Google Analytics is used as a reporting tool by millions of businesses and websites to track visitor interactions across web domains and mobile apps. Most businesses know this platform as the tool that helps them track the number of web traffic they get, monitor important marketing channels and measure their main KPIs. And now Google is offering a new version that’s Google Analytics 4, which is very different from the normal “Universal Analytics”. The latest Google Analytics platform (GA4) includes expanded predictive insights, deeper integration with Google Ads, cross-device measurement capabilities and better data control.
Its main goal is to shift the way data is shown to focus on users, mainly the user journey from the first visit to final conversion. Event tracking is one of the most powerful features of GA4. Events aren’t tracked by default with Universal Analytics (Google Tag Manager is required), but the default tracking approach is with GA4. These events are the main way that data is presented within the new Google Analytics. Google Analytics 4 was introduced as an event-based analytics tool where everything is an event – whether it is a page view or a sale.
What Are Events?
Events are user interactions with content that could be measured independently from a web page, according to Google. Examples of events include downloads, link clicks, form submissions and video plays. The data seen in Google Analytics 4 reports comes from events that are triggered while users interact with your website or app. For instance, a page_view event is triggered when a user views a page on your website.
The Universal Analytics (UA) data collection model depends on sessions and pageviews. The UA property collects data based on visitors arriving on the site to start out a “session” then automatically collects data each time a new page loads up as part of that session (the “pageview”). By default, GA tracks only page views across your properties. While you can customize it to track additional interactions as events, doing so requires more advanced knowledge of event tracking and Google Tag Manager.
Things are different when we compare GA4 with traditional analytics (Universal analytics). Unlike UA, GA4 does not measure things based on sessions and pageviews. Instead, GA4 measures an assortment of various events to understand user behaviour. In fact, it’s fair to mention that everything is an event with GA4. With “Enhanced measurement,” you can automatically collect scroll data, outbound clicks, video engagement, file downloads and more.
How Events Work in Universal Analytics (UA)
There are four different components that we can send along with every event in Universal Analytics. Here are those parameters:
- Event Category (Required) is the name that you give the elements you want to track (e.g. Form submission, buttons, PDFs).
- Event Action (Required) is the type of interaction you want to record, such as clicking on a button, downloading a file.
- Event Label (Optional) is supplementary information about the event such as video title
- Event Value (Optional) can be used if you’d like to assign a numeric value to your tracking element.
There are two ways to set up the event tracking – either manually (this takes a little bit of extra coding knowledge) or using Google Tag Manager (this requires little to no coding knowledge – recommended).
You’d see the Event Category first when you open the Universal Analytics event reports. Then you can click it and drill down deeper to check action and then label. When the event fires on the website, you can use the attributes ‘Category’, ‘Action’, ‘Label’ and ‘Value’ to help you understand exactly what the user engaged with.
How Events Work in GA4
Compared to Universal Analytics, the data model in Google Analytics 4 is much more flexible. There are less restrictions and required fields/parameters compared to Universal Analytics. In GA4, the naming convention is more flexible and it solely depends on the implementation of the tracking.
In GA4 properties, we define an event name, which carries with it up to 25 parameters. Parameters are extra pieces of information tied to the event. For instance, the page_view event is sent to the reports with page_location and page_referrer parameters. With the page_location parameter, you can see the URL of a page that someone viewed, and the page_referrer parameter sends the URL that a user viewed before the current page.
In GA4, events are split into 4 categories:
- Automatically collected events
- Enhanced Measurement events
- Recommended events
- Custom events
1. Automatically Collected Events
When you add the GA4 tag to your website it will automatically track some events when someone views a page. Following are the three website events that are automatically collected and recorded within Google Analytics 4.
session_start: This event fires when a user engages and starts a new session with a website (or app).
first_visit: This is the first time the user visits your website or launches the app.
user_engagement: According to Analytics Mania, this event fires 10 seconds after a user has stayed on a page. Evidently, it is how Google Analytics defines at least a moderate level of on-page engagement.
2. Enhanced Measurement Events
Enhanced Measurement allows you to choose to turn particular automatic events ‘on’ or ‘off’ depending on what you like to see in your reports. This feature is enabled by default and will automatically track the following events:
Page view (event name: page_view)
Scroll (event name: scroll)
Outbound link click (event name: click with the parameter outbound: true)
Site search (event name: view_search_results)
Video Engagement (events: video_start, video_progress, video_complete)
File Download (event name: file_download)
Recommended events are designed to give you a starting point for anything custom you want to track in GA4. They are grouped based on industries, but you can use any recommended events that fit your requirements. When you want to pick the name (and the parameters) for your event, first check the automatically tracked events (maybe those events are already being tracked), then check the Enhanced Measurement events. If none of those events cover your case, examine the list of recommended events. Google has published several recommended events for different industries:
- Generic (Events that apply to all websites and apps)
- Retail and Ecommerce
- Jobs, education, local deals, and real estate
If you wish to send an event and it’s not found among the automatically tracked events, Enhanced Measurement, or Recommended events, you can create custom events.
The configuration of Custom events is almost like that of recommended events. A sole difference is that you should come up with your own event names.
For instance, if you need to track clicks on a CTA button, the name of the event can be any of the following:
- cta, etc.
- Or anything else.
Limits with Google Analytics 4 Events
- You can track 500 unique events.
- Each event name can be a maximum of 40 characters.
- You can send 25 parameters with each event.
- The name of each parameter can be a maximum of 40 characters and the value of the parameter can be 100 characters maximum.
- You can register 50 text-based parameters and 50 numerical parameters from your events. You should register a parameter to make it available in reports. (You can also register 25 parameters that are user-scoped).
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