When viewing Google Analytics reports, I constantly need to remind myself of the difference between goal conversions , goal completions and e-commerce transactions (may be its just me that gets confused..!). Whatever, I thought I would share my clarification.

One obvious difference is that a transaction is associated with an e-commerce completion (a purchase) while a goal conversion is considered a non-ecommerce event, such as a PDF download, a form completion or visit to a special offers page. Of course these examples are all conversions, which is where I think confusion lies.

Explanation: The most important difference as far as Google Analytics is concerned, is that a goal conversion can only happen once during a visitor session – that is, a visitor can only become a customer (convert) once and that makes sense. So, if one of your goals is set to *.pdf for example (any PDF file download), then should a visitor download 5 PDF files during their session, it will only show as one goal conversion, for that particular goal, in your Google Analytics reports.

You can obtain the number of goal completions (5 in this example) from your Content > Top Content report – assuming you are tracking pdf downloads . Similarly, the number of transactions are counted in full within your eCommerce reports.

Where you see the discrepancy is when your transaction is also a defined goal conversion – you would do this for funnel analysis. It is likely that the number of goal conversions is less than the number of transactions because any multiple transactions from the same visit are not counted.

Tip: Track conversions as if transactions

For sites that contain many types of file downloads and/or you use wildcards in your goal configuration, tracking the number of conversions can be misleading – as in the PDF example above. For this scenario, you could enable pseudo e-commerce tracking – that is, track a conversion as if it was a product transaction. In that way, each download/goal is considered a transaction which may be more relevant than tracking a visitor conversion.

Consider also the standard goal value assignment within the GA configuration that allows you to monetise goals. This is very useful, however the same value is set for all conversions. The pseudo e-commerce method overcomes this limitation as each download can be monetised differently, just like a product purchase.

The article – Monetizing Non-Ecommerce Sites is listed on the Conversion University web site.

[*** Updated April 2008: The Advanced Web Metrics book has a more complete and detailed description of how to monetise a non-e-commerce web site and has been completely revised for the ga.js GATC ***]

Was this article helpful or is it just me that needs reminding of the Transactions v Goal Conversions v Goal Completions difference? Share our thoughts by adding a comment.