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What are Key Events?

Google Analytics users might have noticed a new metric in the last couple of weeks: ‘key events’. What are key events, I hear you ask? Well, don’t worry, it’s not something new to learn about, it’s just an alternative label for what used to be called ‘conversions’. And I think it’s a good move.

Traditionally, when we got someone to buy something, or to make an enquiry, they ‘converted’ from being a prospect to a customer, or from nobody to being an enquirer. The process was sensibly called a ‘conversion’.

So far, so good, and this still applies in Google Ads, where we want to measure people who the ads have ‘converted’. However, in Google Analytics, many more things can be measured, and all of these have been called ‘conversions’ too.

Although any of these could be classed a ‘goal’ of an advertising campaign, they weren’t really a ‘conversion’, because the status of the visitor hadn’t been converted to something different.

Apart from the potential confusion, the conversion numbers in GA4 haven’t corresponded to the conversion numbers seen in Google Ads, thanks to new ways of measuring things, and something called ‘attribution modelling’. Google has therefore decided to separate the labelling. A ‘key event’ in GA4 can still be passed to Google Ads as a conversion if desired: for example, with many of our advertisers, ‘time on site’ or ‘pages viewed’ are important outcomes. These would now be a ‘key event’, but can trigger a conversion in Google Ads.