Tracking Flash, Movies, and more with Event Tracking!

- July 27, 2009

Event TrackingLast month, the Google Analytics team finally lifted the curtains and officially removed the “Beta” label off of its brand new Event Tracking section. With Event Tracking, site owners now have the ability to track special interactions with their website, separate from pageviews. This can include tracking the activity of a movie player, an applet, a flash virtual tour, or any site element made in AJAX.

For starters, the new Event Tracking section of reports will be located within the main Content section, right underneath the Site Search report sub-section. Once there, you’ll be introduced to four new metrics: Categories, Actions, Labels, and Values. These metrics are also the building blocks of setting up Event Tracking on your flash applet or video player, as we’ll talk about in a little bit. First, let’s cover the metrics / reports that make up this section.

1. Categories
Categories are the highest level of organizational structure that you can have with Event Tracking. Think of it like the “root” level of a directory. You would use labels like “Videos” or “Downloads” for your Categories, and they would most likely be used multiple times throughout the main elements that you wish to track with Event Tracking.

2. Actions
Actions are exactly what they sound like – the actual interactions with your object. If you’re setting up Event Tracking for a video on your site, you could track a user pressing Play, Stop, Rewind, Fast-Forward, or adjusting the volume as an Action.

3. Labels
Labels are an optional value with Event Tracking, which allow you to provide additional information about the Action that just happened. Labels can be used for naming a movie (the title of the Movie), or the URL of a downloaded file, or some other name that you’d like to use for the subsequent Action.

4. Values
Values are also optional elements in Event Tracking that allow you to assign a numerical value to any action. These can help you quantify all of your actions, and Google Analytics will even throw in an Average Value figure for you to get an idea of how popular your Actions are.

Putting it all together
Because of the updated Google Analytics Tracking Code’s (ga.js) object-oriented modeling, newer features like Event Tracking are highly customizable, and can be programmed onto your movie or applet in a variety of different ways. However, the “standard” coding for Event Tracking looks like this:

pageTracker._trackEvent("Videos", "Stop", "G.I. Joe Trailer", "150");

Notice in my code example that you can see the four metrics in order from left to right after the call to _trackEvent- Category (“Videos”), Action (“Stop”), Label (“G.I. Joe Trailer”), and Value (“150”). This format must be followed, no matter where or how you decide to use Event Tracking.

A few general notes regarding Event Tracking

1. You must use the newer ga.js tracking script on your website’s pages in order to be able to utilize Event Tracking – it will not work using urchin.js.

2. There is a maximum of 500 Events allowed in a single user session (visit). Because of this, you should avoid setting up tracking for excessive mouse movements, tracking every second a video is played for, or every time someone right-clicks their mouse while playing your newest shoot-’em-up flash game.

3. Event Tracking – previously considered an interaction hit – is no longer counted as such by Google Analytics. This means that your Bounce Rate or your Average Time on Site metrics won’t be affected. Check out my blog post from back in January about Event Tracking interaction hits.

For deep technical schematics on Event Tracking, check out the Google Analytics Event Tracking Guide.

Happy Event Tracking!

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