GA4 Key Events Image

GA4 Key Events vs Conversions: What Marketers Need to Know

April 4th, 2024

Out with ‘conversions’, in with ‘key events’. 

In an effort to align metrics on Google Analytics with Google Ads, Google has renamed conversions as key events across the two platforms.

The change is rolling out gradually, with all Google Analytics properties due to receive this change within the next few weeks. 

With that in mind, it’s important to understand what key events are, how to set them up, and what this means for our Analytics & Ads properties going forward. 

Here, we’ll run you through everything you need to know about key events in GA4, including:

  • What key events are
  • What the change means for marketers
  • Why the change has been implemented
  • How to set up key events
  • What marketers (and Google themselves) are saying about the change

What Are Key Events?

Previously, in order to create an event that was important to you or your business (a purchase, form submission, etc) you had to mark it as a conversion in Google Analytics. It was as simple as looking at your list of events and marking the important ones as conversions. 

Going forward, conversions such as these will be called key events. Similar to conversions, you can mark any event you like as a key event – first visits, form submissions, etc. – and it’ll be tracked the same way a conversion was previously.

Associated conversion metric names have also changed. For example, ‘session conversion rate’ will now be called ‘session key event rate’. Whilst it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, Google is hoping the term ‘key event’ is more representative and broadly-applicable than ‘conversions’, which many customers and clients equate with sales. 

GA4 Key Events Image

GA4 Key Events and Google Ads Conversions

Fortunately for marketers, the functionality of key events doesn’t differ much from legacy conversions in GA4. 

However, you’ll be able to import key events from GA4 as conversions in Google Ads. These conversions will appear in the Advertising section of GA4. 

In short, if an event is important to you, you can mark it as a key event in GA4. Then, if the key event is important for ad campaign optimization and performance measuring, you can create a conversion in Google Ads from the key event you’ve marked in Analytics.                      

All this can be a little confusing, so we’ve shortened the official Google definition of both GA4 key events and Google Ads conversions to help make things clearer:

Key Events 

A key event is any user action that you deem to be important. When someone performs the action, they will trigger the event and it will be recorded in GA4. 


A conversion is created in Google Ads from a GA4 key event. The aim is to help you improve your marketing strategy with consistent conversion counts across both platforms. 

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Why Google is Changing Conversions to Key Events in GA4:

Aside from being a more broadly representative term, Google has called out a few other key reasons for the name change. Namely, to unify reporting across ads & analytics platforms, and to allow for greater flexibility going forward. 

Single Source of Truth

Differences in conversion measurement between Google Analytics and Google Ads has caused countless headaches amongst marketers for years now. 

Historically, problems such as differing counting methods, attribution models, and lookback window settings affected the conversion metrics between Google Ads and Google Analytics, leading to two different conversion figures for each platform. 

By changing conversions to key events, marketers can define their own conversion data, streamlining the reporting process and ensuring accurate analysis. 

With an aligned definition of ‘conversion’ across Google Ads and Analytics, you can now, for the first time, view consistent conversion-based performance metrics in both Google Ads and Analytics reports.” – Google

Enhanced Flexibility

Google states that because of the increased unification between Ads and Analytics, creating conversions will be a quicker process than before. 

It’s highly likely that off the back of this change, we’ll soon be able to create Google Ads conversions directly from GA4 – making the overall workflow simpler and providing increased flexibility for marketers. 

How to Mark Events as Key Events in GA4

Prior to the changes, creating conversions meant going into your list of events and marking conversions as such.

Fortunately, the workflow hasn’t changed much. Marking events as key events in GA4 is virtually identical to marking events as conversions previously. 

  1. Set up an event as you normally would, then head to the admin section. From there, click ‘Events’ under ‘Data display’.
  2. You’ll then get a list of your current events. To mark one as a key event, simply toggle the button on the right-hand column. It’ll then show up in your reports as a key event, similar to how conversions did in the past.

What Marketers Are Saying: 

Initial feedback from marketers is mixed. Some are happy about the change and the attempt to create a single source of truth across Ads and Analytics – however many aren’t happy with the change, stating it’s confusing and unnecessary.

Julius Fedorovicius, Founder of Analytics Mania, stated the following in his LinkedIn post following a previous limited trial of the change to key events, which received a lot of negativity from marketers:

Commenters were quick to add that changing long-standing industry terminology is confusing and unnecessary:

Yet despite the initial doubt from many marketers, some are positive about the upcoming changes:

Nate Tower, President at Perril, said the following in a LinkedIn post:

What Google Are Saying:

Kamal Janardhan, Senior Director of Product Management at Google, said in a statement:

In this improved, more unified experience, we are addressing the differences in conversions reporting that marketers have experienced across Google Ads and Analytics, a long-standing request that we are happy to have resolved for our customers.

Now, conversions in the existing report and explore modules will become key events. This way you will be able to define the most important customer actions for your business in Analytics and learn what’s working and what’s not to improve your product and experience across websites and apps.

Kamal Janardhan Headshot

Kamal Janardhan

Senior Director of Product Management at Google

Despite the attempt to align Ads and Analytics metrics, concerns remain about clarity and consistency. 

Ginny Marvin, Ads Product Liaison at Google, was active on her LinkedIn post responding to those who remain unsure about the switch to key events:

GA4 Key Events FAQs

Do I need to do anything to switch to key events?

No – legacy conversions will convert to key events automatically. Conversions shared with Google Ads will be identified as such and are reported on within the Advertising section.

Are key events calculated differently to legacy conversions?

There is no change to how key events are calculated and the functionality remains the same. 

Does the switch to key events affect engaged sessions?

Reporting on engaged sessions (and other behavioral metrics) won’t change, however any legacy conversions are being renamed as key events. 

This means the definition of an engaged session will be updated to ‘a session that lasts longer than 10 seconds, contains a key event, or has at least two pageviews or screenviews’.

Can an event be a key event and a conversion simultaneously?

Yes. Events can be marked as key events in GA4, and will be reported on as such. They can also be imported to Google Ads as a conversion, and will be reported on in conversion performance reports. 

Why can’t I see this change in my account?

The change to key events is a gradual rollout. You can expect the change to be fully rolled out globally by the end of Q2 2024.

Do I need to update Google Tag Manager or Analytics Tracking Code?

No. Legacy GTM setups and tracking codes will work as normal with the switch to key events. 

Looking Ahead

Whilst the jury is still out on whether the change to key events is good or bad, it’s at least somewhat reassuring to know that Google is attempting to lessen the Ads/Analytics divide as GA4 continues to develop. 

Unfortunately however, GA4 is still lacking vital control and transparency over your data. 

Invalid traffic can still skew analytics data, making it difficult for marketers to understand what’s really going on with your site traffic. 

By using invalid traffic protection, you can have greater control and visibility over the traffic hitting your site, and prevent wasted ad spend across your paid ads. Get a free traffic audit and see how much invalid traffic you’re getting. 

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