Even if you’re just dipping your toes in digital marketing, you’ve likely heard of Google Analytics (GA). Google Analytics is an uber-powerful, free analytics tool offered by the search engine to help you: 

  • Analyze your website traffic
  • Measure your marketing return on investment (ROI)
  • Meet your conversion goals
  • Make data-driven decisions

We can talk for ages about GA and why GA matters, but the reality is, the what and why likely isn’t making you pull your hair—it’s the howEven if you’ve completed the basic GA tutorials, you probably still have a lot of questions about how you can fully take advantage of this free tool. 

So today, we’re going to cover one of the GA questions we get asked the most: What’s the difference between Google Analytics events vs. goals? We’ll discuss what makes them different and their benefits to help you discover ways to bolster your marketing strategy.

The Main Difference between Goals and Events

Both goals and events are important tracking tools that heavily impact the success of your online marketing efforts. While there are elements of both that are deceptively similar, goals and events each help your business grow in very different ways. 

The heart of the matter comes down to this: 

While goals measure objectives that directly affect your website revenue, events measure website behavior that may or may not impact your bottom line.

Here are some examples of goals: 

  • A visitor completing a purchase on your website and being redirected to a “thank you for your order” page
  • New qualified leads collected through a Contact Me page
  • Downloads of gated content that requires the user to fill out a form with their contact information
  • Newsletter signups

Here are some examples of events you can track: 

  • Video plays
  • Button clicks that guide the user to different pages of your site
  • Dynamic content loads while the user scrolls (prevalent on Flash- and AJAX-based site applications)

From a structural standpoint, you’ll also find goals and events in separate reports in your GA account. Goals are found in the Conversions reports, while events are in the Behavior reports.

Now that you have a general understanding of their main differences, let’s dive deeper by discussing the benefits and tips for both, so your team can start making smarter decisions.

Google Analytics Goals

Goals affect the success of your business and are often measured in revenue earned. Goals are actions taken by your users that factor into website success metrics and are usually measured by a visitor reaching a specific page during their time on your site.

The Benefits of Goals

Here are the specific advantages goals can provide for your online strategy: 

  • Helps you assess where your visitors are dropping off in the funnel
  • Provides further direction on how to adjust your site elements accordingly to improve conversions
  • Identifies onsite strategies that are working and can be further leveraged in future campaigns

Determining What Goals to Track

Having properly defined goals that track the right things makes it possible for GA to give you critical data like conversion rates and site drop-off that directly affect your business and marketing strategy. 

There are two things you need to think about when determining your goals: 

  • What these “goals” are for your business 
  • How you’re going to measure your goals

With this information, you can more easily see what’s working on your site and what isn’t, so you can make changes and increase your goal conversions.

Differentiating between Macro- and Micro-Conversions

When determining your website goals, GA also allows you to identify which ones are macro- and which ones are micro-conversions. 

Macro-conversions are the primary conversions on your site such as a completed sale. A micro-conversion refers to smaller engagements and conversions like a newsletter signup or a visitor reaching a specific page, like a piece of high-value content.

Macro- and micro-conversions can help your team prioritize goals accordingly and establish milestones. For instance, multiple micro-conversions can lead a user to a macro-conversion.

The 4 Types of GA Goals

There are four goals available for you to track in Google Analytics:

  • Destination: Visit to a specific site page
  • Duration: Site/page sessions that last a specific amount of time 
  • Pages/screens per session: The number of pages a site visitor views 
  • Events: The desired action (e.g. social recommendation, click, etc.) is completed

You can assign a revenue value for each type of goal so you can easily see how each conversion is affecting your bottom line. 

Funnels for Goals

Your team can also create funnels for each goal to track where customers are dropping off.

For example, if you notice many of your customers leave your site when they encounter your newsletter signup pop-up, you could try removing the pop-up on certain pages or delaying it for a set amount of time to see if it affects your time-on-site and overall conversion rates.

Note: GA only records a goal as having been completed once per visit, even if a single visitor completes the same goal many times. That means that even if a visitor completed two purchase sessions in a single visit and may reach the Thank You page twice, it still only counts as one goal conversion.

Google Analytics’ Limitations on Goals

You can track nearly anything you want as a “goal” within Google Analytics, but there are a few limits to what you can do with the platform, including the following:

  • You may only view 20 goals at a time. If you need to track more than that, you’ll need to set up another view for your site, or edit goals that are no longer relevant to your business.
  • Goals are not retroactive, meaning they can only track conversions that occur after the goal has been created in your GA account.
  • You can’t delete goals, but you can choose to stop collecting data for any goals you no longer need.
  • Data related to goals is processed differently than your other GA data.

Visit the Google Analytics’ Help Center for further advice on best practices for your goals. 

Google Analytics Events

Like we discussed earlier, while goals directly affect your bottom line, events track visitor actions that might not have any affect on your site revenue. But events are still important to assessing your site’s overall performance and engagement rates. 

The Benefits of Events

The benefits of tracking events in your GA account include: 

  • Tracking user behavior 
  • Identifying which pages and links users click on the most 
  • Assessing where users spend most of their time and what keywords/content types resonant the most to them 
  • Having the ability to categorize events (we’ll dive more into this in a bit)

Determining What Events to Track

Your events can be linked to your goals. For example, if your goal is a completed purchase or when users reach the Thank you page, then your event could be a PDF download. This specific download action not only helps with engagement, but it can also compel the user to move further down the page until they make a purchase. 

The 4 Components of an Event

Each event in GA consists of four components. These components allow you to categorize your events accordingly, which are reflected in your reports. 

  1. Event Category (required): A category is an assigned name you create to group your events. For example, if you are assessing video clicks, you might have a “Video” category.
  2. Event Action (required): The action label is typically used to illustrate the type of event or interaction you want to track. So if you’re looking at video clicks, you might have action labels such as “play”, “stop”, or “pause”.
  3. Event Label (optional): With labels, you can provide additional information about the event you are tracking. For example, you might want to track the titles of specific videos, which would warrant an “Oil Painting 101 Tutorial” label.
  4. Event Value (optional): A value reflects an assigned numerical value to a page element. For example, it might be the time it takes for a video to load or produce a monetary value based on how far the user gets into the video.

When you set up an event in your dashboard, you’ll add a category, an action, a label, and a value in each event. This will then organize each event into the correct data buckets.

Google Analytics’ Limitations on Events

GA events don’t have as many limitations as goals do. 

  • You can track up to 500 different events on your website, which should be more than enough for the average business. While you might be tempted to track more events than you actually need, try to prioritize–too much extraneous information can be overwhelming and overshadow critical elements of your site.
  • Events can be recorded multiple times per user visit, meaning if they click on a button or load a video that you’ve tagged 10 times, your GA account will log 10 events, rather than just one. This allows you to see what areas of your site are getting the most engagement and what areas could use tweaking. You can check out the navigation flow of your users by going to Behavior > Events > Event flow.

Leverage Your Events and Goals with Big Leap

Now that you better understand how to use Goals and Events in Google Analytics, sign up and start tracking so you can make smarter website and business decisions based on real data.

Want more expert advice on your digital marketing strategy? Get in touch with a Big Leap SEO expert and start making your website work harder today.

Janet Lee