you can quickly turn any event into conversion by clicking a toggle button next to it (in the All Event list).
If you want to be more specific and treat only events with certain parameters as conversions, you can either use the Create event feature in the GA4 interface or plan your event names upfront more carefully and use distinct event names for interactions that are the most important for a business.
Got more questions about how to track conversions with Google Analytics 4? Let me know in the comments.