Florian Fuehren

Understanding your website’s performance is vital, and one key metric to keep a keen eye on is the conversion rate. With the introduction of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), things have shifted considerably from the previous version, Universal Analytics (UA).

For conversion rate optimization, you now focus on a conversion event rather than the goal conversions of yesteryear. If you’re used to the layout and metrics of UA, navigating your data might still seem challenging. Maybe you’re still mourning the conversion rate at the forefront of your dashboard. If so, don’t worry. That data is still there, and we’ll show you how you can get even more out of your user sessions. Let’s get into it!

Understanding GA4 Conversion Rate

Whether you’re trying to turn website visitors into newsletter subscribers or happy customers, getting a handle on your GA4 conversion rate is the key to success. Unlike UA, GA4 hinges on conversion events — specific user interactions that are valuable to your business. These could include actions like new account sign-ups, social media follows or purchases, labeled by event name. Your conversion rate metrics then help you track the effectiveness of those events.

There are two crucial conversion rate metrics you need to be aware of:

  • Session Conversion Rate Metric: This shows the percentage of sessions that lead to a conversion, underscoring the immediate engagement of visitors. (If you’ve used UA before, you’ll be familiar with this one.)
  • User Conversion Rate Metric: This reflects the percentage of users who convert, emphasizing the broader scope of engagement over a period of time.

Since there’s a new metric in town, that begs the eternal question: Which one is better? To which we’d like to answer with every teacher’s favorite: It depends.

The way Google calculates these metrics is pretty straightforward:

  • Session Conversion Rate = Total number of conversion events / total number of sessions * 100%
  • User Conversion Rate = Total number of conversion events / total number of users * 100%

Tracking user conversion rates can be advantageous if you’re trying to:

  • Identify users based on their conversion behavior.
  • Assess the effectiveness of loyalty programs.
  • Fine-tune personalization strategies. 

To evaluate the effectiveness of overall marketing campaigns or channels, or optimize usability during A/B tests, session conversions are often the way to go.

Interestingly, GA4 doesn’t show either one by default, but includes the total number of conversions instead. So, to include them, you need to dig a little.

First, you click on “Reports” in the left-hand menu.

Under “Life cycle,” choose “Acquisition” > “Traffic acquisition”

Click the pencil on the right-hand side to edit your standard dimensions and charts.

Click on “Metrics.”

Choose “Add metric” at the bottom.

Add “Session conversion rate.”

Click “Apply.”

Tracking Conversions in Google Analytics 4: Session and User Conversion Rate

If you’re used to conversion tracking in UA, you’ll quickly notice the differences in the way GA4 conversions are counted. Back under UA, you could store several target projects. For each one, Google would only count one conversion per session. That meant, if a user downloaded your lead magnet three times in a row, your goal “Lead Magnet Download” would have counted up to one, whereas GA4 counts to three. The reason is that UA counts conversions per session and GA4 does conversions per event.

As a rule, event tracking takes center stage in GA4 because it lets you focus on the different ways in which users interact with your content. Have they successfully loaded your page? Which parts of your page are they looking at? Did they click on any link? Did they scroll or download a file? User engagement is put front and center to produce more refined insights into your conversion optimization efforts, or those of your conversion optimization consultant.

Whether it’s form submissions, file downloads or video views, it’s good to remember that successful event tracking begins with defining actions that matter most to your business. For instance, if you’re tracking a purchase event, you’d probably want to know whether social media traffic or direct visits are yielding better results. The details that GA4 events provide can be vital in shaping your future marketing efforts and help you measure your digital marketing effectiveness.

Understand What Each Metric Means

When you’re hustling to understand how your site is performing, knowing how to interpret and report on conversion data in GA4 is like hitting the analytics jackpot. It’s all about tracking your successes and recognizing patterns of user behavior in the numbers. So, how do you know when you’ve actually achieved your goal?

Good vs. Bad Conversion Rates

A “good” conversion rate varies by industry, target market and the type of conversion. A signup in email marketing will give you different numbers than an E-commerce conversion in the SaaS industry. As a rough benchmark, average conversion rates hover around 2-5%, but aiming for higher is always beneficial, of course. By definition, that means a bad rate will typically fall way below that.

Some reasons why your conversion rate may fall short:

  • Poor User Experience (UX): Navigation difficulties, confusing layouts or an overwhelming number of choices can deter users from converting.
  • Bad Load Times: Slow website speeds can frustrate your website visitors, increasing bounce rates and decreasing conversions.
  • Weak or Under-Promoted CTAs: If calls-to-action aren’t clear, compelling and easy to find, conversion rates can suffer.
  • Wrong Audience: Attracting visitors who aren’t interested in your offerings due to misaligned marketing efforts or demographic research can lead to low conversion rates.
  • Poor Messaging: Failing to communicate the value of your product or service effectively can turn potential customers away.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that your conversion rate is not the only metric to look for. If you’d like to improve your site’s overall UX, you can turn to everything from heatmaps and page views to bounce rates and average time on the page.

If you’re supporting your organic search engine optimization efforts with paid ads, you’ll probably want to include Google Tag Manager (GTM) in the mix. It’s your digital toolbox for keeping tabs on all of those conversion events. For instance, you’d set up an event name like “Purchase Completed,” using specific variables to fire when someone hits your Thank You page post-checkout. That way, it’s easy to know if your precious ad budget goes to good use.

Now, let’s talk about turning those numbers into stories with Google Data Studio. This is where your metrics find their groove. You can pull in your web analytics from GA4 with a few clicks and blend that data with other data sources, like your Semrush or YouTube Analytics, to get the full picture. Want a dashboard that gives you all your monetization reports? Data Studio lets you craft that, with custom visuals highlighting the hottest conversion events in a way that’s clear and actionable.

Optimizing for a Better User Conversion Rate

Optimizing for a better conversion rate demands a focused approach that enhances UX and employs rigorous A/B testing. If you notice your numbers are off, start by streamlining your navigation and improving site speed to ensure a seamless user journey, and don’t forget mobile optimization. This already covers the most common friction points that might scare away your visitors.

To make the most of your data, you have to run A/B tests. Sure, you can follow general recommendations and try to shoot for average benchmarks, but every site is different, and it’s usually best to build on what you already have. By systematically testing variations, you can discover which combinations yield the highest conversion rates. This empirical approach will remove all the guesswork, guiding you toward data-backed decisions that enhance user engagement and conversion efficiency. Be prepared for some surprising results, though.

Finally, you can run various advanced analytics techniques, particularly within GA4, that will offer deeper insights into how different sources and mediums impact conversion rates. Using custom dimensions, metrics and segmentation allows for a granular analysis of user behavior and traffic quality.

By integrating these strategies, your business can create a more intuitive and responsive UX that not only boosts immediate conversion rates but also builds a foundation for sustained growth and customer loyalty.