In Google Analytics, which I’m fairly sure the majority of readers use, you can define “conversion goals” and “events”, which are often confused but which are quite separate. An “event” can be anything which a visitor does on your site, including clicking on a certain link, downloading a document, watching a video …almost anything really. Page views are really just events, although they’re seldom specified as such. A “goal” is identified as having been triggered once a predefined action is taken or point is reached: this could be completing a form, buying a product, or even spending a certain amount of time on the site. Goals can be given a value, and you can then get an easy overview of the value of the traffic which various sources have brought you, from third-party sites to your own email marketing. Goals are great, but they have been limited in terms of what they can measure, without some complex setup procedures.
Now, however, Google is – at last – introducing the ability to define events as goals. In business marketing, where simple events such as downloading a PDF document can be the ultimate aim of a campaign, this is going to be really useful. There’s more on the Google Analytics Blog in The New Google Analytics: Events Goals. This is another good step in weaning us all off looking at the visitor numbers to our site and thinking that’s a useful business metric. It’s what they do which counts.