How to Track File Downloads in GA4 | Complete Guide

Tracking file downloads is an essential aspect of website analytics. Whether you want to monitor the number of times users download a PDF document or track software downloads, having this information can help you make data-driven decisions and improve your website’s effectiveness.

In this complete guide, we will provide step-by-step instructions on tracking file downloads in GA4 using the Enhanced Measurement and GTM approaches. By the end of this article, you will have a comprehensive understanding of how to track file downloads and leverage this information to optimize your website and drive better results. So let’s get started.

How to Track File Downloads in GA4

Tracking file downloads is crucial for website owners as it provides insights into user engagement, content popularity, and the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Understanding which files users download and how frequently can empower you to make data-driven decisions that enhance your website’s content and marketing strategies.

This section will explore the two different approaches to tracking file downloads in GA4.

Does GA4 track file downloads automatically? -> GA4 Enhanced Measurements

GA4 offers an Enhanced Measurement feature that automatically tracks certain user interactions, including file downloads. With Enhanced Measurement enabled, GA4 can automatically track file downloads without additional code implementation. Let’s see the steps to take to achieve this. 

First, enable Enhanced Measurement. In your GA4 property settings, navigate to Data Streams and select your web data stream. Enable Enhanced Measurement by turning on the button and click on the setting button to expand the various options available. Then ensure the “File Downloads” option is enabled, as seen in the image below.

Enabling File Download Feature in GA4 Enhanced Measurement 

GA4 stores this built-in event as “file_download” and includes other event parameters such as file_extension, file_name, link_classes, link_id, link_text, and link_url.

Please note that GA4 supports only the following file extensions – .pdf, .docx, .doc, .txt, .rtf, .xlsx, .xls, .csv, .exe, .key, .pps, .ppt, .pptx, .7z, .pkg, .rar, .gz, .zip, .avi, .mov. mp4, .mpeg, .mpg., .wmv, .midi, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma

Google Tag Manager (including Window.DataLayer)

To set up GTM for tracking file downloads, you must first ensure you turn off the file downloads enabled measurement in GA4 to avoid duplicate tracking. Once done, simply go to your GTM account. If you do not already have a GTM account and don’t already have GTM installed on your website, simply follow the following instructions to do so:

  1. Visit the Google Tag Manager website and click “Start for free.”
  2. Sign in with your Google account.
  3. Create a new container and enter a name for your container. Select the target platform, which, in our case, is the web. After that, accept the Terms of Service.
  4. You will receive the Google Tag Manager container code snippet and a container ID that you can simply add to the source code of your website (head and body sections).

Now, we need to create a GA4 Event Tag to track the file download event. To do this, in the left-hand menu of your GTM interface, click on Tags, then New ->Tag Configuration -> Google Analytics- > Google Tag. Input your measurement ID from GA4 and select the “All Pages-Page View” Trigger.

Google Tag in Google Tag Manager
Google Tag in Google Tag Manager

Next, we would create variables to store the event parameters file name and file extension. In our example, we will be creating a dataLayer variable. The dataLayer acts as a data collection layer of your website. We will then use the dataLayer variable to set up the trigger and Tag for the file download event. In your GTM interface, click variables, select type dataLayer, and input the variable name “file_name”.

Defining a dataLayer Variable in GTM
Defining a dataLayer Variable in GTM

Repeat the step for the file_extension and link_url variables

Now that we have defined the variables, we have to push the data to the dataLayer by writing a code a developer will add to the source code of your web page.

<script>
    window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
    dataLayer.push({
        'event' : 'file_download',
        'file_name' : '{{file name}}',
        'file_extension' : '{{file type}}',
        'link_url' : '{{link url}}'
    });
</script>

Now it’s time to create the trigger in your GTM interface; click on Triggers -> New- > Trigger Configuration > “Custom Event” trigger type. While for the “This trigger fires on” select the “All Custom Events” option.

File Download GA4 Event Trigger in GTM
File Download GA4 Event Trigger in GTM

Finally, we have to create the event tag to send the file download event details when it occurs. Click Tags -> New -> Tag Configuration -> Google Analytics > and select the Google Analytics GA4 Event Tag. Input the event name as file_download; for the event parameters, select the dataLayer variables we defined earlier: file_name and file_extension. Then select the trigger we created above as the trigger.

GA4 Event Tag in GTM to track File Download
GA4 Event Tag in GTM to track File Download

Test this event by triggering it on your website and then using the GTM preview page or the GA4 Debug View to test and validate that the setup is working correctly.

If you need more clarity about the dataLayer concept or GTM, don’t worry; we have an entire article covering this topic.

Where to find file downloads data in GA4?

In GA4, you can find file download data in the Events report. To access this report and view file downloads data, In the left-hand menu, click on “Reports.” under the “Engagement” section, click on “Events.” you will see the table report below, which shows the most popular events on your website. Look for the event name corresponding to your file downloads, file_downloads. To view more detailed information about file downloads, click on the event category or event name related to file downloads. This will open the “Event Details” report. In the “Event Details” report, you can see metrics such as the total number of file downloads, total users, unique events, and event value. You can also apply various filters and segments to analyze the data further.

“file_download” event in GA4 Events report
“file_download” event in GA4 Events report

Additionally, you can use the Exploration feature in GA4 to create custom analyses specifically focused on file downloads. This allows you to customize the dimensions, metrics, and filters to gain deeper insights into your file download data. Let’s look at how to achieve this.

In the left-hand menu, click “Explore” and then the “+ New Exploration” button to create a new exploration report.

In the report, click the “+ Add dimension” button; in the search bar, type “Link URL” and “Event name”. Once you have imported those dimensions, you can customize the report by adding other dimensions and metrics such as “Event count”. After importing the dimensions and metrics, drop them on the rows and values sections as needed. Finally, add a filter, using the “Event name” dimension and setting it to exactly match “file_download,” the name used for storing your file download event.

File Downloaded information in GA4 Exploration
File Downloaded information in GA4 Exploration

Give your exploration report a meaningful name. Finally, click the “Save” button to save your exploration report.

Remember to wait 24 to 48 hours for the data to be available in GA4; note that the availability and visibility of file download data in GA4 also depends on how you have implemented the tracking and the specific event parameters you have configured. Ensure that your file download events are properly tracked and the necessary event parameters are set up correctly to capture the relevant data in GA4.

Do you need help with setting up file downloads for GA4?

Don’t miss out on valuable data about your website’s file downloads. Unlock the power of tracking file downloads in GA4 and gain valuable insights into user behavior and engagement. Our tailored solutions will help you understand which files resonate with your audience, allowing you to optimize and improve user experience. Our data analytics company specializes in implementing advanced tracking solutions to provide accurate and actionable insights. Contact us today and let us help you optimize your tracking setup in GA4.

Final Word

In conclusion, tracking file downloads in Google Analytics 4 is crucial for website owners to gain valuable insights into user behavior and engagement. By implementing the Enhanced Measurement or Window DataLayer approach, website owners can easily track and analyze the number of file downloads on their site.

The Enhanced Measurement feature in GA4 allows for automatic tracking of file downloads without the need for additional code implementation. Alternatively, the GTM Window DataLayer approach provides a more customizable tracking solution. By adding specific code to the website, website owners can track file downloads and capture additional information such as the file name, category, or other relevant data. This approach allows for more detailed analysis and insights into user behavior, enabling website owners to make data-driven decisions to optimize their content and improve user experience.

Tracking file downloads in GA4 is essential for website owners as it provides valuable information on user engagement and content performance. By understanding which files are most downloaded, website owners can identify popular content and focus on creating more of it. Additionally, tracking file downloads can help identify any issues or barriers that users may encounter during the download process, allowing website owners to improve the overall user experience.


Frequently Asked Questions

Does GA4 track file downloads automatically?

Yes, GA4 has a feature called Enhanced Measurement that automatically tracks certain events, including file downloads. With Enhanced Measurement enabled, GA4 can automatically track file downloads without additional code implementation. This simplifies the tracking process and provides website owners with accurate data on the number of downloads for each file. However, it’s important to note that not all file types are automatically tracked by default.

What to do if GA4 doesn’t track file downloads automatically?

To ensure proper tracking, follow these steps if GA4 does not automatically track file downloads:
1) Enable Enhanced Measurement: Verify the status of Enhanced Measurement in your GA4 property settings. This feature enables automatic tracking of various events, including file downloads. Make sure you turn it on for automatic tracking.
2) Check file types: Review the list of supported file types in the GA4 documentation and confirm if GA4 tracks the file type you want to monitor. Else, you may need to implement additional tracking methods.
3) Implement custom tracking: If the desired file type is not supported by default, you can implement custom tracking using the GTM approach. This involves adding specific code to your website to capture the necessary information about the file downloads.
4) Test and validate: After making any changes or implementing custom tracking, it is crucial to test the accuracy of tracking file downloads. Download files from your website and check if GA4 is tracking the events. Use the Real-Time reports or review the event data to ensure precise tracking.

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