The Pros and Cons of Event Tracking in Google Analytics

- February 16, 2011

To event track, or not to event track – that is the question!

Most every Google Analytics user has seen the event tracking sub-section of reports when accessing the Content report section (after all, you can’t miss that huge button within that sub-menu). Some users have even clicked-through to that section, even without any data being reported, just to see what it looked like and what metrics were available. Some other users have been using event tracking to view what special actions web site visitors do.

The entire idea of using event tracking with Google Analytics is to track non-page view actions. The Google Analytics tracking code, which should be on every page of your web site, will – most of the time – take care of the standard page view tracking. However, in order to track things like outbound links (links to other websites), PDF files, links that open up your Email program, video player interactions, or anything that isn’t the traditional page view, a JavaScript “onClick” function using the Google Analytics event tracking schema is often used to accomplish the task that the Google Analytics tracking code can’t.

Using event tracking is great, and event tracking allows us to view these special interactions that we normally would not have known about before, but you should be aware of the pros and cons of using event tracking before you ask your IT team to implement it on your movies or PDF files.

Event Tracking Pros:

– All data collected using event tracking is reported within the Event Tracking sub-section, which is found within the Content report section.

– For traditional JavaScript “onClick” events, your IT team should have no problem installing event tracking on your site. They may have to spend a bit more time on some of the more complicated moving parts, like videos and AJAX-based functionality, and it may be more difficult, but more often than not, implementation can be successful without too many problems.

– A visitor interaction with an event means that the visitor’s session will not be counted as a bounce if the visitor only views one page in a session. Want to lower your bounce rate? Install some events on your website! πŸ™‚ Event tracking is perfect for the single-page web site, or, the landing page with lots of non-page view content for a visitor to interact with, without rendering your bounce rate metric unusable.

– If you’re creative enough, you can use event tracking to calculate potential values for events (event tracking has an optional value field), and you can create some advanced segments and / or custom reports based around your event tracking data.

Event Tracking Cons:

– At present, events cannot be associated with goals in Google Analytics. Therefore, you cannot create a goal for an event. This is probably the largest limitation regarding event tracking, and the one that you’re going to need to think about the most before implementation.

– If you have hundreds or thousands of PDF files, outbound links, or other things that you’d love to track using event tracking, you may present a large challenge to your web development team. Installing a couple of event tracking functions is no problem, but giving them the task of implementing it several hundred times over will create resource and timing issues.

– At the time of this blog post, you cannot create profile filters based on events. Therefore, you’re out of luck if you were hoping to create a filtered profile within your Google Analytics account to include (or, exclude) events. Depending on your needs, this could be a major limitation.

– Google Analytics has a limit of 500 events per session. If you reach 500 events in a single session, the 501st event and on will be dropped and not counted (note: this rarely happens, and most likely could not happen even if you were purposely trying to make it happen – you’d give up after about 100).

These are just some of the possible pros / cons concerning event tracking. What are your pros / cons to consider when using event tracking? Please post yours below!

P.S. Next week, I will discuss the pros / cons of using virtual page view tracking with Google Analytics – an excellent compliment to this blog post!

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