Or “Marketers are from Mars, Webmasters are from Venus.”
The meteoric rise of the Internet has provided a boon to marketers and their ability to glean valuable data; however, it has also created a new language that interchanges commonly used terms with new definitions and creates translation issues between a company’s marketers, strategists and webmasters (Speaking of webmasters, the term “webmaster” is in drastic need of a new name. Please feel free to recommend suggestions.)
A common situation where translation issues lead to incorrect implementation is in Event Tracking as provided by Google Analytics. In the 150 plus small and medium sized businesses Adpearance has worked with, we have found that only a small percentage have implemented Event Tracking correctly. In examining this issue, the problem is not broken code, or lack of understanding—the problem is the same one that sent my last girlfriend and me to relationship counseling: communication.
“We have different love languages…”
At the core of this problem is that event tracking by definition seems simple: track an event. The lack of plurality of the word “event” even makes it sound singular. So, if you are the marketing department, you put in a request to your webmaster to track an event, they follow Google’s easy directions, and you’re done, right? Wrong.
“You did what I said but not the way I wanted you to…”
If you are the person setting up the code, event tracking is a series of potentially five variables to pass to Google Analytics (only two of which are required). The ability to make sense of your event tracking data relies on these variables being classified in a way that will make sense when you go to view your data. Most often times, the person installing the code does not fully understand how you intend to use the data. In the example below, the marketing team gave directions to the person implementing the event tracking that they wanted to track how many times a user clicked a particular button.
At first glance, when we look at the data, this is what we see.
What you see is a generic action called “click” on a generic button. There are many things wrong with this setup, most notably, what is the button? To be fair, we can drill down deeper and see more information such as what page they were on when they clicked “the button,” but it is still unclear which button is being tracked. Whoever implemented this event tracking most likely took a literal translation of what they were asked to do (track the click of a button) without thinking about how it would look when viewing the data later.
Communicating Your Needs
To solve the communication lapse that occurs between marketers and the people implementing the code, the first step is to redefine how you think about event tracking. Event tracking is the ability to track events through categorizing 2 or 3 pieces of information:
Category, Action, Label (optional)
“It’s Not You, It’s Google…”
Now, here’s the tricky part, Google Event Tracking is flawed in how it provides access to view your data. The peculiarity in Google Analytics Event Tracking is when viewing your data (without downloading it and using spreadsheets) you can only view two out of the three variables at any given time. Common sense would tell you that you should be able to view all three of these variables at any one time.
Therefore, you need to think of how to name each event in such a way that when only viewing 2/3 of the gathered data, it will still make sense. How you set up your category, action and labels are entirely dependent on how you want to view the data later, but setting them up poorly will make your data hard to understand.
Generally, we think about it as follows:
Category is your “container” that you want to group your events under. Try to be as descriptive as possible. Many people use the page title or URL as their category—this is unnecessary as Google will let you filter by those means anyway.
Action is usually the action that is completed but you want it to be descriptive enough that it will make sense when you view it later. As an example, “Click” is not descriptive enough, but “Clicked the Top Nav Contact Button” is better.
Label is the last variable you can use to be descriptive. Some events do not need a label as the action is self-explanatory, but sometimes this is vital. In cases where we really need an extra variable, we might stuff two or more variables into the label and separate them with a ‘|’. Remember, the key is that if you only see two of the three recorded variables, the event tracking will make sense.
In a nutshell, here are the keys to setting up Event Tracking correctly:
- Provide whoever is setting it up with the Category, Action and Label. Do not count on them to come up with it for you.
- When thinking about Category, Action and Label, make sure that if you only see two out of three variables at any one time, the data you collect will make sense.
- Check back after a week or so of collecting data to make sure it makes sense.
In a later post, we will go over correct and incorrect implementations and dive deeper into more advanced variables you can use to give you very specific data.