Do you have to use Google Tag Manager to track events and conversions in GA4?


In the content-generating machine- looking for pageviews and video subscribers- I’ve seen some very complex suggestions on setting up GA4 events and conversions. It doesn’t have to be that difficult.

Tracking Events and Conversions without Code in GA4

One of the advantages of GA4 is that you can do many things without complex coding or the need for a developer. You can convert some of the most common events as conversions with the event data automatically collected by Google Analytics.

For example, suppose you want to track a form submitted. In that case, you can easily track the confirmation page (the page you send it to after submitting the form) by just setting up an event that includes the page view event and the URL to the page. With that event, set it as a conversion, and you’re done! I will show you how to do this in Curious Ants.

In addition, you can track clicks on a link (such as a link to an email or phone number) by setting up an event that watches for clicks on particular links and then sets those events as conversions. Easy-peasy (and much more straightforward than Universal Google Analytics, where you needed to add javascript to the page to accomplish this. I will show you how to do this for phone number clicks in Curious Ants.

Potential Event and Conversion Tracking Problems in GA4

Now, there are some problems when you set up event and conversion tracking like this. 

One way this goes wrong is when someone views your confirmation page without submitting the form. This inflation happens more often than you might realize, especially if someone forgets to close the browser tab after completing your form (which is the most common way this leads to inflated conversions. It can also be a problem if you’ve forgotten to noindex your confirmation page and remove it from your XML sitemap- allowing Google to send people straight to your confirmation page!

Another way this goes wrong is when you set up click tracking. You can use the click method to track clicks to a form button. However, if you have some validation confirming whether or not the submission went through, this could cause problems too. Let’s say you ask for an email address when submitting a form. Your fancy form can verify whether or not someone has entered a valid email address (or not) and will only let someone submit the form with one. If you’ve just set up click tracking, you will include clicks of your “Submit” button- whether or not the form was valid when submitted. 

Clean Event and Conversion Tracking in GA4

Is there a solution to these problems? 

In UA, it only counted a goal (now “conversion”) once per session. In GA4, this shows up as a conversion every time the event executes. This effect can annoyingly inflate your data- mainly if you’re used to UA’s goal numbers. Recently, GA4 unveiled a setting to limit conversion events to once per session. This setting is so that conversion events track similarly to UA goals. While I am glad to see this setting available, it can lead to confusion. I need more confidence in Google’s product maintenance. They can override or ” update” their system without clear communication. They might change this setting someday, which could lead to serious tracking errors (another good reason to set up my recommended Weekly SEO dashboard– in Curious Ants). Do this if you want, but be aware of the confusion problems.

Another way to clean up your data is not to track your confirmation page (my preferred method) but use Google Tag Manager to send events into GA4- and start tracking those events as conversions). This coding defeats the advantage of GA4’s simplicity and makes you rely more heavily on developers. However, it’s not complicated, and most of you can do it. Google has given some great tutorials on how to do this. For instance, if you set up a Custom Event in Google Tag Manager every time a form is submitted, this should prevent inflations by additional confirmation page views or invalid clicks. Here’s a video from Google on how to do this.

Once you follow this tutorial, take the extra step to set up this event as a conversion.

Notice I said, “not to track your confirmation page.” I still recommend using one.

Have a question about this process? Ask it here:

Get started doing SEO today

SEO seems hard- you have to keep up with all the changes and weed through contradictory advice. This is frustrating and overwhelming. Curious Ants will teach you SEO while bringing your website more traffic and customers- because you’ll learn SEO while doing it.