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Conversions vs. Key Events in GA4

GA4 Key Events-1

Yesterday Google announced that they are gradually rolling out "key events" in GA4. So what are key events and how do they differ from conversions, and why did Google decide to add this new event classification?

What Is a Key Event?

Think of a key event as a KPI -- a key performance indicator. In many cases, a KPI may not be an actual conversion (such as a lead generated or a form filled out), but it could just be an event that's important to your customer journey and is an indicator of a visitor's likely future actions. For example, a common KPI I see on websites is the number of pages a visitor viewed in a session. While you may currently be measuring this KPI as an event, you'll now be able to elevate it to a key event status, which will help organize your reporting.

How Do Key Events Differ from Conversions?

Key events are essentially steps to a conversion. While a conversion would be a lead generated or a checkout completed, a key event would be the steps to reach that conversion. For example, adding items to a cart would be a key event, but the final purchase would be the conversion.

Key Events and Conversions Imported into Google Ads

A best practice when using both Google Ads and GA4 is to import your conversions from GA4 to be conversion actions in Google Ads. According to Google, the current conversions in GA4 (they're terming these "legacy conversions" that you may have imported into Google Ads don't require any updates on your part and will continue to operate as they always have. However, key events will also be imported into Google Ads and will count as conversions:

"For now on, if you have a linked Google Ads account, Google Ads conversions created from Analytics key events appear as conversions in the Advertising section in Google Analytics.

To create new Google Ads conversions going forward, you now need to create the conversions based on your Google Analytics key events within Google Ads."

When Will Key Events Be Available in GA4?

Google is rolling this new classification out now but has not provided a timeline when rollout will be complete. Although Google has not yet provided imagery of the user interface changes to create and manage key events in GA4, I suspect that key events setup will likely reside in the Admin section of GA4 alongside of the management screens for Events and Conversions  in the Data Display section. I'd recommend monitoring this section for updates.

Key Events

Hear more about this new event classification from Google: