Google Analytics Series: Event and Goal Tracking

Event and goal tracking in Google Analytics, how they differ and why they are important to track.

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Setting up goals and events in Google Analytics is very important when determining the success of a campaign or monitoring the quality of the traffic coming to a website. They allow you to measure how many times an action has been carried out and find out where the user came from.

Types of Goals

There are different goals that can be set up: destination, duration, pages/screens per visit, and event goals, as you can see on the below screenshot;

Google Analytics - Goal Tracking

A destination goal is a goal created based on a specific URL on your site. For example, if you have a contact form on your site which takes you to a unique thank you page once it’s completed, you can create a goal for the URL of that thank you page. This will mean that Google Analytics counts a goal every time that page is visited i.e. each time someone has completed the form and sent an enquiry.

A duration goal records a goal every time a visitor spends over a certain amount of time on the site. You can specify the amount of time when setting up the goal, so it can be a certain number of hours, minutes or seconds – whichever is most relevant.

Pages/Screens per visit records a goal every time a visitor visits more than a certain amount of pages – more than 5, or 10 pages on the site/screens on the app.

Event goals pull in events and track those as goals too, and work slightly differently to the first three types of goals. Whilst destination, duration and pages/screens per visit are used to to track page view stats, they don’t track things that happen within pages, like clicks on downloads. They are more complex to set up than the other goals, as they first require a piece of code to be added to the website itself. This can been used to track a user interaction with content independently from a web page or a screen load. Examples of actions you might want to track include downloads, mobile ad clicks, gadgets, Flash elements, AJAX embedded elements and video plays.

Setting up Event goals

The first step is deciding exactly what to track. This depends on your business objectives – if you’re a travel company, it might be brochure downloads or video plays.

When setting up Event Tracking, you can choose to define up to five of the following components, and associate them with individual Events:

  • Category (required) – Grouping events within an event category allows you to organise the data better. For example you could track an online registration form by setting the category to track the whole form, then set up different goals within that category to track each different section of the form.
  • Action (required) – the action the user takes such as a click or form submission
  • Label (optional) – this can be used to differentiate multiple goals within the same category
  • Value (optional) – this can be used to specify a monetary value if there is one associated with the goal
  • Implicit Count (optional) – accessible via API this counts the number of interactions with an Event Category

So, for a whitepaper download these might look like this:

  • Category: downloads
  • Action: click
  • Label: whitepaper
  • Value: 0

Next, add the code to your site in the appropriate place. Raven Tools’ handy event tracking code generator can create the code you need.

Importantly, You’ll need to remember the terms you specified for each component in order to get the correct code for each goal.

For many businesses, call tracking will be really important. However this isn’t something that can be set up in the event goals. Some info on call tracking can be found in this article.

There’s more information on events on the Google blog here or for beginners, there’s a step-by-step here and for the more technologically savvy there details of how to set up event tracking here.

Getting Results

Around 24-48 hours after the goals are set up, data should start appearing in the Google Analytics Event Reports:

Google Analytics - Events Overview

By setting the terms for the components it makes it easy to read and interpret your reports. For example, if you had multiple PDFs available for download on one page you could label the events as follows to differentiate between them:

  • Category = PDF
  • Action = Download
  • Label = {Name of PDF}

Alternatively you can use the ‘_trackPageview’ method (for web properties) or trackView method (for apps) method which is a function that allows you to track events on your site that do not generate a pageview i.e. user interaction with website elements such as a Flash-driven menu system. This also involves adding code to your site, the main logic for which can be found on the Google developers site.

A really good guide on how to use the ‘_trackPageview’ method and why is here. There are also some good points in the comments on when it’s suitable to use the different types of tracking, although Google recommends using Event goals to track user interactions, like clicks on a video player, and using the web ‘_trackPageview’ or the app trackView method for tracking different content that appears within the same web page or app screen. For example tracking the different steps in a form, where the URL or main app screen does not change, is a good time to use _trackPageview or trackView.

NB Content that is tracked using the _trackPageview or trackView method appears as either a page or screen view in Analytics, and not in the Events or Events Flow reports.

Why not go set up goal and event tracking and see how visitors are really engaging with your site!

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