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Google Analytics 4 Enhanced Measurement Explained

Last Modified on January 25, 2024

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has its share of issues, but it also came bearing many new gifts that were not available in its predecessor. We hope those gifts will keep getting better with time.

One of those gifts is the introduction of Google Analytics 4 enhanced measurement that gives you basic event tracking out of the box without the need to add any code or open your Google Tag Manager account.

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This can be useful in some but not all situations, and we will cover those scenarios along with the following topics in this post:

 Let’s get started!

What is Enhanced Measurement in Google Analytics 4

There are currently seven action types that we can track with enhanced measurement events totaling ten events. These are:

  1. Page views
  2. Scrolls
  3. Outbound clicks
  4. Site search
  5. Form interactions
  6. Video engagement
  7. File downloads

Apart from the page view event, the rest of the events can be disabled or enabled from the GA4 data stream settings.

Compared to Universal Analytics, where every event had to be configured via GTM or coded in, this is a step up to get those events covered without coding or playing with tags and triggers in GTM.

For now, let’s look into each one of these events and their nuances.

Page views

This interaction results in a page_view event that populates the Views metric in GA4. It is triggered when a page is loaded or the browser history state changes in the case of Single Page Application (SPA) websites where the URL changes without reloading the page.

Unlike other events, this event can’t be turned off. Page view events have two parameters that are collected with them:

  • page_location (Page URL)
  • page_ referrer (Page referrer)

All events contain the page location, page referrer, page title, screen resolution, and language as parameters, regardless of whether they are automatic, enhanced, recommended, or custom.

Scrolls

We all know about the scroll depth events since the days of UA. In GA4, a scroll event is triggered when a user reaches the bottom of each page for the first time, i.e. when a 90% vertical depth of the page is visible.

Scroll populates the percent_scrolled (Percent Scrolled) dimension. But with GA4 enhanced measurement, you get the value of 90, as that’s when the event is triggered, and it’s blank otherwise. So, nothing too exciting there.

If you don’t use scrolls in day-to-day analysis, chances are the event with its default 90% value will work well for you, and you won’t need any further customization (which isn’t possible from GA4’s interface anyways).

Outbound clicks

This one is generally helpful to know if people are clicking outbound clicks. It’s triggered when a user goes away from the current domain.

Understandably, if you add certain domains for cross-domain tracking, they won’t trigger this event as they are considered part of the same business. So, if you have multiple websites, you should add them in the configuration of your domains section of GA4.

Interestingly, outbound clicks are measured by click events – not a very helpful name since everything is a click.

You get five parameters when this event is enabled in enhanced measurements:

  1. link_classes (Link classes)
  2. link_domain (Link domain)
  3. link_id (Link ID)
  4. link_url (Link URL)
  5. outbound (True/False)

If you’re not fussed about link text, which is surprisingly not available in default parameters, then for the most part, this event can prove useful.

Site search

This is another useful event that can be tracked in GA4, thanks to enhanced measurement, whenever a user searches for something on the website and the URL contains one of the five following query parameters:

  1. q
  2. s
  3. search
  4. query
  5. keyword

The best part is that you can configure custom search query parameters if none of the above five work for your needs.

It is triggered by the view_search_results event along with the useful search_term (Search term) parameter.

Site search is quite helpful. Generally, you don’t have to take the GTM route unless there’s some complex search functionality on your website, filters, etc., that you might want to track.

Form interactions

Enabling form interactions results in two events. Yes, enhanced measurements don’t always result in just one event being tracked.

These two events are:

  1. form_start – triggered when a user interacts for the first time with a form in a session.
  2. form_submit – triggered on submitting a form.

Having two events by Google allows you to see how many users started the form and how many submitted it in a session.

Both events have three parameters in common and one that is exclusive to form_submit:

  • form_id (Form ID)
  • form_name (Form name)
  • form_destination (Form destination – the URL to which form is being submitted)
  • form_text (Form text – only applicable to form_submit event to get the text of the submit button, if you have one)

Video engagement

Similar to form interactions, enabling video engagement results in three events:

  1. video_start – triggered when the video starts playing.
  2. video_progress – triggered when the video progresses past 10%, 25%, 50%, and 75% duration time.
  3. video_complete – triggered when the video is completed.

But the caveat here is that these events are only triggered for the YouTube-embedded videos with JavaScript API support enabled. So, if you have videos hosted on other platforms, you must take the GTM route.

These three events result in the following parameters:

  • video_title (Video Title)
  • video_url (Video URL)
  • video_current_time (Video Current Time)
  • video_duration (Video Duration – displayed in seconds)
  • video_percent (Video Percent – threshold of the video but no % symbol)
  • video_provider (Video Provider – this will be always YouTube since that’s the only supported platform)
  • visible (True/False)

Pretty helpful if you have YouTube videos, but not so much if that’s not the case.

File downloads

Lastly, a file_download event is triggered whenever a user clicks a link and opens or downloads a file that contains the following extensions: pdf, xls, xlsx, doc, docx, txt, rtf, csv, exe, key, pps, ppt, pptx, 7z, pkg, rar, gz, zip, avi, mov, mp4, mpe, mpeg, wmv, mid, midi, mp3, wav, or wma.

Google categorizes these files into the following types:

  • ​​document
  • text
  • executable
  • presentation
  • compressed file
  • video
  • audio

For most websites, this event should take care of the file downloads, but if that’s not the case, they’d have to move over to GTM. The file download event has the following parameters:

  1. file_extension (File extension)
  2. file_name (File name)
  3. link_classes (Link classes)
  4. link_id (Link ID)
  5. link_text (Link text)
  6. link_url (Link URL)

Where to Find Enhanced Measurement in Google Analytics 4

Let’s start by clicking the Admin cog in the bottom left corner. Next, click on Data Streams under Data Collection and Modification in the sidebar or the main admin page’s interface.

GA4 data streams

Click on your website stream, and you’ll see the interface with your stream details below, where you can find the Enhanced measurement events.

Enhanced measurement in GA4

In this interface, you can enable or disable enhanced measurement for all the interactions or click on the cog in the bottom right to configure each event separately. Then, you will see the list of all the interactions we discussed above.

Enhanced measurement configuration

This interface makes for easy configuration if you want to disable some of the events, except the Page views, which you cannot turn off.

However, you can configure it for browser history events, more useful for SPA websites, by checking the Page changes based on browser history events option.

Page views advanced settings

The next one on the list with advanced settings is the Site search interaction, where we can choose Search Term Query Parameters as well as specify any other URL query parameters we want to collect with this event. A limit of 10 parameters applies to both of them.

Site search advanced settings

As usual, you can find your enhanced measurement events in ReportsEngagementEvents.

Events report in GA4

This report also includes all the other custom events as well as any eCommerce ones, so you might have to look through the list to find them. You can click through these events and find more information about them, including any parameters they have.

You can also create explorations with these events and their parameters, even if you haven’t registered them as custom definitions (custom dimensions, custom metrics, and calculated metrics) in GA4, and do even better analysis.

GA4 Enhanced Measurement Best Practices

While it’s easy to simply toggle the enhanced measurement events on and off, it still needs some thought into how to get the best out of them. Here are some best practices:

  • Register the parameters as custom definitions if you want to use them in standard reports and other tools like Looker Studio, as well as being available to use in explorations.
  • Don’t turn on / off all of them unless there’s a specific reason. You should plan which events will be more useful for your business.
  • If you’re using GTM to track the same events as enhanced measurement, you should disable them from GA4’s interface. Otherwise, you will have an inflated event count.
  • Re-use the common parameters for the same events in enhanced measurement if you’re using GTM to track rather than changing their names. Otherwise, you’d have to register the parameters again as custom dimensions, for which we have a limited quota already (50 for standard GA4 properties).
  • This is more like an extension of the above one, but the idea is to reuse enhanced measurement events’ parameters for any custom events you track through GTM and to use less of the available quota.

These practices should be good enough to improve the data quality and keep your implementation clean.

So, it’s all great with the enhanced measurements, but is it all sunshine and rainbows? Well, there are some limitations, too.

Limitations of GA4 Enhanced Measurement

It’s important to understand the limitations so we can get the most out of these interactions. Here are some of them:

  • Register as custom definitions – If you want to use the parameters in standard reports or export to other tools like Looker Studio, then you would have to register them, which can use up your quota. It might have been helpful to use them out of the box, as these events are built-in to GA4.
  • Limited customization – If you want to send any other parameters with your events, you won’t be able to do that with enhanced measurement events. So, it doesn’t make it convenient to use events like outbound clicks where there’s no link text in parameters (yet) but available for file downloads.

    No built-in tracking for other popular video platforms like Vimeo, Wistia, etc., means you won’t be able to use the video engagement events either.
  • Data accuracy – This is quite an issue with the form interactions, as they fire on search fields, unsuccessful form submissions, and don’t track AJAX forms.

Page view events with history changes on SPAs don’t track the URL fragments – the part that starts with # – if that’s something you want to see in the reports.

The scroll event only tracks the depth at 90%, so that might not be very helpful if you want to see how many users scrolled to 50%.

So, with these limitations is it a good idea to use enhanced measurements?

For some interactions like File downloads, Outbound clicks, Site search, and Page views with history changes for SPAs, they can be pretty useful (unless you also want to see the URL fragments).

But Form interactions, Video engagements (if not YouTube), and Scroll aren’t that great, so they can be left out. This holds for the form interactions since they are important, and you want to get them right with custom tracking via GTM.

Knowing these limitations and nuances should help you make informed decisions when using the GA4 enhanced measurement events.

Summary

So we have learned quite a lot about the enhanced measurements in Google Analytics 4, from what they are to what sort of events these interactions dispatch when they trigger and what parameters are populated with them, which results in different dimensions.

We also looked at how we can enable, disable enhanced measurements, and configure advanced settings from the data streams settings interface in GA4, as well as find them in the standard GA4 report.

The best practices we looked at can be quite helpful to ensure that we get quality data that’s useful and make the most out of them. Finally, we learned about some limitations these enhanced measurement events have and which ones we can skip until they improve.

Hopefully, Google will provide their parameters out of the box so we don’t have to use up our property’s quota for custom definitions.

Two more things could be the cherry on the top: 1) The ability to add any custom parameters to these events from GA4’s interface, and 2) Support for other popular video platforms – hoping doesn’t hurt!

If all of this sounds a little too complex, don’t worry! Our Google Analytics 4 Tutorial will help get you started!

So, how do you use the GA4 enhanced measurement events? Do you find them helpful out of the box, or do you prefer to use the hybrid model of using GTM and GA4 together? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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