Updated on 2/28/23

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

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

Even if you’ve completed the basic GA tutorials, you probably still have a lot of questions about how to fully take advantage of this free tool. 

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

The Main Difference Between Goals and Events in Google Analytics

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

The main difference between GA goals and events 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 
  • Lead capture form submissions (e.g. leads collected through a Contact Me page)
  • Newsletter signups

Here are some examples of events you can track: 

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

GA Goals compared to GA Events

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.

Let’s dive deeper by discussing the benefits and tips for each.

Google Analytics Goals

Goals directly affect the success of your business and are often measured in revenue earned. 

The Benefits of Goals

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

Determining What Goals to Track

Having properly defined goals makes it possible for GA to give you critical data like conversion and site drop-off rates—metrics that directly impact your business and marketing strategy. 

When determining your goals, there are two things you need to think about: 

  • What the goals are for your business 
  • How you’re going to measure the goals

With this information, you gain a better understanding of what’s working on your site and what isn’t.

Differentiating Between Macro- and Micro-Conversions

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

  • Macro-conversions are the primary conversions on your site, such as a completed sale. 
  • Micro-conversions are smaller engagements and conversions like a newsletter signup or a visitor reaching a specific page.

Macro- and micro-conversions can help your team prioritize goals and establish milestones. 

For instance, multiple micro-conversions can lead a user to a macro-conversion. If your micro-conversion includes a visitor reaching a product page (via a blog post about that particular product), a macro-conversion would entail the user purchasing the merchandise.

The 4 Types of GA Goals

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

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

Table showing the differences between GA Goals and GA Events.

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

Funnels for Goals

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

For example, let’s say you notice that customers leave your site when they encounter a pop-up asking them to sign up for your newsletter. You could either: 

  • Try removing the pop-up on certain pages. 
  • Delay the pop-up for a set amount of time to see if it impacts your time onsite 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 if a visitor completed two purchase sessions in a single visit and reached 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 retroactivethey 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 affect your site revenue. 

But events are still important to assess your site’s overall performance and engagement rates. Making the right adjustments to events can help enhance the bottom-line conversions your GA goals are trying to achieve. 

The Benefits of Events

  • Tracking user behavior 
  • Identifying which pages and links users click on the most 
  • Assessing where users spend 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 having users reach the Thank you page, your event could be a PDF download. 

This specific download action not only helps with engagement but also compels 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 youre 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 to each event. This organizes 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 get 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—all rooted in real data.

Want more expert advice on your digital marketing strategy? Get in touch with a Big Leap SEO expert. Making data-driven decisions is central to what we do, and our SEO team will help you achieve your online goals.