This is the third in our series of collaborative PPC Hero/SEO Boy series which aims to coves the most important aspects of the IQ Test and prepare you to earn a high score. Steve started us off with Cookies in Google Analytics and Erin continued with Google Analytics Ecommerce Tracking.

Why should we care about event tracking?

Because. Event tracking can give you lots of power.  Experienced online marketers understand that the more data you have about what’s going on in your accounts/on your site the more decision-making power you obtain. So if you have site elements that can’t be tracked with standard Analytics goal tracking, you should consider event tracking as a means to gather data about how people are interacting with them and the value you’re receiving from them. Examples of these elements include:

  • Any Flash-driven element, like a Flash website, or a Flash Movie player
  • Embedded AJAX page elements
  • Page gadgets
  • File downloads
  • Load times for data

Let’s take a moment to discuss the two basic ways that you can modify your Analytics code to measure goal metrics aside from the URL destination, time on site, and pages/visit goals that are trackable with the “standard” Analytics code. The first is the virtual pageview (_trackPageview())method. This allows you to track clicks on elements of your site that don’t actually lead to new pages loading, but isn’t as flexible as event tracking and has some downfalls like making other reporting in your Analytics account more complicated (as virtual pageviews are combined with actual pageview count stats). Generally, unless you have specific goals that require virtual pageview tracking, using the event tracking (_trackEvent()) method can get you more detailed, more-segmentable information.

(Aside: Making your flash and silverlight content Analytics-event-tracking-friendly can be somewhat more complicated than the creation of the tracking code; this isn’t our concern for the test (there were no questions about this issue in our experience) but I’m just telling you because it’s important to know.)

The event tracking method is fairly flexible in terms of accommodating the structure in which you would like to track your events. The code looks as such: _trackEvent(category, action, optional_label, optional_value) where category and action are always required, and the others are available to give you more segmentation ability. Category, Action, and Label are customizable as you’d like, and value is a numeric value you can determine for that action. Before you start event tracking, it’d behoove you to write out the eventual “ideal” structure for your tracked events to ensure that you don’t name a category “Videos” if you would have been better off naming it “Kids’ Videos” since you have 50 video types on your site.  Same for action, for example, if you consider a video being “50% Watched” differently than one “80% Watched”.

Unlike virtual pageviews, event tracking implementation won’t skew your pageview results, however, it’s helpful to understand the differences in event tracking reporting between total events (I like a video and watch it 9 times and I have 9 total events) and unique events (each event is only counted as one per visit no matter how many times it happens).

Event tracking on the Google Analytics IQ Test

If code implementation confuses you, that is pretty okay. As a marketer, you need to understand the principles of what you can DO with event tracking, but the Analytics IQ Test does not cover its implementation in extreme detail.

On the test itself, most of the event tracking questions (our team seems to each have had 3-4) focus on knowing what types of site elements you would use it for, the general requirements you must have in the code as described above, and understanding the ways in which virtual pageviews and events differ and which you should use.

I didn’t get any questions about which version of the code you need to be using (ga.js, not urchin.js) but it’s worth knowing. If you’ve experienced any additional/different event tracking question types on the Google Analytics IQ Test, let us know!