Using Events as Goals in Google Analytics

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Event-based Goals aren’t a new feature in Google Analytics, but it’s safe to say a lot of users still prefer old-fashioned Destination Goals over the much more dynamic event goal. It’s true that Destination Goals are often simpler to implement – everyone has Pageviews by default with Google Analytics.

More and more we find that there are just too many cases where a single Pageview doesn’t match the interaction we want to record. Loading a page is one thing, but the interactions that happen after page load can be more valuable to record.

Additionally, many JavaScript frameworks like Angular and React are removing traditional Pageviews from the equation altogether. And if you take a look at how Google approaches app tracking with Firebase, you find there is no metrics associated with a screen view. All interactions are recorded as Events.

Why the Emphasis on Events?

Put simply: Versatility. Events are designed to capture all of the non-pageview stuff that we might be interested in on a site. That includes all the little interactions that happen within pages, like clicks on downloads, or AJAX elements that bring in new content without a reload, links to third-party websites, or plays of videos embedded in the page. Basically, anywhere someone can click, move or view the site, we can track.

Plus, we can get a rich array of information on any of these interactions. Event structure gives us four unique fields of information called the category, action, label, and value. Especially when we variably add information to these values, the possibilities are endless.

Unleash the Power of Event Goals

Ok, so we’ve made the case for Events. But what do we get by using Events as Goals? If Events, in general, give us versatility, Events as Goals give us precision.

This is a good time to mention a key difference between Events and Goals. Events can happen several times per session. Goal Completions only happen on the first occurrence. So lets say you use video views as an Event Goal Completion. A user who watches five videos in a session will count for one goal completion but five events.

Event Value

Event value is a highly underused feature. And while I think it deserves a little more play, it also comes with some responsibility. A lot of marketers avoid this field because it may require a developer to pull dynamic information off the page, or sometimes, a straightforward value is a hard to find. It might be hard to match an accurate monetary value with an interaction. In fact, if we are that confident about monetary value, it’s likely a transaction and Enhanced Ecommerce tracking would be a better solution.

But there are many cases where we can apply a unique value to an event. One case might be lead value. You know all that extensive research you’ve done on cost per acquisition and value per lead? This is a great place to capture that detail and enrich your reporting. Destination Goals allow us to put in a single, arbitrary Goal Value. Event Goals, however, allow us to change this value before we send it to Google Analytics – perhaps based on behavior from the user or the type of event.

Another option is to remove the concept of money altogether. As long as you keep your value measurement consistent across all Events triggering a given goal you can use any measurement you want. These can include:

  • Proprietary lead scoring metrics (pumped in through the Measurement Protocol)
  • Length of time associated with a given interaction
  • The quantity or number selected within a form
  • Scroll depth
  • Values from a calculator or online tool

The Reports, Oh, The Reports

Once you’ve enriched your conversion data with values, you’ve unlocked new level of reporting capability. Many of GA reports are designed to incorporate this data:

  • Goal Values in Acquisition Reports – Ever want to put a value to a traffic source? Adding this value opens you up to a new metrics within your acquisition reporting.
  • Multi-Channel Funnels/Attribution reporting – Access to traffic-level data is one thing, but goal values also introduce the possibility of attribution.
  • Page Value Reporting – It’s one thing to know where users are converting on your site. A metric that evaluates the impact of that conversion begins to provide true insight.

Your Acquisition reports will show goal values as a metric.

You can also use these values for more advance analysis, using the Multi-Channel Funnel reports.

Using All Event Fields for Goal Setup

Beyond the event value metric, we have a lot of flexibility in creating event Goals.

First, you’ll head to the Goals section of your View Settings and create a new, Event Goal.

Because there are four fields for Events, we can use any combination to trigger the goal. Say you have an event category for form submissions and variable info about that submission in other fields. Set up your goal to include any event matching only that category. Then, maybe you want to only count form submissions on a particular lead for. Store that unique form as the action and trigger a goal when the form matches those two conditions.

The real value here is any value left blank in your goal can become variable information in your reporting, revealing more about how and why a user converted.

Last, the naming convention is always important when it comes to Events but it’s crucial to have an established schema for event Goals.

Getting Event Data Into Google Analytics

As I mentioned before, Events can be a hurdle to implement because they require extra effort on your website. But there are a lot of ways to implement Events:

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is currently the most versatile solution for adding Events to your site using their built-in Google Analytics tag template. Any variable you can create within GTM can be added as an event field to bring rich data into your reports.

Recipes

If you’re using GTM, we’ll you’re in luck! LunaMetrics has developed a whole library of Google Tag Manager recipes you can add to a container to quickly begin event tracking on a host interactions from video plays, to scroll tracking, to outbound link clicks.

On-page JavaScript

If you have the development resources, you can use JavaScript to add event code directly to your site. Depending on your GA implementation, this may vary slightly, but the syntax for Universal Analytics looks like this:

If you happen to be using Google’s new Global Site Tag, the code changes and is more customizable. This method gives developers flexibility in attaching Events to link clicks, form submits, AJAX Events or any other onsite element.

Other Ways

Google Analytics offers a lot of flexibility for adding these value to your reporting. This is evident in the host of third-party tools that integrate with GA to share event data. Common examples include call tracking solutions, live chat tools, and landing page builders. These integrations will give a range of information from every click registered on the site to adding in offline information for phone calls.

Google Analytics 360/Salesforce Integration

Just announced – Google Analytics 360 and Salesforce have teamed up to make it easier to capture all of the important stuff that happens after a lead is submitted, like qualifying leads, converting to Opportunities, and closing deals. After setting it up, Salesforce will send data back to Google Analytics in the form of events, importing changes to Leads and Opportunities (with Values!) and connecting to the original user that submitted a lead/contact form.

In order to really make this count, you need to make sure you’re counting these events as Goals – so you can track which channels are performing best: driving the most qualified leads or generating the most value for your company. Rather than just counting which channel drove the most Leads, start saying which channel drove the most successful business.


There it is. You have the knowledge, you have the freedom. Unleash the true power of your web data with Events and event Goals.

Tyler is a Consultant a LunaMetrics. He has a diverse digital marketing background, working in SEO, search advertising, social media and, most importantly, digital marketing analytics. Tyler will tell you his primary goal in life is to keep learning, which is why he feels right at home working in analytics. When he’s not learning about the world through data, he is learning through traveling and cooking.

  • A very good explanation. I have been using events as goals, but I can’t put the process into words better than what you have done here. Great article Jonathan!

  • Antti Nylund

    I hope they would introduce a viable and easy solution to multichannel funnels. I have ran into several funnels that have those pesky options like login for existing users etc. which brake otherwise so nice funnels today.

  • You can use Event Tracking in Google Analytics to track visitor actions that don’t correspond directly to pageviews.

  • Maybe create an advanced segment — all folks that visit /downloads — and then create a custom report that filters event goal — download the report — for only folks in that advanced segment? Not everything you want, but a crude approximation?

  • Peter

    Nice post with an excelent explanation. I do have one question. I’m trying to use some reg.ex. within the event goals, but i can’t get them to function. I now wonder if this is even possible?

  • James

    Is it possible to set up a goal funnel with more than 1 event? ie: user clicks on a flash button —>>> user clicks on another button.

  • How can you track a video ? …for instance a youtube video ? Do you need to use a specific player to be abme to tag the player ?

  • +1 to Cesar Brea. Thank you.

    “Maybe create an advanced segment — all folks that visit /downloads — and then create a custom report that filters event goal — download the report — for only folks in that advanced segment? Not everything you want, but a crude approximation?”

    This is good.

  • Michal

    Hello. Iam a little confused. I was looking forward to try funnels, but what i realy didnt expected – that the funnels will be to set only for fixed static URLs. I have a ecommerce site with seo urls and dynamic URL with each product’s checkout in virtual subpage /product-slug/checkout. I hope they will extend it..

  • Robbin Steif

    Hi Michal. First, this post was about *events* as goals, and we still don’t have funnels with events as the goal (we only get to have a final event goal when using that new functionality.)

    Now that we have gotten that out of the way — you can create dynamic URLs in your funnel and in your goals if you use Regular Expressions. If you are familiar with them, it is easy and if not, not as easy. You can get the eBook, if you need it, on our resources page, http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/resources/

  • Christos

    Please remove that pic from this guy, there are kids coming sometimes.

  • Drew

    Hi Jonathan!

    I know this post is aging, but I have a relevant question:

    Does the Goal URLs report still work when using event type goals? That is, can I still see what page the goal occurred on, even though it was an event (assuming the event occurred on an actual web page with an associated pageview hit)?

    Thanks!!

  • sushant sogam

    Hi Jonathan!

    I just want to know that is landing page a vital role in creating landing page and event tracking in google analytics because we have not created a landing page as such for our website so will this be fine or we need to create a one?

    • Tyler Norris

      Hi Sushant, You do not need a unique landing page to fire events or create goals from events. That’s one of the benefits – they don’t rely on a specific page structure. The only thing you will need is some way to interact with the onsite code – whether it’s GTM, on-page JavaScript or another method.

  • Neha

    Hi Tyler,

    Thanks for this article. I regularly create events in GTM for my clients. They work fine as events but how do I use them to set up event goals? Say my GTM event category is ABC, action & label are variables. Now when I set up goals in GA, do I just put ABC as category and save? Does it work like this?

    Please provide your suggestions,

    Thanks

    • Tyler Norris

      Hi Neha,

      You are exactly right. In the case of “ABC” category, when you add “ABC” and leave the other fields blank, you will see conversions for every event in this category – regardless of action or label. Similarly, you could create a goal that only uses a label of “form completion,” and conversions will occur on any event category or action that includes the “form completion” label. The blank fields act as a wild card to make these conversions more flexible.

  • Tom

    Hi Tyler,

    Awesome post – Thanks. You mentioned about “Events can happen several times per session. Goal Completions only happen on the first occurrence” – It is a bit counter-intuitive to me. Let us say we set a goal as “visited product pages” and if a session visited 2 product pages, we want to see goals completion =2. I believe this is a legit business requirement, and we won’t be able to use goal conversions?

    • Tyler Norris

      Hi Tom, You make a good point. Users can achieve what we call a “goal” more than once and it can be valuable to know that. Overall, the once-per-session rule is a safeguard against artificially inflating what should be considered a KPI.

      In the case of a product pageview, conversion rates could also go well over 100 percent, and we could lose info about the value of our traffic sources and content. This is especially true if a small subset of users views a large number of product pages. GA wouldn’t have a way to weigh that conversion rate, leading to inaccurate assumptions about how well a segment preforms.

      We tend to view key this type of content consumption as more of a leading indicator rather than a conversion. It works great in funnel reporting for example.

  • Ali Senejani

    Great article. Thank you for sharing it and simplifying the process.

  • hi Tyler, first of all its an amazing article, second thing i want to know can somehow we can track which event is responsible for out goals, which we have already created, for example, we have created some goals like – registration, purchase etc, and also created events for some banners, so can we track which event is responsible for a sale or registration??

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