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How to maximize Google Analytics conversion data: a complete guide

Tracking conversions—actions that ‘convert’ visitors into customers or leads—can give marketers and UX designers superpowers: by analyzing changes in conversion metrics, companies can remove barriers to purchase and improve both design and marketing to keep users engaged. 

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) techniques are a great way to increase the percentage of website or app visitors who convert—but the first step is to understand what’s going on. 

Google Analytics is one of the most popular and powerful tools for monitoring traditional website analytics. But many organizations don’t know how to get the most out of Google Analytics conversion data. 

This guide will show you how to tap into the power of GA conversions. We’ll tell you why conversion tracking is important, how to use conversions in GA4, and how you can round out Google Analytics conversion data with product experience insights for a fuller picture. Let’s get started!

Use Hotjar to go deeper with conversion analytics

Hotjar offers rich product experience insights that help marketers and UX designers make sense of Google Analytics conversions. 

Conversions in Google Analytics

What are Google Analytics Conversions?

Conversions in Google Analytics are key actions website users take which convert them into customers, leads, or subscribers

Analyzing conversions can tell you whether visitors are engaging with your marketing efforts and successfully moving through the different steps in the sales funnel.

Micro-conversions, or ‘soft’ conversions, are smaller steps on the journey to a main conversion event. Micro-conversion metrics include click-through rate on viewing a demo video, signing up to a newsletter, or downloading a whitepaper.

Macro-conversions are larger, end-goal events like making a purchase or signing up for a free trial.

It’s important to measure both micro- and macro-conversions to get a complete picture of how visitors behave for your ecommerce tracking. This will help you understand which pages, content, and features are engaging your customers and which are ineffective.

Conversion monitoring is more than simply a metric for success; it's also a troubleshooting tool for your entire website.

Conversion tracking can help you figure out why your digital marketing efforts aren't working and help you to troubleshoot performance and trend declines. It enables businesses to choose the optimal approach to maximize their return on investment.

Gerrid Smith
Chief Marketing Officer, Joy Organics

How conversions work in Google Analytics

In Universal Analytics and other older versions of Google Analytics, conversions were treated as ‘goals’. To track conversions, companies would define goals related to visitor conversions based on factors like: 

  • Destination, e.g. a customer arriving at an order confirmation page would trigger completion of a goal

  • Events, e.g. a visitor playing a video

  • Duration, e.g. a visitor spending more than 2 minutes on your website

  • The number of pages or screens viewed

In GA4, the latest version of Google Analytics, important interactions are no longer categorized as ‘goals’. GA4 treats key user actions as ‘events’ and allows you more flexibility in setting up and tracking conversions. 

You can specifically mark and measure ‘conversion events’ through Google Analytics events. The new GA interface lets you configure existing events as conversions, set up new conversion events, view conversions reports, and drill down on conversion metrics to learn more about where your customers are coming from and which paths they’re following on your site.

Advertisers and ad networks can use conversion tracking to verify the quality of a source by knowing where an install or purchase (or really any other data point) came from. It also provides greater knowledge of the campaign's performance, which may be used to improve it in the future.

Adam Fard
Head of Design, Adam Fard UX

Why you need to set up Google Analytics conversions

Companies who don’t properly configure and track conversions miss out on crucial data that can be used to decrease churn rate, increase sales revenue, and keep visitors engaged.

Conversion data helps you:

  • Optimize website design and user experience

  • Understand the Return on Investment (ROI) of marketing efforts

  • Improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns

  • Remove barriers to purchase and user engagement

  • Better understand and segment your audience

  • Create better content or products

  • Stay focused on the metrics that contribute to profitability rather than getting caught up in vanity metrics: Google Analytics metrics are an excellent option for monitoring conversions and linking conversion rates with customer segments, traffic sources, and user journeys. 

7 steps to set up and track Google Analytics conversions 

1. Determine key micro and macro conversions

It’s important to take time to reflect and strategize on the key interactions you want to mark as conversion events before you begin the setup. Ensure you consider soft micro-conversions, which may be unique to your site or app, as well as major actions like purchases or signups. 

2. Check the predefined conversions

To familiarize yourself with conversion tracking in GA4, start by looking at the predefined conversions (click Conversions on the left sidebar to see the main conversions overview).

#Use the conversions overview to see predefined and custom conversion events.
Use the conversions overview to see predefined and custom conversion events.

Depending on whether you have app data streams enabled or only use GA to track web data, you’ll see different predefined conversions, usually including purchase, first_visit or first_open, app_store_subscription_convert, and more. 

You can’t disable or adapt these predefined conversions, so you’ll only be able to view them here. 

3. Mark existing events as conversions

Click Events in the left sidebar to bring up the complete list of events, and switch on the toggle that says Mark as conversion for that event.

Marking existing events as Google Analytics conversions

Use the 'Mark as conversion' toggle on the right-hand side to mark events as conversion events. 

Define the page: for example, if you want to mark page visits to a thank you for completing our purchase page. 

Now you have two options: 

  1. Create new, separately named events for each page or specific action, e.g. page_visit_purchaseconfirm, page_visit_signupcomplete

  2. Modify the event and add detail in the page_location field: for instance, page_location contains '/purchase complete'

Note: these methods will classify all events you’ve marked as conversions, so be careful you’re not designating too broad a range of events as conversion events. For example, if you mark or create page_visit as a conversion, all page visits will appear to be conversions.

Something to keep in mind is that in order to measure conversions correctly in GA4, you must be absolutely certain that every page of the website has a Google Analytics event setup.

Sam Sweeney
Founder, Trivvy

4. Create new conversion events

Use the main events menu to create new events and mark them as conversions. 

Alternatively, navigate to New conversion event on the conversions overview and use the prompts to create a new event marked as a conversion. 

Once you’ve entered the custom event name, fill out the Matching conditions fields to get more specific on the precise types of events you want to track.

#Create conversion events with custom names and precise matching conditions.
Create conversion events with custom names and precise matching conditions.

You can specify page location as outlined above and fill out the event name to link your conversion event with other events of its type. For example, if you’re creating a conversion event specifically for completed survey forms, you may want to fill out the event_name parameter to equal form_completion. 

Then, either copy over all parameters from the main source event form_completion or fill them out one by one. You can also add additional parameters like product_name, company_size, time_spent, and more. 

It’s also possible to add events through Google Tag Manager.

I recommend trying Google Tag Manager to set up conversions tracking for your GA4. Tag Manager makes it easy to add and set up events and triggers to track your conversions because you're able to follow the process through. you don't need to have any coding knowledge either which is helpful.

Charlie Worrall
Digital Marketing Executive, Imaginaire

5. Test your conversion events

It’s critical that you test your conversion events once you’ve finished setting them up. 

Do a test drive by completing the conversion event from an anonymous account and ensuring it shows up correctly in your conversion events overview (it may take 24 hours for the first instance of an event to appear). 

You should also use GA4 DebugView (accessible from the right-hand navigation menu) to check that the parameters for each conversion event are correct. Take a look at how to monitor events in debug mode for all the technical details. 

6. Monitor conversion events

Collecting data is just the first step. The next (more important) step is using it

Regularly check your conversion events reports in Google Analytics and use the data to inform your marketing and UX strategies. You’ll see conversion data in the conversions overview section—it’s also a good idea to add conversion metrics to your Exploration reports. 

As you discover more about your site visitors and how they behave and convert, you can refine your conversion event configurations and add new parameters.

#Regularly monitor your conversion reports to stay on top of changes.
Regularly monitor your conversion reports to stay on top of changes.

7. Understand conversions more deeply

To get a better sense of how conversions are happening, you’ll need to go deeper into conversion metrics. 

Use GA4’s audience triggers feature (under Audiences>Create a Custom Audience). Here, you can ask Google Analytics to track users who follow a particular page sequence in a specific order—for instance, users who first watch a promotional video then sign up for a free trial in the same session. This can help you understand exactly how your audience moves through the purchase or conversion funnel. 

You should also set up path exploration reports that map out the full paths your visitors follow when navigating your site or app. By understanding what users do before or after key conversion events (or how users who fail to convert behave), you can reverse engineer the conversion path and remove blockers that stop them from converting. 

Note: GA4 can help you drill down on your conversion metrics up to a point, but it’s limited in the kind of data it can provide. 

To understand how—and more importantly, why—users are converting or failing to convert, you’ll need to use tools that can help you see the big picture. 

Tools that offer robust product experience insights. Tools like Hotjar (👋). 

Use Hotjar to complement Google Analytics conversions for deeper insights

To go deeper, combine strong quantitative analytics that measure key aspects of user experience with powerful qualitative data that shows you the why behind your users’ behavior.

Creating content that converts requires more than data from the Google Analytics console. 

You may have one ad that does better than the others, but that doesn't mean you couldn’t do even better. Taking a constant improvement approach is easier with additional tools like surveys and heatmapping.

Zachary Hoffman

Here’s how Hotjar can help: 

Use Heatmaps to pinpoint page elements that affect conversions

Hotjar’s Heatmaps give you nuanced insights into which page elements users are engaging with or bypassing. 

Heatmaps show you exactly which elements users click on, scroll through, or avoid, so you can make the most impactful changes for conversion rate optimization (CRO).

#Heatmaps show you which page elements users are engaging with to better understand your conversions.
Heatmaps show you which page elements users are engaging with to better understand your conversions.

Use Session Recordings to stand in your customers’ shoes

Use Google Analytics path explorations to create a dataset of users who fulfill the initial steps in the sales funnel but fail to convert. 

Then, use Hotjar Session Recordings to learn why by viewing a recording of their behavior on your site. You can also compare session recordings from visitors who convert versus visitors who don’t convert to learn why certain users aren’t taking the next step.   

#Session Recordings can show you how users who fail to convert are using your website.
Session Recordings can show you how users who fail to convert are using your website.

Gather Incoming Feedback to enrich conversion data

Google Analytics can help you to identify key pages in the conversion journey. Use Hotjar’s Incoming Feedback widget to place questions on these pages to learn what’s working and what’s not.

You can ask customers who convert what influenced their decision to determine which CRO strategies work. 

As customers exit key conversion pages, use the feedback widget to ask them about their experience and identify the blockers causing them to drop off the conversion funnel.

#Asking users for feedback on key pages for conversion helps you to build on your Google Analytics data.
Asking users for feedback on key pages for conversion helps you to build on your Google Analytics data.

Conversion tracking gives us the end result of users’ behavior, but heatmaps, session recordings, and surveys help marketers and UX designers to understand performance with much richer data. They provide deeper insight into how users engage with your website, as well as if and why they drop off before converting.

Ryder Meehan
Cofounder, Upgrow

Bonus reading! Learn how the agency that coined the term 'conversion rate optimization' uses Hotjar to turbocharge their clients’ conversions.

Seeing conversion analytics as a powerful starting point

Google Analytics is a goldmine for conversion data that can help you understand whether your marketing and design engage users and target the right customer profile. 

But relying on GA conversion metrics alone can leave you guessing what exactly is attracting or blocking your users—and why

Product experience insights tools like Hotjar build a detailed, accurate picture of how users experience your website.

Use Hotjar to go deeper with conversion analytics

Hotjar offers rich product experience insights that help marketers and UX designers make sense of Google Analytics conversions. 

FAQs about Google Analytics Conversions