Using Event Tracking In Google Analytics

Using Google Analytics is a great way to understand your website’s visitors. By default, Google Analytics collects data about the pages a person visits on your site. But, there are actions that a person may take on your website that you may also want to collect data about.

Maybe, you have an opt-in form on your website so people can subscribe to an email list and this form is a vital part of your sales funnel. Or, there may be videos on your site, and you want to know which videos are played the most. This is where event tracking comes in.

Not familiar with Google Analytics? You should probably check out my “Getting Started with Google Analytics” article first.

What is Event Tracking?

Screenshot of the "Overview" page inside the "Events" section of Google Analytics. Shows a line chart of number of events over the month.

Events are a specific action someone may take on your website that gets sent to Google Analytics. For example, there is a popup on this site where you could subscribe to a structured, 6-day email course on Google Analytics. When you submit the form, an event is sent to Google Analytics.

This allows me to see an aggregate view of which channels are sending the most people who sign up for the email course which helps me optimize the experience better.

Instead of a form, you might have a video on your page that you want users to watch. Many video players allow you to send an event when someone starts watching a video and when they watch the whole video. So, you could see the percent of users who watch the video and compare that based on where they came from and which pages they visited on your site.

Using event tracking in Google Analytics is a great way to add data about what actions are happening on your website to your reports. Click To Tweet

If you have a contact form or a “get a quote” form on your site, you could send an event when someone submits the form. This is beneficial when you want to see which acquisition channels are sending the most users that are submitting your form.

Then, you can see how these users go on to make purchases on your sites to optimize and test different strategies for improving the process of taking a new user through the purchase.

The Parts of an Event

Each event has a few elements to it to help you compare and track different types of events. These are the category, action, and label.

Event Category

This is a way to group a set of events together. For example, all of my content upgrades use the category of “Content Upgrades”. This could also be “survey”, “videos”, “pdf”, etc…

Event Action

This is the specific action the user has taken on your site that you want to track. For my content upgrade, I use “download”. For my email opt-ins, I use “subscribed”. Some other examples could be “downloaded”, “play”, and “stop”.

Event Label

Event labels allow you to send over some additional information about the event. If you have more than one of the category on your site, this may be an excellent way to identify which has been interacted with.

An Example

If you have multiple PDF’s on your site, you may use “pdf” as your category and “downloaded” as your action for all of them. You would then use the label to identify each of them. So, for the PDF’s, you may have labels of “My eBook”, “Meal Plan”, and “Case Studies”.

Let’s say you had a video in the header of your website called “Getting Started” and then another video in the content of your website called “Why Use Us”. You could structure your events like this:

  • Getting Started Video
    • Event Category: Video
    • Event Action: Play
    • Event Label: Getting Started
  • Why Use Us
    • Event Category: Video
    • Event Action: Play
    • Event Label: Why Use Us

Reviewing the Data

Screenshot from the "Top Events" page showing the top 3 event categories in a table with a column for total events.

Once you have events being sent to Google Analytics, the events can be seen in the “Behavior” section. In the screen above, I went to the “Top Events” section to see the top events on the WP Health website. You can add a secondary dimension to see where the user came from.

Or, you can click on one of the “Event Categories” to get a report of all the actions within that category. Then, add a secondary dimension to review those actions such as in the screenshot below where I am reviewing just the event of someone clicking the “Start Your Free Trial” button.

Screenshot of a report in Google Analytics with the "Event Action" as the primary dimension and "Source/Medium" as the secondary dimension.

If you are running paid ads, such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads, and your primary objective is to get leads to fill out a form, event tracking is useful in determining which ads or platforms are getting you the most leads for the least money.

How to Use Event Tracking

Since event tracking requires some specific code that is unique to each action on your site, it can be challenging to add event tracking yourself. Luckily, most software and features you use usually have an event tracking option built-in.

For example, I use a WordPress plugin to create content upgrades. In the settings for the plugin, there is an option that I can turn on that allows the plugin to send an event to Google Analytics when someone submits the content upgrade form.

Screenshot of a setting in the content upgrades plugin labeled "Fire a Google Analytics event when content upgrades are submitted".

I use Ninja Forms to create forms on one of my sites. Most form plugins, such as Ninja Forms or Caldera Forms, have settings (sometimes in the free version and sometimes as a paid option) to turn on event tracking.

I also use Drip for some of my email marketing. My opt-in form allows users to enter their email address to subscribe to the mailing list. The Drip settings will enable me to configure an event that is sent to Google Analytics when someone submits the opt-in form.

Screenshot of a setting in Drip labelled "Send an event to Google Analytics upon submission" with a help tip of "Look for events with the event category "Drip Opt-in Form".

Most email marketing platforms have a similar option.

If you are using YouTube videos, you can use the Google Tag Manager to set up a “YouTube Video” trigger.

What’s Next?

The next step you will want to take is to look through the various elements and products you use to see if there are settings for enabling event tracking. For most email list providers, eCommerce platforms, and form builders, there are usually options for turning on event tracking.

Next, if some of the events are part of a secondary or primary goal of the site, you could set up a goal in Google Analytics which would allow you to see the conversion percentage within many of your other reports.

Also, if you are not using UTM’s yet, be sure to check out my “Not Using UTMs? You Should Start Right Now!” article.

Not Using UTMs? You Should Start Right Now!

When you are trying to get visitors to your site from a variety of sources, things can get a little complicated when deciding which marketing channel to focus your time and money. Maybe you are using paid ads, social media marketing, email marketing, and more to drive traffic to your site.

If only 5% of your site visitors are converting to paid users or signing up for your email list, you would probably want to know which source of your site’s traffic is getting the most visitors to take action on your site.

With UTMs, you can:

  • See which links in your emails convert the best
  • See how many people click the link in your email signature
  • See which social media posts create the most customers
  • Group links across marketing channels into campaigns to compare different campaigns
  • And much more!

What Are UTMs?

UTMs (Urchin Tracking Modules) are one of the best tools to see which link is sending the most visitors to your site that are converting. In this case, converting means completing the thing you want them to do the most. That could be purchasing your product, signing up for your email list, or any other goal that you have set.

Using your website analytics, you can track the UTM parameters or components added to the end of a URL. Just getting started with analytics? Check out my “Getting Started with Google Analytics” article.

UTMs are one of the best tools to see which link is sending the most converting users to your site. Click To Tweet

You have probably come across UTMs before as you have browsed the web. The following URL is an example of a URL with UTMs:

http://example.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=campaign_1

In the next image, you can see the Google Analytics for one of my sites. That is the acquisition overview.

Screenshot of "Acquisition" section in Google Analytics showing a few different channels such as Referral and Email.

We can then go deeper into these pages to see how our UTMs compare. For example, in the image below, I examined data from email marketing.

Screenshot from Google Analytics showing a list of campaigns and the sources with mediums.

Parts of a UTM

Diagram showing the parts of a UTM: campaign, medium, source, content, and term.

Each URL will have several UTM parameters added to the end which will be used in a few different ways. Let’s take a look at each part individually.

Campaign

The “campaign” part of a UTM is the name of your campaign or reason for sharing this URL. For example, you might have the main campaign for sharing your homepage. So, you could use “main” or “homepage” as your campaign name. You may also be sharing individual blog posts and use a campaign name such as “intro-to-google-analytics”.

This parameter is for you to identify the URLs when viewing the data in your analytics. Inside Google Analytics, you can compare different campaigns. So, this part of the UTM will be how the website analytics groups different URLs together.

Medium

The “medium” part of a UTM is the type of platform that you are sharing your URL on. For example, if you are sharing a blog post on Facebook, you would use “social” for your medium. If you were using a link in your email marketing, you might use “email”.

Source

The “source” part of a UTM is the platform that you are sharing your URL on. If you are sharing on social media, then your source might be “Facebook” or “Twitter”. If you share this link inside your email marketing, the source may be the specific email such as “welcome-email” or “google-analytics-course-email-1”.

Content

The “content” part of a UTM is an optional parameter that you can use to differentiate between URLs that are using the same campaign, medium, and source.

Another example would be using this to show the different links in the same email. You may send out an email announcing a new feature or sale that has multiple links. You can use this parameter to show the difference between the links using “top-of-email-link” and “bottom-of-email-link”.

Term

The “term” part of a UTM is the final parameter and is also optional. You can use this part when the URL is a part of paid ads to track the keywords. You would enter the keyword that you were targeting to keep track of which subsets of ads were converting the most visitors to your goal.

Example of Usage

Now that you have a general idea of what UTMs are let’s take a look at an actual example of how you can implement these in your marketing. Recently, I hosted a webinar. I sent out several emails and posted many times on social media. I needed to be able to know exactly which link got the most registrations so I can optimize my marketing approach.

In my announcement email, I included three links to the registration page: one at the beginning after mentioning the introduction, one in the middle after some copy about the problem, and then one at the end of the main pitch.

The UTM parameters I used were:
URL: https://frankcorso.me/webinar-register
Campaign: google-analytics-webinar-040317
Medium: email
Source: launch-email
Content: first-link

So, I had three URLs that looked like this:

https://frankcorso.me/webinar-register?utm_campaign=google-analytics-webinar-040317&utm_medium=email&utm_source=launch-email&utm_content=third-link

This URL was for the third link in my email which was:

Screenshot of email that has a link saying "Click here to register".

All three links had the same URL, campaign, medium, and source. I set the content as “first-link”, “second-link”, and “third-link”. After the email, I looked at my analytics and saw that, while more users clicked the third link, more users who clicked the second link signed up for the webinar.

Using this insight (and more gained from the next few emails), I was able to optimize the emails to convert the most users from my email lists to registering for the webinar.

I also used this same technique with social media marketing. I tested several different tweet formats including with images, without images, links at the beginning of the tweet, links in the middle, and links at the end.

I created URLs like this:

https://frankcorso.me/webinar-register?utm_campaign=google-analytics-webinar-040317&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=tweet-2-no-image

Again, the campaign, medium, and source were the same, but the content was different for each tweet. I can then see these values in Google Analytics to see which tweet format converted the most webinar registrations. In my case, tweets with the link in the middle of the tweet with images saw almost 200% more conversions compared to the others.

Reviewing Your Data

Once you started using UTMs, you will want to go to Google Analytics to see how your URLs are performing. To do so, begin by logging into Google Analytics. Next, click on the “Acquisition” link in the side menu and choose the “Overview” option.

Screenshot of Google Analytics showing the "Acquisition" label in the left navigation.

The overview page will list out the main mediums that generate traffic to your website.

Screenshot of "Acquisition" section in Google Analytics showing a few different channels such as Referral and Email.

From the overview page, you can click each of the mediums to look deeper into that medium. Alternatively, you can go back to the “Acquisition” menu and look into the “Traffic” or “Campaigns” submenus to start with other UTMs.

Screenshot from Google Analytics showing a list of campaigns with number of sessions from visitors.

For example, when I want to review the data for one of my campaigns, qsm_plugin, I will go to the “All Campaigns” option and then click on qsm_plugin which brings up this page:

Screenshot from Google Analytics showing a list of sources and mediums with the content for each.

Using the drop-down labeled as “Secondary dimension”, I added the “Ad Content” which is the UTM parameter of content. Using this view, I can compare which links with the same campaign, medium, and source but different contents. For example, in the screenshot above, we can see my link for Quiz And Survey Master’s landing page product provides a bit more traffic compared to some of the other products listed on the addons page. If I scrolled farther to the right, it would show the revenue generated for each of those links.

You can use this same view to review the data from any of your tests.

How to Create URLs with UTMs

Creating these URLs could be extremely difficult and time-consuming to have to type the URL out. Make sure all the parameters are correct every time can be tedious. Luckily, there are free tools to do this for you.

These tools will ask you for the UTM details and then create the URL for you. Google Analytics has its Campaign URL Builder, and Facebook has its URL Builder. I also have used this one by Effin Amazing. You can find many others by searching for UTM builder.

Once you create your URL, you will want to keep the URL somewhere to assist you in using similar URLs in the future. For example, if you are sharing a blog post multiple times on Facebook, you will want to use different content every time. So, you will need to know all the content that you have used before.

Many marketers use spreadsheets to list out each of the URLs and UTMs they have used. This allows them to look up the UTM parameters to see what they have used before.

What’s Next?

Now that you are familiar with UTMs, you will want to start using them every time that you are sharing URLs from your site. To be effective, you need to be consistent with UTMs to accurately track the data in your analytics

Need some more ideas of what to test? Try some of these:

  • Test different formats for your email signature to see which gets the most clicks
  • Test different structures for your tweets to see which gets the most clicks and leads to the most conversions
  • Try using links in various places in your email marketing to see which converts better
  • Test which business card layout drives the most traffic (use a URL shortener such as Bitly to make it easy)
  • Test conversions from presentations that you give in multiple places