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How to set up goals in Google Analytics 4, and what are the differences from Universal Analytics

Universal Analytics was recently “unplugged from the matrix” and stopped accumulating data. While this didn’t affect all accounts immediately from July 1, Google officials said all Universal Analytics accounts have already been “queued”. Therefore, clear instructions on Google Analytics 4 became even more necessary. In this article, Katerina Nikolaeva, Head of Analytics at Inweb digital agency, tells how to track events and conversion events — the analog of goals in Universal Analytics.

In addition to tracking user traffic, analytics was and is an excellent tool for analyzing their interactions with the site: clicks, form submissions, transactions, and other micro and macro conversions. The method of data collection is based specifically on events in the new analytics. Viewing pages is the page_view event, even a session is based on the session_start event. Let’s see what this leads to next.

Setting up event tracking in Google Analytics 4

Setting up event tracking in GA4 has become much easier. The event tracking was done either with code or by using Google Tag Manager by sending a category, action, and event label in the old version. While there is a new way of tracking, these two have been simplified as well in the new analytics.

Tracking events in the Google Analytics 4 interface

Some events are captured automatically by the advanced statistics functions. These are now available thanks to the new event-based data recording principle. Enhanced statistics is the tracking of events and their parameters during basic data collection, which does not require additional settings.

Tracking events in the Google Analytics 4 interface

Enhanced Statistics is active and captures the following events by default:

  • page view (event name: page_view);
  • scrolling (event name: scroll);
  • click on outbound links (event name: click c параметром outbound: true);
  • site search (event name: view_search_results);
  • video interaction (event name: video_start, video_progress, video_complete);
  • file upload (event name: file_download).
Google Analytics 4, improved statistics

Additionally, there is an option to enable tracking of form interactions, by which the start_form and submit_form events are sent. However, the latter does not work perfectly.

Some of the events that are worth setting up yourself are calls. Be sure to feed this kind of data into Google Analytics 4 if you get at least some of your customers calling you.

How to do it:

  • connect call tracking;
  • enable its integration with Google Analytics 4 — for example, Ringostat has this connection available by default in your personal cabinet;
  • set up goals for different types of calls: missed calls, received calls, targeted calls, calls via callback, etc. — Ringostat technical support can help with this.

You will see in Google Analytics 4 which advertising sources are generating calls. This will help you better understand which ads are performing better and optimize less successful campaigns. We also recommend reading the article “How to track calls in Google Analytics 4, and why do you need to”.

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Based on the standard events, you can create your own events based on their parameters directly in the Google Analytics 4 interface under the Configuration tab.

Google Analytics 4 interface in the Configuration tab

You have the option to modify an event here and create a new one.

Event Modification — modify an existing event — overwrite with added, edited, or deleted parameters.

Google Analytics 4, event modification

Be careful with modifying events. Do not modify standard events, as this may break data collection. Use modification when, for example, you need to make an event look like a recommended event. This will be discussed next. Let’s say change the name to match the recommendations, as in the picture above.

Event creation is the direct creation of a new event based on the event coming into the analytics. There is no overwriting of existing events.

Google Analytics 4, creating an event

It will be similar to creating an event trigger at the same time as its sending tag for those who worked with sending events to the old analytics using Google Tag Manager. That is, this functionality partially replaces Google Tag Manager. 

Set specific conditions to create a new event, for example, a click on a phone number like in the picture, or a form submission, if advanced statistics correctly track it. You can view them in DebugView mode in the Google Analytics 4 interface:

Google Analytics 4, DebugView

So we set the condition that when event_name = click and the link_url parameter contains ‘tel:’ send the phone_click event.

This functionality actually has a lot of possibilities. Read more in the help.

Another option for customizing event tracking in the Google Analytics 4 interface is to send an event when a user hits a configured audience. For example, sending a blog view event:

Google Analytics 4, audience creation

Sending events from site code

Sending events from the site code has not changed in its mechanics. If your GA4 counter is installed in the site code via Global Site Tag, sending events follows this scheme:

gtag('event', '<event_name>', {
'<parameter_1_name>': <parameter_1_value>,'<parameter_2_name>': <parameter_2_value>,'<parameter_3_name>': 

Read more here. All e-commerce events are sent in the same way.

Tracking events with Google Tag Manager

The configuration of event tracking with GTM remains unchanged. Perhaps it is now made easier by the fact that only events, and no actions or categories, are sent to Google Analytics 4. 

There is a new tag type in Google Tag Manager for the new analytics — GA4 Event:

Tracking events with Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics 4

Specify In the configuration of this tag the ID of the data flow in Google Analytics 4 and write the name of the event. And, of course, select or create the required activator. 

You can also pass your own parameters with events. For example, for the form_submit event, create a form_name parameter where the form name will be passed.

Recommended event names

Google Analytics 4 has a list of events, which is essentially a list of names when configured. Use it for the correct operation of the analytics system. If your action is similar to the recommended action, take the name from this list. This is important.

If the name does not match, give the event an arbitrary name in Latin, with no spaces or symbols except for the underscore. For example, in this format — event_name.

Creating conversion events (ex-goals)

NOTE: Google Analytics 4 does not have goals. But there is an option to mark necessary events as conversions to display them in the corresponding reports.

Creating conversion events is done in one click. Activate the switch against the required event in the Events tab of the administrator:

Google Analytics 4, creating conversion events

Another option is to enter the name of the event you plan to track in the Conversions tab. To do this, click the “New event-conversion” button:

Google Analytics 4, a new conversion event

Make sure that the name of the tracked event is entered correctly. If there are extra characters and wrong case, the conversion event will not be counted.

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Distinguishing Universal Analytics goals from conversion events in Google Analytics 4

Goals in UAEvents-conversions in GA4
Configuring event trackingCustomizing with GTM using GTM with GTM.Sending events from the site code.
Automatic events: advanced statistics functionality.
Customization in GA4 interface: modification, event creation, audience trigger configuration.
Customization with GTM.Sending events from the site code.
Event ConfigurationCategory.Action.Label.Event — name of the event.Parameters. Limit is 25 per event.
Limit on the number of events500,000 events per user.500 events per user per day.Other current limits are here.
Types of goals (conversions)Destination — view specific page(s) by URL. For example, /thank-you.
Pages/Screens per session — the number of pages to view. For example, 3 pages.
Duration — time on the site. For example, >3 minutes.
Event. For example, event_category = form, event_action = submit.
Event. Only by the name of the event, for example, form_submit.
Incorporating events as goals (conversions)Customized in the Goals functionality, at the view level — individual settings for each type of goal.One-click customization: activate the switch against the desired event in the Events section at the resource level.
Event debuggingA real-time report on the targets was used for validation.There is a convenient functionality  DebugView for checking the processing and customization of events and event-conversions.

Events-conversions in reports

The new interface is a quest for those who are used to Universal Analytics. Here are some examples of standard reports that can provide information on conversion events.

The interactions tab contains a standard report on conversions that have worked out:

Interaction tab in Google Analytics 4

The standard report contains the following indicators:

  • number of conversions; 
  • number of users who made a conversion;
  • profit, if it was set for the event.

You can change the date range, do comparisons to other periods, create comparisons (previously segments) and compare them to each other in this report as you would in any other report:

change the display of goals-events in Google Analytics 4

A report on traffic acquisition will also be useful:

Google Analytics 4, traffic acquisition report

You can select here the conversion whose data you want to show:

Google Analytics 4, conversion settings

Also change the breakdown parameter to the familiar source/medium, for example:

Google Analytics 4 source/medium partitioning parameter
Google Analytics 4 source/medium partitioning parameter

More reporting information in GA4 — more useful data to grow your business.

About author

Editor of the Ringostat blog. Author of articles for the media about digital and big portals about business. Studied journalism at the Odessa National University named after I. I. Mechnikov.