Google Analytics is a powerful tool for understanding your website’s traffic. However, if you don’t have a good tracking plan in place, you’re missing out on a lot of valuable insights. In this guide, we will show you how to create a professional Google Analytics 4 tracking plan that will enable you to get the most out of your data.
Table of content:
Why does a tracking plan help with Google Analytics 4?
The Google Analytics 4 data model is different from the old Google Analytics (Universal). The difference is based on the structure of events.
In the old model, the events consisted of a category, an action, and a label.
The Google Analytics 4 model consists of an event name and event properties.
For Google Analytics reporting Google automatically creates default events. These are Page View, Screen View, and User Engagement Events.
However, Google Analytics also enables you to define your custom events and properties for a wide range of purposes including e-commerce tracking, scroll depth tracking, file downloads, and more. This is where the Tracking Plan comes into play.
Nothing stops you from just implementing a random number of custom events just as they come up. But believe me, this becomes quickly a setup no one understands and can find the relevant events. Google Analytics does not provide any kind of event management, so it is up to you to keep everything organized. This is why a Google Analytics 4 tracking plan is important. It helps you define what events are relevant for your Google Analytics setup and how they should relate to each other in terms of properties and values.
What do I need to consider when creating a Google Analytics 4 tracking plan?
Before you start creating your Google Analytics tracking plan, there are a few things you need to take into account:
- Business Model
- Goals and Objectives
Once you have an understanding of these three factors, you can start creating your Google Analytics tracking plan. In the following sections, we will give a bit more details about these three subjects.
What are your business entities and actions?
Write down all the entities that are important for your business. Let’s take an online shop as an example. An online shop usually has these business entities and actions:
- Product (Actions: viewed, clicked, added to cart, purchased)
- Checkout (Actions: started, step submitted, finished)
- Order (Actions: submitted, created, approved)
- List (Actions: viewed, sorted, filtered)
Now for each entity and action, you need to think about what properties and values these have.
For example, a product can have the following properties: ID, Name, Brand, Price.
Tip: Create a spreadsheet and add a sheet for each entity, list all actions as columns. Now you can add all properties that apply to all events and the ones that are specific for each action.
What are your business goals?
It’s important to define what kind of major goals you are planning for the next 12 months. Google Analytics can help you track whether you’re making progress towards these goals or not. And they help you to define the right tracking events, so you can measure your goals and optimize them.
Some example business goals could be:
- Increase checkout funnel conversion by 50%
- Increase avg. cart value by 30%
- Double online sales within 12 months
Once you have defined your major goals, define the right metrics to measure the goal:
- totals & conversion rates for checkout events
- order: order total value
- totals for conversion events
This is a good final check if you already have the right tracking events in place to calculate these metrics. As it appears when we define entities & actions like above you have the right ones in place.
What are Event attributes in Google Analytics
In Google Analytics, an event is defined by an event name and a set of attributes. Event attributes can be string, number, or boolean values.
When you define your custom events in Google Analytics, it is important to use the right attribute names. This will make sure that your data appears correctly and is easy to understand for people using the Google Analytics reports.
Keep in mind, once you track events with custom attributes, to show up in Google Analytics 4 reports, you need to create a custom dimension for it in Google Analytics and define which attribute gets assigned to this dimension.
When you export your data to Google BigQuery, all custom attributes are added automatically. The assignment to custom dimensions is only necessary for the Google Analytics 4 reports.
The tracking plan is ready, so what is next?
Once you have defined your Google Analytics tracking plan, it’s time to implement it on your website. The next step is to add the required code snippets to your website and make sure that the data is being sent to Google Analytics correctly.
There are a few ways of doing this:
- Google Tag Manager
- Direct implementation of Google Analytics Code
- Using Measurement protocol
Using the Google Tag Manager is the preferred way to implement it. The most solid implementation is using dataLayer objects. You can learn more about them here: https://developers.google.com/tag-platform/tag-manager/web/datalayer
But this usually needs the help of a developer to implement them. But it is an investment that easily pays off. With using dataLayer events your implementation becomes more solid and will rarely break.
If you don’t have development resources, you can also try to define triggers in Google Tag manager based on CSS classes or element ids. But these can break if a web designer changes specific classes.
A direct implementation of Google Analytics code rarely makes sense today. It might be ok when you only add Google Analytics as your single tracking script on the website.
The Measurematch protocol can help you with sending server-side events to Google Analytics 4. Server-side events are usually more reliable and precise than website events. But they require backend developer resources to implement them properly. Check out these docs about the measurement protocol: https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/protocol/ga4
If you heavily invest in server-side events using the server-side Google Tag Manager could be a really good option for you.
Testing your Google Analytics 4 tracking plan
Once you have implemented the tracking plan, it’s important to test it. Google Analytics provides several tools to help you do this. The Google Tag Manager Debug mode and GTM/GA Debugger Chrome extension are two such tools that can help you troubleshoot any issues with your implementation.
The Google Tag Manager Debug mode helps you follow your customer journey and see all events that triggered and finally send to Google Analytics 4. It also shows you why tags might not be triggered and any kind of other issues.
The GTM/GA Debugger Chrome extension does a similar job but shows more details concerning the final data that is sent into Google Analytics 4.
What are you waiting for? Now it’s ready for your reports
Testing is done. Now you can use the new events in your Google Analytics 4 reports. The Google Analytics team did a great job in building these reports and they are really easy to use.
When you have assigned the attributes to the Custom Dimensions it helps you dive even deeper into the behavior of your users on your website. You can find all your new events under the “Events” report.