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Oct 05, 2022 BY Cassandra Hansen, former Mighty Citizen Marketing, Web Development

Setting up Events in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

Note: This article is more technical, intended for marketers and communicators who are already proficient or familiar with Google Analytics.

Earlier this year, we published an introduction to Google Analytics 4 (or GA4)—a major update to the tool that will change the way you read and perceive your data. For a high-level overview of everything happening or coming down the line with this update, we recommend starting here:

Mighty Insights

Insights, delivered.

If you’ve been anticipating this change, you may know one of the main changes is that events now have a higher tracking priority than sessions. Previously, events had to be set up individually using the site tag or Google Tag Manager. GA4 uses an event-based data model, meaning that everything—every interaction, click, and scroll—is automatically sent to your reports as an event.

Ultimately, the GA4 update allows for more flexibility and customization. Where the old version had a three-level hierarchy (category, action, and label), GA4 events can have up to 25 parameters. Parameters can add more context to the behavior of your website’s users. They can help depict the what, why, and how behind your users’ behavior.

In Any Event

In GA4, Google will recommend events and parameters for you to track. You can also get creative here and create custom events and parameters for more precise or specific analysis. For example, you may want to add additional parameters like donor type or donation amount on an event tracking donations. Or, maybe you’re tracking pageviews on an article and want additional parameters for article title or content category. When deciding which events to track, make your considerations in the following order:

  1. Check if the event is collected automatically

  2. Then, check in enhanced measurement events

  3. If it isn’t in enhanced measurement events, check recommended events

  4. If you still have no luck, you can create a custom event

Automatically Collected Events

Automatically collected events are events that Google Analytics collects by default when you set up the Google tag, the Google Tag Manager snippet on your website, or the Google Analytics for Firebase SDK in your app. These events are triggered by basic interactions on your website—like ad impressions, clicks, pageviews, etc.

Enhanced Measurement Events

Enhanced measurement events are events that Google Analytics collects from websites when enhanced measurement is enabled within Google Analytics. Think of events like scrolls, outbound clicks, and file downloads. In GA4, enhanced measurement is enabled by default under the “Data Streams” section in “Admin”.

Recommended Events

Google provides a list of recommended events, along with specific lists for online sales, and games. These events aren’t sent automatically because they require additional context. You can use these as-is, or as a starting point to modify the event you would like to track.

Custom Events

Setting up custom events is similar to creating recommended events, but you will need to create your own event name. You set the parameters, so you can measure data and user behavior that is important to your organization.

Download The Guide: Building Custom and Recommended Events in Google Analytics 4

We’ve developed a how-to guide that walks through how to use the Google tag to set up both recommended and custom event tracking for your website. Download today to get started:

Modifying Events

If you ever need to change or create new events based on ones you’ve already created, you don’t necessarily need to touch the code again. Instead, you can do it in the configuration section of GA4 (Analytics Configure > Event options).

There are plenty of reasons why you’d need to edit your existing custom and recommended events. There may be a typo, a need to narrow down scope, or even just for the sake of standardizing nomenclature as you create more and more events.

In the Configure > Events section of GA4, you have two options for editing events:

  1. Modification: When you modify an event, it overrides the existing event. Here, you can simply add or delete parameters. Be careful—you don’t want to throw off existing data by overriding it! Instead, you could create an event based on an existing one.

  2. Create an event based on an existing event: When you create an event in the configure section, you can base it on an existing event and it won’t override that event. Instead, you can copy over all the parameters and conditions, adjust what you’d like, and save it as an entirely new event.

Currently, you can modify up to 50 existing events and create 50 more based on existing events. Keep in mind that any event you modify or create will not apply to historical data. Read more about modifying your events in the configuration section from Google.

Testing Events

To test your events in GA4, you will need to navigate to your debug view. To generate a real-time report that can be tested without firing events, click Configure > DebugView. Next, go to your website and complete steps to trigger the event, then check your DebugView and confirm it was triggered. Learn more about testing your events in GA4.

Best Practices + Recap

Remember—don’t jump right into creating custom events! First, check if your event is already included as an automatically collected event or enhanced measurement event. If it’s not available as either, then consult Google’s list of recommended events. Lastly, create custom events if not available otherwise.

Conversions (previously referred to as “goals”) are created differently in GA4. To start tracking an event as a conversion, you can toggle “on” an event under “Events” within “Configure”. However, keep in mind that from that point, all events moving forward are treated as conversions. If you want to track a specific subset of an event as a conversion, you can use the Create Event feature in GA4.

Mighty Citizen Can Help

Need some assistance getting your events squared away in Google Analytics 4? Our team of digital marketing experts can set you up on the new platform so you can get to tracking the data you care about. Drop us a line—we’d love to chat!

Stay tuned for more GA4 resources from us, and sign up for our monthly newsletter so you never miss a beat!


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