Google Ads Event Tracking Made Easy: How to Track Custom Conversions
Custom event tracking is an amazing way to quantify all those valuable actions taken on your website that regular old conversion tracking can’t capture.
In most instances, tracking form fills on your website as conversions is as simple as using the URL from a “Thank You” page and setting up a goal in Google Analytics or Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) that says “hey, this was a valuable action.”
In some cases, though, a valuable action—something you might want to track as a conversion—occurs on a single page; no “Thank You” page means no URL change, and that makes conversion tracking tricky.
This is where custom event tracking comes into play. It allows you to measure the results of some on page action (like, say, a form fill in a light box or a product added to a shopping cart) by wrapping that action in code; upon completion, a conversion is recorded without bringing your prospect to a new page.
It’s super versatile and, in some cases, necessary for account success.
In this post I’m going to walk you through the complete process of setting up custom event tracking for your Google Ads account, from establishing and importing Google Analytics goals to creating your custom event code and, finally, implementing it on your site.
Custom Event Tracking: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?
Event tracking is a way to record certain user interactions on your website. Depending on your business, some of these actions could be worth optimizing for in Google Ads. Some examples of events that can be tracked are:
- Button clicks (the most common, and the once we will be discussing today)
- Adding an item to a shopping cart
- Social sharing
Setting up a custom event to track conversions is not as easy as setting up a Goal using a destination URL (the way most lead gen conversions are recorded) but it isn’t as scary as it sounds.
If you use a lightbox or any other type of dynamic on-page pop-up as the host for a form fill, you’ve certainly asked yourself how to track form fills that are not pushed through to a “Thank You” page. Here is an example of a lightbox form fill pop-up that does not push through to a “Thank You” Page when filled out:
Screenshot courtesy of EveryUSB
Now, some would argue that they do not have a need to create a goal on form fills because they can track leads in their CRM.
While it is important to pull this data into your CRM to collect leads, I would argue that it is equally (maybe even more) important to be able to track these leads as conversions in your Analytics & Google Ads accounts. This is what will allow you to make those essential data backed decisions in your Google Ads account. So basically I’m saying…
Please don’t not implement custom events.
If you’re capturing value (whether that’s new leads or purchases) without the use of “Thank You” pages, custom events are the only way to record vital data that represents performance and, as a result, the success of your business. Once you’ve set up a custom event goal in Analytics and added its code to your site (more on that in a minute), you will be able to track this information in Google Ads. This provides direction as to which areas of your account are successful already and which ones are falling short. Since you’re spending money on advertising, this is, you know, pretty important.
Building and Implementing Your Custom Event Tracking Code
There are a few options when it comes to creating custom event tracking templates but Raven Tools is my favorite (and it’s free $$). Head on over to their free GA Event Tracking Code page to get started.
Don’t be intimidated by the custom form fields: you could literally type in anything you wanted to and it would work. I would recommend inputting text that can help you identify the specific goal you’re creating. This will help avoid any confusion in the future if you happen to build out multiple events.
Only the first two fields, “General Category” and “General Action,” are required for you to be able to move on to the next step.
In my example (above) I used “Form Fill” as the General Category because…you guessed it… I’m tracking a form fill as the conversion. Feel free to use anything you think would help identify the goal. In the past I have used; “Submit,” “Lead Capture,” “Form Submission,” Etc.
In the “General Action” field, I used “Click” because this is the action being taken to trigger the conversion.
The 3rd section, “General Label,” is optional and not needed to move on to the next step. It is helpful however if you have multiple landing pages and you want to track individual goals in Google Analytics for each landing page. It can also be helpful if you offer more than one service/product and want to segment goals out accordingly. In my example I just wrote “Landing Page XYZ.” Try using something that will help you identify the landing page where the goal is taking place.
The “General Value” field is one that I rarely use but can come in handy in certain situations (like, say, Ecommerce). For this example, we will be leaving this blank because each form fill (event action) will be worth the same value to us.
The final field is a drop down that will give you the option to count the click as an interaction or to make the event a “non-interaction.” I always count my event clicks as interactions because, well, what’s the point otherwise?
When all the required fields are completed (or at least the first 2) you will see a code generate directly underneath where you were just inputting your text. It’ll look something like this:
As you can see, your fields have been dynamically added into the snippet of code that will be used on your website.
After this code is generated it needs to be sent off to your developer or whoever oversees the changes to the backend of your website. If you are the implementer of new code, leave this tab open and hang tight.
The code needs to be built into the actual submit button in the form that you are tracking (see the red box below).
Once implemented, this will allow you to track every time someone clicks that submit button as a conversion in Google Ads. Well, as soon as you turn that new, actionable button into a goal in GA, that is.
Creating a Custom Event in Google Analytics
The hard part is over! We built out the code and passed it on to your developer. Smooth sailing the rest of the way.
Head on over to your Analytics account and click on the “Admin” tab in the bottom left-hand corner.
Go all the way over to the right-hand side of the page and look for a flag symbol with the word “Goals” next to it.
Once in here click on “+ New Goal.” In the next step we want to ignore all of the fancy pre-set templates that are offered to us and we want to go down and select the “Custom” option and click continue.
Go ahead and name your goal and then go down and select the “Event” option.
In the next step we are going to have to refer to the Raven Tools window that I told you to keep open. You didn’t close it, did you? (If you did, no matter: just make sure you know the values you entered into the form fill verbatim).
Go ahead and copy the fields that you original filled out in the Raven Tools builder and paste them into the Google Analytics Goal you’re creating so it looks like this:
Note that the text you are entering in Google Analytics must be identical to the text that you or your developer added to your CTA button. This is VERY Important. This is the only way the event will trigger.
Importing Your Custom Google Analytics Goals into Google Ads
First, you’ll need to make sure that your Analytics and Google Ads accounts are linked.
Once linked, open up your Google Ads account, click “Tools”, and then “Conversions” from the drop-down menu.
Once you’ve clicked the “Conversions” button you will be taken to a section that shows all your conversion actions currently in the account. On the left-hand side of this page you will want to click on “Google Analytics” to move on to the next step.
You should see any goals that you have just created as well as any other goals in your Analytics account that you have not imported. Select the ones you would like to track inside of your Google Ads account and click “Import”.
Annnnd that’s it: You just successfully imported your custom event conversion goal from Analytics in Google Ads! Go to your website and run a test conversion to see if it triggers inside of Google Analytics and Google Ads, respectively (note that the sync can take up to 24 hours: be patient before you start troubleshooting).
Between regular URL-based conversions and custom events, you should now be able to track most of the valuable actions being taken on your site.
The more data you have in your Google Ads account the easier it will be for you to optimize and reduce wasted spend; custom event tracking is a scary looking—but relatively simple—way to give yourself more ammo for account optimization. And who doesn’t need that?
Let’s recap. Today you have…
- Built the tracking code for a custom event
- Implemented it on the button for your conversion event (or asked your developer to do it for you)
- Created a corresponding conversion goal in Google Analytics
- Imported it into Google Ads so that you can start tracking leads
And now, you’re ready to start optimizing for more—and more complex—conversion actions. Good luck!