Your Ultimate Guide to GA4 Recommended Events

Part of what makes Google Analytics 4 (GA4) so useful is how customizable it is.

But while you can create custom events to evaluate what’s most important to your business, start with GA4 recommended events. Because there are already many options that provide valuable information for every type of website. 

We’re about to go through an overview of what GA4 recommended events are, the full list of events, and how you can enable them for your property.

Let’s get started. 

Google Analytics recommended events are events (which measure user interactions) that need to be enabled manually but are available to each account. 

There are three other types of events as well: automatically collected events, enhanced measurement events, and custom events.

All recommended events have predefined names and parameters. 

Parameters provide more information about events to provide more context and make the data more meaningful. And they can be adjusted to customize your data.

For example, ecommerce websites can track every action leading up to a purchase. That includes everything from payment information to cart removals.

Almost all businesses can benefit from at least some of them. So, implementing them should be a no-brainer.

And once you’ve set them up, GA4 recommended events will appear in your regular reports.

Google Analytics provides many recommended event options. 

Here’s a full overview:

Event name

Trigger

Parameters to add meaning

ad_impression

Whenever a user is shown an advertisement in your application

– ad_platform

– value

– currency

– ad_source

– ad_format

– ad_unit_name

add_payment_info

Whenever a user submits payment information during the checkout process

– currency

– value

– coupon

– payment_type

– items

add_shipping_info

Whenever a user submits shipping information during the checkout process

– currency

– value

– coupon

– shipping_tier

– items

add_to_cart

Whenever a user adds an item to their cart to buy

– currency

– value

– items

add_to_wishlist

Whenever a user adds an item to a wishlist

– currency

– value

– items

begin_checkout

Whenever a user begins the checkout process

– currency

– value

– coupon

– items

earn_virtual_currency

Whenever a user is awarded virtual currency within a game. It’s most often used for applications.

– virtual_currency_name

– value

generate_lead

Whenever a lead is generated through a form or any other lead capture method

– currency

– value

join_group

Whenever a user joins any social community. It’s mostly used in apps.

– group_id

level_end

Whenever a user reaches the end of a level of a game

– level_name

– success

level_start

Whenever a user begins a level within a game

– level_name

level_up

Whenever a user moves up a level in a game

– level

– character

login

Whenever a user logs into an app or website

– method

post_score

Whenever a user posts a score achieved in a game

– score

– level

– character

purchase

Whenever a user purchases at least one item

– currency

– transaction_id

– value

– coupon

– shipping

– tax

– items

refund

Whenever an item is refunded to a user

– currency

– transaction_id

– value

– coupon

– shipping

– tax

– items

remove_from_cart

Whenever a user removes an item from their cart

– currency

– value

– items

search

Whenever a user performs a search on your website or application

– search_term

select_content

Whenever a user selects some type of content in a website or application

– content_type

– content_id 

select_item

Whenever a user selects an item from a list (such as “related products”)

– item_list_id

– item_list_name

– items

select_promotion

Whenever a user selects a promotion from a list

– creative_name

– creative_slot

– promotion_id

– promotion_name

– items

share

Whenever a user shares content to an external platform (such as a social media website)

– method

– content_type

– item_id

sign_up

Whenever a user signs up for an account

– method

spend_virtual_currency

Whenever a user spends virtual currency within an app

– value

– virtual_currency_name

– item_name

tutorial_begin

Whenever a user begins a tutorial process

N/A

tutorial_complete

Whenever a user completes a tutorial process

N/A

unlock_achievement

Whenever a user unlocks an in-game achievement

– achievement_id

view_cart

Whenever a user views their cart

– currency

– value

– items

view_item

Whenever a user views any piece of content (often for online shopping)

– currency

– value

– items

view_item_list

Whenever a user is presented with a list of items that fall under a specific category

– item_list_id

– item_list_name

– items

view_promotion

Whenever a user views a promotion from a list

– creative_name

– creative_slot

– promotion_id

– promotion_name

– items

Google discusses recommended events in three primary categories: for all websites, for online sales, and for games. So you can determine which ones make the most sense for your business.

You can set up GA4 recommended events by using the Google tag (gtag.js) or Google Tag Manager. 

The Google tag requires you to add code to your website and is a bit quicker if you have developers ready to implement code. You can follow Google’s Developer documentation to go this route.

But Google Tag Manager is a bit more flexible, requires less developer interaction, and enables you to modify everything much more quickly.

For this method, we’re assuming GA4 is set up for your property, that Google Tag Manager is set up on your site, and that Google tag is installed in Google Tag Manager.

Go to Google Tag Manager and Create a New Event

Open Google Tag Manager and click “Add a new tag” in the “New Tag” module.

“New Tag” module highlighted in GTM workspace

You’ll then see the following screen:

"Untitled Tag" screen in GTM

First, enter a name for the event tag. Our event is meant to track all site searches on the homepage while tracking site searches when people search “sweaters.”

Make sure your event name is easily understandable for everyone who will be interested in analyzing data related to the event.

"Search Event - Sweaters - Homepage" event name added

Then, click “Tag Configuration,” choose “Google Analytics,” and select “Google Analytics: GA4 Event.”

“Google Analytics: GA4 Event" selected under "Tag Configuration"

A few new options will open up. Enter your property’s measurement ID in the “Measurement ID” field. (You can add it by clicking the icon to the right of the field if you’ve previously saved it as a variable. Or copy and paste it from the admin section in Google Analytics.)

Next, enter the predefined name of the event you want to track. In our example, we’ll be using “search” as our predefined name.

“search” added as a predefined event name

Now, you’ll need to set up parameters. Click on the “Event Parameters” drop-down to open up a new menu.

“Event Parameters” drop-down

Click on “Add parameter.” 

"Add parameter" button highlighted under “Event Parameters” drop-down

Then, enter “search_term” in “Event Parameter.” And enter “sweaters” in “Value.”

“search_term” entered under “Event Parameter" and "sweaters" under "Value"

Set Up a Trigger

A trigger is what happens on your website or app that indicates the event was completed. And enables tracking for the predefined event.

Scroll down and click on the “Triggering” module to open up the below menu.

"Choose a trigger" menu

Then, click on the “+” sign at the top right of the screen to create a custom trigger.

“+” sign highlighted next to "Choose a trigger"

A new screen should open up. Start by entering a trigger name.

"Search - Homepage" entered as a trigger name

Click on “Trigger Configuration” and select the appropriate type. For this example, that’s “Form Submission.”

“Form Submission" selected under "Choose trigger type" menu

A few new options will appear. Click on “Some Forms.” 

Then, select “Form Classes” in the first drop-down menu and “equals” in the second drop-down menu.

Now, you’ll need to identify the form used to perform a site search by looking at your source code. In our example, we’ll use “search-form.”

Then, click the “+” icon in the bottom right corner.

Adding "Form Classes" equals "search-form" trigger

Now, we’ll specify that this event will trigger on the homepage.

So, select “Page URL” in the first drop-down menu and “equals” in the second one. And enter your homepage URL in the final field.

Adding "Page URL" equals "https://example.com" trigger

Now, save the trigger. 

You’ll end up back on the tag creation menu, so click “Save” in the upper right corner there as well.

"Save" button highlighted in the tag creation menu

Preview and Publish Your Changes

You can see if everything is working correctly by using the “Preview” button on the top right of the “Overview” screen in Google Tag Manager.

"Preview" button highlighted in Google Tag Manager

Enter your website URL and click “Connect.”

"Connect Tag Assistant to your site" window

Your website should open up in a new tab.

After it does, return to the Tag Assistant tab in your browser. Click “Continue.”

Tag Assistant tab in browser with "Connected" message

Head back to your homepage, test your search event, and then go back to the Tag Assistant tab.

Every trigger that has been fired will be visible in the menu on the left-hand side.

Triggers highlighted in the menu on the left-hand side

When you’re ready to push your changes live, click “Submit” back in the main dashboard.

“Submit” button highlighted in the main dashboard

You’ll then be able to add a name and description. And publish the changes. 

You should always verify that events are triggering correctly in GA4. To make sure that you’re actually collecting the data you want.

There are two ways to ensure your event is being tracked—the “Realtime” report (which is easier to use) and the “DebugView” report (which is more powerful).

Let’s go through each one.

Using the Realtime Overview Report

Go to Google Analytics and head to the “Reports” section on the left-hand side of the screen.

“Reports” selected under Google Analytics menu

Then, select “Realtime” to open the “Realtime” report. And find “Event count by Event name” at the bottom.

“Event count by Event name” widget highlighted under Realtime overview report

If your event is being tracked, it will be displayed in this table as “search.” And you can click on it to see more information.

If you’re unable to see the event showing up even after you’ve triggered it a few times yourself, it’s time to investigate.

Using the DebugView Report

The “DebugView” report gives you a lot of powerful tools to carefully troubleshoot your Google Analytics setup.

Start by enabling debug mode.

Now, head over to Google Analytics and go to the admin panel by clicking on the gear icon at the very bottom of the left-hand side of the screen.

"Admin" button highlighted on Google Analytics home screen

Scroll down the middle column until you reach the “Data display” section. And click on “DebugView.”

“DebugView" selected under “Data display” section of the menu

The “DebugView” report will show all events that made it to Google Analytics during your Tag Assistant session within the last 30 minutes. And every event triggered will have a timestamp.

Now, go to your site to start triggering the event to make it appear in this report.

You can then look at each event in detail by clicking on it. 

"view_search_results" event overview in the “DebugView” report

If you can’t find an event in the “DebugView” report, it hasn’t been triggered. So, you’ll have to go back to Google Tag Manager and make changes.

Engagement reports are the best places to measure your recommended events. Because you can easily evaluate specific time ranges and compare event counts.

First, open Google Analytics and head over to the “Reports” section. Which you can find on the left-hand side of the screen.

“Reports” selected under Google Analytics menu

Then, open up the “Engagement” menu and head to “Events.

“Events" selected under “Engagement” section of the menu

And you’ll be greeted with an overview of all events. 

An overview dashboard of all events in GA4

Measure Every Aspect of Your Traffic

Google Analytics 4 recommended events are just one way to measure your marketing efforts. 

You can go beyond recommended events and Google Analytics 4 with Semrush’s Organic Traffic Insights. Which combines data from GA4, Google Search Console (GSC), and Semrush.

Go to Organic Traffic Insights, click “Add new project,” enter your domain, and click “Create project.”

Add a new project to Organic Traffic Insights

In the next window, click on “Connect Google Account.”

"Connect Your Google account" window

Then, log in to your Google account to connect the corresponding GA4 and GSC accounts. And click “Allow” on the next screen.

"Organic Traffic Insights wants to access your Google Account" screen

Now, go through the “Google Analytics” and “Google Search Console” sections in the setup wizard. And click “Location and Device.”

"Connect Your Google account" setup window in Organic Traffic Insights

Finish configuring your settings. And click on “Go to Organic Traffic Insights.”

"Choose Location and Device" setup window in Organic Traffic Insights

You’ll now see a dashboard showing which keywords drive traffic, your webpages’ overall performance, and much more.

Organic Search Traffic dashboard

Evaluating the metrics you see here can give you a holistic view of your website’s performance. Which can help you make decisions to improve your results. 

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