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.
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.
– 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! 🙂 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!
Last 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!