How to modify events in GA4
Since Google Analytics 4 (GA4) officially launched in October 2020, we’ve benefited from lots of great new features such as the introduction of predictive metrics, customisable reports, and anomaly detection. Perhaps one of the most useful of these is the event modification feature which, in a nutshell, allows you to change details of events all within the GA4 UI. That’s right, you no longer need to write any code or use a tag management system (i.e. GTM) to manage most of your events. In this post I will show how to use this exciting new feature.
First of all, to find the event modification feature you will need to open your GA4 property and navigate to the Admin screen from the side menu on the left. You will also need to have ‘Administrator’ access privileges to be able to see this setting. Then select Events from the list to access the events page.
Within the Events page you will see all the existing events including the corresponding count and users as well as the percentage change based on your date range. This can be a really good place to quickly understand if your tags are firing correctly and to identify any that are not. If something has gone wrong, you will typically see an unrealistically low event count or a percentage change that has gone up or down by a significant amount. Another useful feature is that you can see which events are marked as conversions, and even change this yourself.
Our site collects events automatically from Enhanced Measurement, including the generic “click” event for all outbound link clicks. This event’s name isn’t particularly useful, so we would like to modify the event name to “outbound_click” to help us identify these outbound clicks from any other kind of internal click.
Firstly we will click on ‘Modify event’ in the top right.
And then on the next screen we will click ‘Create’.
This will take us to a configuration page where we can build up our event modification. In the ‘Modification name’ field we will enter a name so that we can identify the modification later on. This is only for our reference in the GA4 UI and does not appear within the event itself.
Next we need to set the matching conditions – this tells GA4 which event to modify. In our case, we will enter event_name equals “click” to find the click event. In case there are any other click events, we also want to specify that it should only be clicks that are outbound. Click ‘Add condition’ and then enter outbound equals “true”. This means it will only modify outbound clicks.
Now the fun part, in Modify parameters we want to tell GA4 how it should modify the event. We want to enter the event_name parameter into the first input box and then enter the New value as “outbound_click”. This is what the event will appear as when it’s displayed in your reports so you need to choose the name wisely.
Optional: You can also click ‘Add modification’, enter the outbound parameter and then leave the new value field blank to remove it from the event altogether.
Testing and QA
You’re probably wondering whether all this has actually worked – now is the time to test the event modification. There are a number of ways we can do this but the one thing all methods have in common is that we first need to actually find and click on an outbound link on the site in question. Once you have found at least one, click it a few times and then you’re ready to see the data in GA4.
The simplest way is to look for your modified event in the real-time report in GA4. To do this, click Reports > Real-time to access the report. It’s important to note however that you need to accept cookies on the site, otherwise your actions won’t be tracked, and the event be visible in the GA4 UI.
As we can see, after clicking an outbound link on our site, the event has triggered and appears in our event count list in the real-time report. It is also possible to see the event fired using the DebugView report which is also within GA4. Or by entering the preview mode on Google Tag Manager and clicking on a link through that.
As great as this new feature, there are some limitations on its use:
- The modified events won’t apply to historical data.
- You can only modify up to 50 existing events.
- It can take an hour or more for modifications to take effect (although in our testing it’s almost immediate).
- Modifying an event doesn’t necessarily fix the root problem, but it is still a useful short term solution to ensure data isn’t lost or miss tagged while you wait for a more permanent fix (via a developer, GTM, etc.).
This could potentially be the sign of a future where we don’t need to handle code or advanced tag management platforms like GTM to set up and modify event tags! This means analytics could become much more approachable, and less daunting, for the typical business owner, marketing manager, or analyst who may be less technically minded.
However, this could of course also bring in new and/or different problems such as no version control, reduced accountability and account access issues. It will certainly be interesting to see how Google will develop the feature to account for these issues.
If you’re interested in this topic, fellow measurelabber George wrote an opinion piece on 5 new GA4 features we’d like to see in future releases. You could also listen to our podcast episode GA4 features we need to see in 2023 (with Usman Qureshi @ Spiralyze).
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! In this post we’ve only scratched the surface of what event modification is capable of. There are many more cases where event modification could be used and I would recommend experimenting with it. You can also find out more on this feature from the Google docs or these very detailed guides from Analytics Mania and Charles Farina. We’d love to hear how you end up using the feature!
Even if you’re not sure you’ll need all of your historical data, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And if you need a hand with any of these steps, please do get in touch do discuss this with one of our experienced consultants.