Explaining Google Analytics 4 Events

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Perhaps the biggest difference between Google’s Universal Analytics (UA) and the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the shift from a Page View based model to an Event based model. Instead of tracking users across websites through what page they visit, an event based model is a reflection of a more modern internet where a website’s content and functions are no longer necessarily divided by individual web pages. GA4’s events allow for a more flexible and customisable tracking and measurement of a website with the trade off of having a more involved setup.

With the extra focus on these events, GA4 now has 4 main broad categories of events:

  1. Automatically collected Events

  2. Enhanced Measurements

  3. Suggested Events

  4. Custom Events

When setting up or viewing the event reports, it may seem that all events are the same, but GA4 actually handles each of these event types differently and there are different setup methods and different parameters that must be sent with each event to get the most out of the analytics platform. In this blog, we’ll give you an overview of each of the event types and how you should approach implementing each of them.

Automatically Collected Events

These events are automatically fired and collected by GA4 through the setup of its configuration tag and require no further work. This makes them the easiest events to track using GA4. They cover the basic events that Google thinks every property should track and is somewhat analogous to the Page View hits from UA.

Some of the Automatically Collected Events are:

  • Click (web)

  • First_visit (app, web)

  • Page_view (web)

  • Session_start (app, web)

Enhanced Measurement

Enhanced Measurement events are an extra set of events that can be tracked using only GA4. They are common events that previously would have to be setup using Google Tag Manager or by a developer on your website. Setting up Enhanced Measurements events may require some configuration and setup, but you probably won’t need a developer to implement them or make any changes to your website. These events include:

  • Page views

  • Scrolls

  • Outbound Clicks

  • Site Search

  • Video Engagements

  • File Download

If you want to learn more about GA4’s Enhanced Measurement, you can read our separate blog on it:

Recommended Events

“Recommended Events” is a bit of a misleading name because they are basically required to get the most use out of GA4. They are also more involved in their setup than the other events, requiring extra information / parameters be sent with them (such as product data with purchases) and will likely either need your website’s platform to have a native integration or have a developer to implement the events. But without implementing them, many of GA4’s main features won’t populate with data, such as the Monetisation / Ecommerce reports.

Also, because GA4 handles Recommended Events differently to Custom Events or any other event type, when implementing Recommend Events careful attention must be paid to the developer documentation as they must have the exact event name and the parameters in the exact format that GA4 expects.

You can find the list of Recommended Events here, but below are some of the ones we think are important for all ecommerce stores to implement:

  • Login

  • Search

  • Sign_up

  • Add_payment_info

  • Add_shipping_info

  • Add_to_cart

  • Add_to_wishlist

  • Begin_checkout

  • Generate_lead

  • Purchase

  • Refund

  • Remove_from_cart

  • Select_item

  • Select_promotion

  • View_cart

  • View_item

  • View_item_list

  • View_promotion

Custom Events

If none of the previous event types covers the specific interaction you want to measure, then you will likely need to create a Custom Event. A custom event can be any event that you want to measure and is the reason that GA4 is a flexible platform. Using Custom Events will likely require a level of planning to ensure you can get the most out of your tracking setup and that it meets your needs.The easiest way to create and send custom events is through Google Tag Manager, but if you want to pass on parameters, you may need a developer to help set those up on your website.

Each custom event can support upto 25 custom parameters, though to gain value from them, they will need to be registered under Custom definitions as either a Custom Dimension or a Custom Metric. There is also a limit on the amount of Custom Definitions per property, with a maximum of 25 User Scoped and 50 Event scoped Custom Dimensions, as well as a maximum of 50 Event Scoped Custom Metrics. Custom Events also won’t show on many of GA4’s standard reports, so to take full advantage of them, you’ll need to use the Exploration reports to create your own custom reports.

When naming custom events, you should stick to the snake case naming convention (lowercase with the use of underscores, e.g add_to_cart) to keep consistent. Similarly, you should avoid using the same name as the other event types, otherwise you may see some odd numbers in your GA4 reports.

And that’s the overview of GA4 events. When setting up events for GA4, we recommend reading Google’s official documentation to ensure your configuration is correct. But if you need further help with GA4 events or anything Google Analytics 4, feel free reach out to us or drop us a line.


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