Valuable User Experience (UX) Web Insights for Education #3: User Event Tracking

Estimated read time – 5 minutes

Want to keep updated about the blog? Sign up for the newsletter!

User Experience Map

Prequel – Using UTM Codes
Part 1 – Setting Up for Success
Part 2 – Filtering
Part 3 – User Event Tracking
Part 4 – Using the Data to Inform Improvements

One of the most valuable tools you can have to understand how users are interacting with your site is to set up event tracking. To do this you will need Google Tag Manager on your site. Google Tag Manager allows you to customize what information is passed back to Google Analytics and easily implement conversion tracking for Google Ads, Bing Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more. You can also make it easy to pull in which videos or other elements are being interacted with, and in which placements.

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager Logo

If you’re unfamiliar with Google Tag Manager, don’t worry! After some research and work you’ll be feeling good about it and be helping answer questions around the school. The way I think about Google Tag Manager (you may see it referred to as GTM for short) is as a bucket to organize and implement multiple pieces of code and event triggers without having to edit your site each time. Google Tag Manager is installed site-wide, but the tags within can fire on every page, such as a Google Analytics pixel, or on specific pages or events, such as a conversion pixel.

Within Google Tag Manager there are workspaces, which are spaces to house your tags and the the things that trigger them. They can be set up for use on websites or in apps. To install Google Tag Manager on your site you will need to sign up for an account at and set up your first workspace.

Now to install it on your site you will need access to your Content Management System (CMS) and be able to place the Google Tag Manager code on the site. If that’s not something you can do you will need to work with your web or ITS team. Click on the Admin tab at the top of your workspace and click Install Google Tag Manager in the right column. The code you need will be there, along with directions of exactly where to place the code. Publish the changes to your site and you’ll be ready to start!

Tracking User Events

You need to set up two things to make your services work in Google Tag Manager: A trigger and a tag. The trigger is what determines when a tag is fired, or sends data, and the tag determines how the data is passed back to the service, in this case Google Analytics.  Let’s look at an example that I recommend you do; making the clicks through your site easier to read at a glance.

  • Set up the trigger – In the left menu of your workspace choose Triggers and click New. For this trigger you will want to set it as a Click trigger, and choosing Just Links. In other instances you would want to select it to fire on Some Clicks and set a variable, but for this we want to information about all links. Name and save the trigger.
The link click trigger in Google Tag Manger determines what causes an event to take place.
  • Set up the tag – In the left menu of your workspace choose Tags and click New. Set up the tag as a Google Analytics:Universal Analytics tag and use your Google Analytics in the Google Analytics Setting drop down. Choose the Track Type of Event and make the category one that makes sense for you, such as Click. The Action can be assigned as To {{Click URL}}, which will appear as To for clicks to the application for example. The Label can be set to From {{Page URL}} which is the variable that shows the URL for the page on which the event occurs. Appending To and From will make your analytics easier to read, and in Google Analytics you will be able to see all the pages that lead to or from a page easily. I’m a big fan of making the analytics data easy for others to read and understand. Set the trigger as your previous trigger and save.
  • Test your implementation – Once you have the tags and trigger set up you should use the Preview Mode and test the installation on your site before publishing. Go to your site and open a link in a new tab to make sure the event is firing. If the tags are working the way you want them you will be ready to leave Preview Mode and Submit the changes. This will publish your tags to the Google Tag Manager container that is active on your site.
  • Analysis in Google Analytics – If all works well you will start seeing the data in the Behavior > Events > Top Events report in Google Analytics. A good starting place is to look at a landing page in the Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages and adding in the secondary dimension of Event Action to see where users go to next and which links are getting the most use and drive the most conversions and time on site. If you see some links on the page not being used, or that are not leading to desired conversions, these are the pages to focus some effort in improving.

Using page event tracking will make it much easier to see which pages drove traffic to high value pages, such as applications and inquiry forms. You will be able to schedule reports to run and send to those who are less savvy in the ways of Google Analytics and hopefully have fewer questions to answer and can spend more time optimizing your site.

There is a lot more to learn, I recommend sources such as Measure School to keep diving deeper in to advanced Tag Manager setups. If you would like to connect and talk more, you can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter.


Will Patch

In addition to the Enrollment Insights blog, webinars, and podcast; Will is a frequent conference speaker and podcast guest. He has presented at NACAC, AACRAO-SEM, Indiana ACAC, CASE V, EduWeb, and EMA. Will's work has been featured in Forbes, Inside Higher Ed, CNBC, CNN, the LA Times, and The New York Times among other outlets.

Want to Hear more from Niche?