Google Analytics 4 | Setting up Custom Events for GA4

16 March 2023

Have you recently Googled ‘The latest news in Digital Marketing?’…

If you have, you would have seen that the industry is ALL a rage about Google Analytics 4 or ‘GA4’. The end of Universal Analytics is swiftly approaching, that means big changes ahead for anyone in Digital Marketing, and well… anyone with a website!

Corporate trainers in this space are comparing learning GA4 versus understanding the existing UA to the differences between riding a bike and then learning to fly a helicopter… they are completely different beasts, completely different modes of transport, and completely different ways of collecting, analysing and reporting data.

So, while we can’t give you a step-by-step lesson on flying a helicopter, we can try to break down the confusing aspects of GA4 and ensure you get it implemented and collecting data as soon as possible. Oh, and if you need formal help with migrating to GA4 or training for your team, see more about it here.

Let’s start with…


// How does Google Analytics 4 (GA4) work?

Google Analytics 4 works by collecting data from your website or mobile app and processing it to provide insights into user behaviour. But the BIG change here, is HOW it collects and processes that data:

  1. Data collection: GA4 collects data from your website or mobile app using a tracking code that you install on your site or app. This tracking code sends data to the GA4 servers, where it is processed and analysed. But for the majority of people using GA4, tracking code will be your main source of collection.
  2. Event tracking: GA4 now allows you to track a variety of user interactions, such as clicks, form submissions, and video plays, using custom events. These events can be customized to track specific actions that are important to your business and can be as granular as you need to really breakdown the behaviours of your audience.
  3. Data processing: GA4 now introduces machine learning to process and analyse the data it collects. This includes analysing user behaviour, identifying patterns and trends, making it easier to measure the effectiveness of campaigns.Because GA4 is a privacy-first approach to data collection, AI / machine learning will also help fill the gaps where users don’t consent to you using their data online.
  4. Reporting: GA4 provides a range of reporting options, including real-time reporting, enhanced data visualisation, and customisable dashboards. You can use these reports to gain insights that you can feed back into ongoing Marketing activity.
  5. Integrations: GA4 integrates with other Google tools such as Google Ads, Google Tag Manager, and Google Optimize, making it easy to connect your data across platforms and channels. And word from the wise, if you or your team are proficient in using GTM, then implementing events for GA4 will be a WHOLE lot easier.

Ultimately, GA4 provides a comprehensive and flexible solution for collecting and analysing data, allowing you to gain insights into how users interact with your website or mobile app and optimise your marketing efforts accordingly.


In GA4 there are now 4 kinds of events available, including some that are automatically created for you when you first set up GA4:

  1. Automatically Collected Events

Google are aware that this migration to GA4 is going to be a mission for most businesses, so they have made some efficient ways to start using event-tracking. Google have curated a list of automatically collected events for every website, and the list can be seen here.

Now these automatically collected events are the likes of ad clicks, opening a link, or downloading a file. Relatively simple events that can be triggered by a button click or a click action in a mobile app.


  1. Enhanced Measurement Events for Websites

Again, Google have set these up as parameters you can add via GA4 with ease. For example, a pageview, which is now classed as an event. Turn this on within the GA4 interface as needed (see below) when setting up your web Data Stream: 



  1. Recommended Events

Now these haven’t been set up by Google, but Google have given a list of recommended events for websites and apps that would be helpful in understanding audience behaviours. This could include a user logging in or completing a search request using the search bar. They are more detailed and more granular events but can build a strong picture of interactions.


  1. Custom Events

This is where it gets technical, using Google Tag Manager, but ultimately this route allows you to create customised events with more parameters than in GA3 / Universal Analytics. We’ll break this one down further…


// Custom Events – Setting up event-tracking yourself

Manual / custom event-tracking will take you using a combination of your website, Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to create individual events in your new GA4 property, based on the key goals your business needs to track.

A word of warning, this is a very technical task and takes a huge amount of testing and de-bugging before it is all set up and good to go. Hence why so many are partnering with an Agency (like us!) who can assist with this process. But we can break down some basics on the process:


// How to create Custom Events in GA4

To manually set up event tracking in Google Analytics 4 (GA4), you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Define your events: The first step is to define the events you want to track. These events should be specific user interactions that are important to your business, such as button clicks, form submissions, video plays, scrolls down a page, etc. Be as granular as possible with these events so you can really breakdown the behaviours and the psyche of your audience. This is where the true value of GA4 comes alive, and you can really unlock more understanding.
  2. Set up custom event parameters: This is done via Google Tag Manager (GTM) and for each event, you will need to define custom event parameters that provide additional information about the event. These parameters can include things like event category, event action, and event label. This will be key when you have multiple events set up, and you can efficiently report on defined areas of user behaviour or key areas of your website. You can then turn these off and on via GTM and test whether they trigger in the way that you want via the debug mode in GA4. If an event has been triggered, it will show within 10-20 seconds, versus waiting for the data to hit GA4 which could take longer.
  3. Add the tracking code to your website: Once you have defined your events and custom event parameters, you will need to add the tracking code to your website. This involves adding the event tracking code to the HTML element on your website that corresponds to the event you want to track.
  4. Test your tracking: After you have added the tracking code to your website, you will want to test your tracking to make sure it is working properly. You can do this via debug view within GA4, which is a quick and easy way to test and troubleshoot event tracking implementation… what is debug, you ask? It’s a real-time event stream that shows you the events that are being sent to Analytics as they happen, along with information about the event payload.

Manually setting up event tracking in GA4 can be time-consuming, but it allows you to track specific user interactions that are important to your business and gain insights into user behaviour. So, while it could feel like a question of time efficiencies in the short term, long term it will be the difference between unlocking the real value of GA4… or not.

For more guidance and advice on GA4 and migrating from Universal Analytics, make sure to reach out to our team of experts or find out more here. It is a technical and intimidating landscape, but with an award-winning Agency like ours – you’re in good hands!