Original Post was written by Joe Vernon. Updated 6/4/2014, 6/1/2015, and 05/15/2020 (with updated information and additional event tracking resources at the end of the post)
We’re data nerds and always have been. There’s nothing more satisfying than discovering a solid trend for a client in what can seem like an overwhelming amount of data. Luckily for us, we live in a data-driven marketing age and Google Analytics provides a never-ending supply of info about how visitors behave online.
Interpreting this data to determine if your website is meeting your marketing goals can be overwhelming at times. Plus, looking at traffic types, demographics and devices alone doesn’t tell the whole story about your users and certainly doesn’t do much to improve your conversion rates. The key to unlocking this new data dimension is Event Tracking. Event Tracking, with Google Analytics, is a super-effective way to understand the behavior of users and gain insight into how your website is directly providing value to your business. Using Event Tracking, you can obtain detailed information about how people are interacting with elements on your website and track individual actions on each page. If you’re not already set up with Event Tracking, here’s a useful video overview and some tips to help you take full advantage of this tool.
So, what exactly is Event Tracking?
Event tracking with Google Analytics gives you information about specific events, which can relate to virtually anything on your website. This is not just a way of seeing how many people visit your website or follow a link from Facebook, it gives you a much deeper insight into specific events and actions a user could take. You can define an event as anything you want—from a single button click on a footer or a video play, to a more general page view. It’s up to you to set up events based on what you want to track and what you’re keen to gather more information about.
If you’re not familiar with Event Tracking or you’re not using a content management system, we recommend reading through Google’s guide to tracking to make sure that you’re sending the right information to Google and everything is deployed with up-to-date requirements.
We have actually built an Event Tracking plugin for WordPress (check out this related post) which makes life easier for those hoping to track events on their web pages. Once you’ve installed the plugin, you can add events based on what you want to track with little to no development assistance. Our plugin has default settings for users, which are basic selections that are likely to be useful for most people. Some of the defaults include tracking contacts through email address clicks, phone calls, PDF downloads, form submissions and more. Beyond that, you can also add custom selectors and choose your own categories, actions, and labels. Pretty cool huh?
How do I set up Event Tracking?
Step One: Decide What Action to Track
When thinking about what you want to track, return to your marketing goals. Let’s say you’re a mortgage broker and you just put up a new whitepaper about the recent mortgage law changes that you want people to find and download. This would be a great action to track.
Step Two: Add the Code
This code will need to be added within a link on your site. Here is the basic code that you will need to start with (for the async tracking code of Google Analytics):
- onClick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘Category’, ‘Action’, ‘opt_label’, ‘opt_value’]);”
If your site is using Universal Analytics (most common), you’ll need to use this code:
- ga(‘send’,’event’,’category’,’action’,’opt_label’, opt_value)
There are a few variables that will change with each different event you track:
Category – grouping events into desired tracking groups
Action – the action the user takes
Label – to differentiate this event among the others (optional)
Value – perceived dollar value of event (optional)
In our example of wanting users to download a whitepaper, we’ll change the following:
The new custom code should now look something like this:
- <a href=”http://www.desiredlinkhere.com” onClick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘downloads’, ‘click’, ‘whitepaper’, ‘0’]);”> Name of Link Here</a>
Step 3: Connect Your Events to Goals (Optional)
Once you have Event Tracking installed, you can set up goals for your website by using the admin panel. This is a customizable feature and you can choose any kind of goal that is relevant to your campaign or marketing efforts. A custom goal can be a group of events, a simple URL destination, or another specified behavior. Try to create goals that inform an action in your customer’s journey (i.e., a “thank-you” page or PDF downloads) and gives you insight into the performance of your site. If you do plan on using events with goals, it’s essential to make sure that you pay attention to the categorization and labeling of events. It’s important to try and stick with a consistent naming convention for all events you create.
Here’s how to get Event Tracking synced with your Google Analytics Goals:
- Go to the admin panel and make sure that you are in the correct Analytics View. Select ‘Goals’ under the far right-hand column.
- Create a ‘New Goal’ and select ‘Custom’ (not a template for today).
- Name your goal and set the type of goal to be event based.
- Add the appropriate event conditions and you are good to go!
How do I see the results?
Once you’re up and running, we recommend creating yourself a nice dashboard (check out our five reasons why we love Google Data Studio). You can also just switch over to Google Analytics and if you click on the ‘Behavior’ tab then over to ‘Events’ and ‘Overview’, you can look at the events you have tracked and see how they’re performing. If you click on the ‘Action’ and ‘Label’ tabs, you can get even more details on the type of event and overall performance.
Once you’ve got events set up, you can continue to use the overview page as a point of reference and use individual tabs to analyze your top events. You can also get a more detailed analysis of where your events are happening and the most common actions by using the secondary dimension. For example, you may be interested in what’s going on from Facebook traffic or how many link clicks are coming from Google.
We hope that you found this article on Google Analytics Event Tracking helpful! Be sure to subscribe to our marketing blog to stay up to date on all digital marketing and web design trends.