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Utilizing Event Tracking in GA4 for Advanced Analytics

Event Tracking in GA4

Google Analytics has long been the standard for website owners and managers to learn about the performance of their digital properties. While the shift from Universal Analytics to GA4 has been a dramatic move, nothing has changed about the popularity of this tool, and there are many exciting new features to explore.

As you get further along in your GA4 journey, you may want to start to fully utilize event tracking to get as much accurate data about your site and your audience as possible. Let’s use the article below to dive into this important topic.

What is Event Tracking in GA4?

Perhaps the most dramatic change from Universal Analytics to GA4 was the shift toward events. Right from the start, Google made it clear that everything in GA4 was going to be based on events – and they weren’t kidding. 

As soon as you have this tool properly installed on your site, it is going to start tracking events. Some of the default events that it tracks include:

GA4 types of events
  • Click. As with most of the events that are predefined in GA4, the name pretty much says it all. This one tracks when a click is recorded in any area of your site. 
  • Page_view. You might think of this as the classic data point that is collected by Analytics. When a page is served to a site visitor, a page_view event will be recorded for that page. The information you collect about which pages are viewed, and how many times they are viewed, will be fundamental to your evaluation of the performance of the site as a whole. 
  • Video_start. If you add video content to your site, you’ll want to know how often those videos are played by your visitors. This event will give you that information, so you can see how visitors are engaging with your content and decide if you should add even more of this type of content to your pages. 
  • Form_submit. Collecting information through forms is a great way to deepen your connection with the audience and hopefully build relationships that lead to business growth. Using this predefined event in GA4 will allow you to see how many times a given form is submitted. 

This list is just a partial accounting of the events that are tracked by default in GA4, but it shines a light on how everything that happens on your site will be funneled through one event or another.

A Deeper Understanding of GA4 Event Tracking

If you are going to get more out of this tool and use it to unlock new growth for your site, you’ll need to understand how events work “under the hood”. Don’t worry if you aren’t a coder – there are ways to manage advanced, custom event tracking without writing any code or hiring a developer to do the job. 

First, you’ll need to understand that events can contain four different components that define how they perform. The four components are as follows:

  • Category. This is the group that you place each event into. You can use categories to make it easier to organize your events and keep track of everything in a tidy manner. As an example, if you have a few different forms on your website that users can fill out, you might create a category for form fills. All of the relevant events can then be given this category when they are created, and you’ll be able to view all of them in one place. 
  • Action. As you might expect, the action is what the event is designed to track. You might be tracking form submissions, as discussed in the previous point, or you could be monitoring how many times a particular file is downloaded. To make your events as easy as possible to track and manage, it’s important to be accurately descriptive when assigning an action name. 
  • Label. The label for each event allows you to go into more detail about what the event does. While not technically required, it’s a best practice to get into the habit of always assigning a label to your events to keep things organized. Labels are particularly useful when you have a batch of events that do similar but different things. Again, the form submission example is a good one – you can use the label field to identify exactly which form each of the events is assigned to monitor. 
  • Value. Like a label, a value is also an optional component that you can use in your events. In this case, you don’t need to feel compelled to use the value field each time, as there will be some instances where it just doesn’t make sense to employ. Where the other three components need to be text, the value event must be an integer. 

Using the component fields properly and strategically can make your life with GA4 much easier. Now that you understand what the four components are and what they are for, you can start to think about how they might be used to give your events structure and accurately track how your site performs and where improvements could be made.

Using Google Tag Manager with GA4

We mentioned earlier that you don’t have to know how to write code to make use of events in GA4 and to collect complex analytical data. The way to make that happen is to use Google Tag Manager to interact with your GA4 account. 

The beauty of Google Tag Manager is the way it puts a buffer between you and the code that runs GA4 and the site itself. Once you get the hang of how to use it, Tag Manager makes it possible to do things like add, edit, and remove tags relatively quickly and easily. Getting deep into the details of how to use Tag Manager is beyond the scope of this article, but that’s a topic worth exploring in greater depth, so you can have more control over your account to get the information you desire. 

Moving Beyond the Basics in GA4 with Custom Events

There is a lot you can pull out of the standard installation of GA4 by just looking at the stats that are reported on the default events. But there are limits to how this data can be applied. If you want to pull out particularly useful insights that can drive your business forward, you’ll want to dive deeper into event tracking customization. 

Before diving into the process of building new events, stop and make sure what you are trying to track isn’t already captured in an existing event. There are many events that come standard in GA4, and those are designed to track common activities on websites that business owners will want to measure. 

Take a moment to browse the full list and see if you can locate something that serves your needs. Not only can you look through the automatically collected events, but you can also check the enhanced measurement events and recommended events. Often, it isn’t necessary to go all the way to building a custom event but doing so isn’t too difficult if that’s what you require. 

A Few GA4 Tips and Tricks

Learning the fundamentals of how GA4 works is essential if you are going to get maximum value out of this tool. In addition to those fundamentals, having a few tips and tricks up your sleeve that you can use to overcome challenges and get the right data is always helpful. 

Let’s wrap up this article with a list of a few tips and tricks that you should find helpful.

GA4 tips and tricks

Lean on the Search Box 

We all know how easy it is to waste a lot of time wading through the data in your GA4 account. You start out by looking for what you need and wind up getting distracted and wandering around this complex digital landscape. To avoid that outcome and to streamline your experience, make a habit of using the search box. It might take a little practice to get the search box to bring back the info you need, but don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t yield the right results at first. Keep fine-tuning your queries and it will start to be a valuable tool. 

Use Engaged Sessions

One thing nearly all websites want to achieve is engaging the audience with their content effectively. You put a lot of time and effort into your content and you want to make sure it holds the attention of the visitor. GA4 can help you understand what types of content are getting the job done and which pieces are feeling short. 

By tracking Engaged Sessions, you’ll be able to see which visitor sessions meet the criteria of leading to a conversion, lasting more than 10 seconds, or having at least two page views. You can then correlate the sessions that meet these criteria to things like what page they initially landed on in order to understand which pieces of content are working best. 

Lean on Google Resources

If you have been in the digital marketing game for some time, you are probably proud of your skills and don’t feel the need for instructional or educational content. No matter how much experience you have with previous iterations of Google Analytics, GA4 is a different beast and you shouldn’t just assume you can figure it out as you go. Getting great results with GA4 will be far more likely if you slow down and invest some time in using the resources that Google has made available. Specifically, the Skillshop modules are a great way to get your head around everything that GA4 can do. 

Explore the AI Insights

Like seemingly every other tool in use today, there is a machine learning capability within GA4 and you don’t want to overlook the value that it can provide. Use the “Ask Analytics Intelligence” button and you will be presented with some ideas and insights that you might not have considered previously. With any luck, some of those insights will inform the digital marketing decisions you make going forward. 

The learning curve associated with GA4 can be a steep one, but it’s worth investing the time and effort to overcome early challenges. Once you know how to leverage functions like event tracking, you can extract invaluable data from this tool and it can drive many future business decisions. 

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About Julie Mamula:

Julie Mamula helps execute campaigns and strategic deliverables in a timely manner and at an exceptional level. She loves using the many concepts and strategies that she’s learned in her 25 year tenure in marketing to make clients’ strategies more successful.

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