Event Tracking 101 For Google Analytics

Setting up Analytics accounts has evolved beyond installing “generated” scripts on pages and calling it a day. What started with the advent of software that told us how many “hits” we got a day has evolved into a sophisticated decision assistance engine, and keeping up on the new and cutting edge offers full time employment for many people across the world.

As part of our website designs, many of us feature various graphic “buttons” or images on our site that either link to interior pages, booking paths, or even lead users off-site.

We embed video, or have image links to our social media profiles. Clicks on these images are not recorded well in Google Analytics. We can see that the navigation path went from one page to the next, but how the visitor got there, and which option they took to travel that path, is hidden.

We have issues proving how an orange button on a blue site would receive more attention than a blue button on a blue site. There is no denying the website visitor’s chosen action. If we can use our Analytics to glean that intention, then we can have more insight into what makes our guests buy from our websites, and what stands in the way of those purchases.

Enter: Event Tracking from Google Analytics. By adding a simple piece of code to the link for each image, tab, button, graphic or even text link – we can run easy to read and understand reports on how our visitors are interacting with our websites.

There’s no need to change your scripts, or set a section up in your Google Analytics dashboard. All you need to do is add code to the link, and it automatically starts tracking within your dashboard.

Here’s the code you’ll need to customize to add event tracking to a text link on your site. The elements you’ll need to change are in ALL CAPS.

This code would be used to add event tracking to an image, banner ad or button-type element on your site:

Some vocabulary is probably necessary so we can define how to turn the code above, into event tracking on your site.  Let’s define the different elements of event tracking.

Category – A required element, the category tells you what type of object you want to track.  This could be “Videos” or “Book Online Button”:

Actions – Sometimes, the guest’s action doesn’t necessarily take you to a page on your site, it might play a video, open your availability calendar, or open a widget to let you sign up for the email newsletter.  An action might be “Play” or “Click” or “Click on a Button” versus “Click on a link.”

Labels – A third and optional field, the label can help you further identify where the event took place, or the type of event that took place.  If you want to know how many people clicked the Book Now button on a particular page – you’d use the label to indicate the page you’re tracking in the event.  It would look something like:

You could also use the Label to indicate what color button was clicked, or its placement on a page.

Once you have event tracking setup within the code on your site, the data will automatically start pulling into the “Events” section of your Google Analytics dashboard.

Under the “Content” section in the left-hand column, find “Events.”  Below events, you’ll see the different types of event tracking reports available to you.

Choosing “Overview” gives you a look at the data your event tracking makes available.  You’ll see the event Category report here.  This is where you can start drilling down into what does and does not work on your site.

Click on “view full report” and choose each event category to drill down into the actions and labels under each Category. You’ll see a total of how many times each button, image, link, or ad was clicked on, along with a second metric, Unique Events.

Unique events are important because one user might click back and forth on the same element a few times. Pushing play and pause on a video, or tabbing through some options on a product page would be examples.


Unique events will show you how many visitors triggered a particular event.

  • Is the orange button at the bottom of your page receiving more clicks than the blue one at the top?
  • What would happen if you turned the button at the top of the page orange?

Using event tracking to help you discern which elements are working for your website visitors, and which are being ignored can help you increase your bottom line.

Streamlining your conversion funnels from entrance to payment receipt makes your visitors more likely to use your site again, and more likely to recommend your site to their friends and acquaintances. Event tracking can be the answer.

What functions are you using in Google Analytics to see how your visitors behave on your site, and what actions are you taking to help them along the path from search to purchase? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Beginner | Channel: Analytics | Google: Analytics | How To | How To: Analytics | Search & Analytics


About The Author: is the co-founder of Ignitor Digital, along with long-time colleague Mary Bowling. At Ignitor, Carrie tackles tough technical SEO roadblocks many small business owners don't even know they have. Her experience with analytics and troubleshooting helps her get to the root of issues. When not working, Carrie loves to cook for friends and family, hang out with her pretty awesome kids, and read books that have little-to-no educational value! You can also follow Carrie on twitter, @carriehill.

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  • dbher

    H Carrie

    Thanks for this article. You’ve done a great job explaining the process. I’ve been searching for a simplified way to learn this and so far you have dumbed it down enough for me to understand. I have one more question though if you don’t mind,

    1) I implemented the script in the link and now I’m trying to test to see if it’s working but my GA isn’t reporting anything yet. Would you know how long it usually takes to start getting reports. I’ve clicked on the links that that i’m tracking but nothing is showing up yet. So should I assume there is an error or does it take GA time to report the event?

    2) Other then the original GA tracking js script I put in the section of my page and the snippet i put into the link, do I need to add any other script to help implement the event tracking. I’ve read so many articles on the web about this, some from Google (but they don’t explain it very easily) in fact Google has added a script in additional to the original GA script in the section? Here is what I mean:


    I tried their way but that didn’t work either, my outbound page didn’t load This is driving me nuts. I can’t figure out why it isn’t reporting and my site is such that my goal is to direct my visitors to click on my suggested outbound links thus my bounce rate is high and I need to know whether it’s because they are leaving thru my preferred avenues or on their own so any insight on this would help me greatly

    Thank you so much

  • http://twitter.com/chiragparekhseo Chirag Parekh

     Carrie, thanks for such a great post. Is there any need to call _trackEvent in main Google Analytics code? I mean is there any alteration needed in main GA code? IMO following line will be required.

    _trackEvent(category, action, opt_label, opt_value, opt_noninteraction)

    what you suggest?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/33H3EEZ2UTUADO26E6YDUGJJ5A Kevin

    i want to know how do i video event track kindly describe 


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