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.