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The importance of custom events and goals in Google Analytics

29 May 2020


Limitations of default analytics

As shared in our Introduction to Google Analytics post, default Google Analytics is great for tracking page views, sessions and bounce rates, as well as creating stats on device and browser usage etc. This is all very important to know but it stays very generic and barely scratches the surface of what you could find out about your users. It won’t tell you how exactly users are using and interacting with your site. Put simply, we can understand the ‘who’ and the ‘where’ but have very limited information around the ‘what’ of visitor behaviour. If you want to truly understand them and optimise your site you will have to look further. This is where custom events and goals come in.

What is a custom event?

Events are user interactions with website content that can be tracked independently of page views and loads. They can be any action that you can think of and it’s recommended that you are creative around what type of things you want to track. In order to capture data, developers (and marketers) can use JavaScript to trigger pretty much anything! These can be brochure downloads, clicks on CTAs (call-to-actions) or links, interactions with maps and videos. But also scrolling behaviour can be tracked and answer important questions like “how far do people actually scroll on the landing page of my most important revenue stream?” and “do they scroll far enough to see and interact with XYZ content?”

What is a goal?

Goals are an essential tool for conversion tracking on your hotel website. The end goal is, of course, the direct booking or enquiry but there are a lot of micro-conversions along the way that are required to move users further down the funnel. Think of goals as a specific measurement of an event or action. These are most commonly linked to a KPI (key performance indicator).  Goals can therefore have a conversion rate which we can use as a benchmark to compare and also optimise over time.

There are four types of goal details:

Why are they important?

You might ask yourself why exactly you need to know all of this. Travel is both an experiential and aspirational purchase. You have to see it as a journey rather than a cold transaction. From identifying the need to go on holiday to actually booking with you – there’s a lot of steps in between where people could drop off. To optimise the buyer’s journey, we need to find out where potential problems lie and identify where we can improve. Even when using best practices, websites are always built based on assumptions that will have to be confirmed. Every hotel is different and will have different buyer personas we have to learn more about over time.

By just looking at the number of transactions we can understand how our website is performing overall but we will never have good insight into how users actually get there and how we can improve that process. Events and goals are most powerful when used to measure micro-conversions which are small actions that signify intent towards a macro conversion. Something like interacting with a gallery, checking dates, navigating to more than 5 pages. We know that if we can increase the number of micro-conversions across different revenue streams then we can increase the macro-conversion itself.





Introduction to Action, Label, Category

Websites are not limited to the number of events that can be set up and recorded in Google Analytics. The only limiting factor would be around bandwidth with Google Analytics processing up to 500 events per session. Naturally, not many people hit this for normal hotel websites! 

Due to the variety of different events that can be recorded, it will get quite confusing quite quickly if we don’t have some way to organise them in the Google Analytics dashboard. This is where Action, Label and Category come in. It allows you to provide three out-the-box data attributes to your event so that you can identify them in the Google Analytics dashboard. 

It really is up to you how you use these and there is no hard and fast rule but the way we like to use them is to group revenue streams in the Category such as Rooms, Food and Drink, Weddings etc. We then like to use Action as the descriptor of what the user has done such as ‘Submit Wedding Enquiry’ or ‘Selected Dates in Booking Engine’. The label is also down to you but at Umi, we use it in two ways predominantly. Sometimes this is linked to the phase of the buyers cycle such as “Discovery” or “Consideration”, however, this works with a very prescribed journey. The other way is to use the label as an indicator of where the event happened such as the URL or page path.

What is a tag, what are triggers?

Tags are code segments that add functionality to your site. This could be a tracking code (Analytics, Heatmaps etc.) or widgets like LiveChat. Before Google Tag Manager these would have been added directly to the code of the site. Now you can use the GTM dashboard to do this, no coding knowledge or access to the server required.

Tags only fire after certain things (or triggers) happen. This could be a page view or a button click, for example. A trigger listens to the website for these events and tells the tag to fire when the event takes place. A tag can have one or more triggers such as we can fire the same tag from different forms or perhaps we can fire an event if any outbound booking engine button is clicked. Likewise, one trigger could also fire multiple tags. An example of this might be if you want to dispatch an event to both Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel from the same action.

What more can you do with this?

How do you manage this on an ongoing basis?

A key consideration is that your relationship with your events will change due to a whole host of reasons – it’s important you continually question the following things at least a 4 times a year, ideally every month, to ensure that your tracking is appropriate and that you are drawing insights from the data

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