Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Google Event Tracking and Bounce Rate

After last week’s post on the differences and similarities between Google Analytics event tracking and ­custom variables I updated my website to include various types of custom variables and event tracking. Everything looked awesome in analytics and was able to better understand my customer segments and behavior. However, after a few days I started to notice that our site bounce rate drastically reduced and was having a new record low. I knew I screwed something up.

The Problem
After some digging around and researching Google’s event tracking code online I finally figured out what was going on. In general, we consider a “bounce” as a single-page visit to your site. So when a visitor lands on your product page and reads about the product then decides to exit the website we count that as a bounce. However, let’s say you setup event tracking on the video clip in the product description to know how many people are viewing the video. A visitor again lands on the product page, watches the video, and then exits the website without visiting any additional pages. If we go by our general description of a “bounce” then we would expect this to be recorded as a bounce since the visitor did not visit any additional pages before leaving the site. Google event tracking takes a different approach that turns out to be very helpful. Using the default code for event tracking in the video example above Google Analytics would view this as the visitor interacting with your website and therefore would not count their visit as a “bounce”. On my website I had event tracking automatically executing on page load so I was getting a zero bounce rate for all those pages.

Is it a Problem?
First we have to understand that everyone’s site is different. For example if my site was a blog and I enable event tracking on some of the videos or other areas where visitors could interact then I probably wouldn't want to record visitors that interact with my blog as a bounce if an event was triggered manually. This is because it’s common for people to only view one page of a blog. You could in this example add an event if the visitor scrolls down to read more of your blog. That would be helpful to know and you probably wouldn't want to count it as a bounce if they then exited your website.

On the other side we have websites with pages that are special offers or an eCommerce site with the whole purpose of having visitors move to other pages on the website. In this case you would probably want to record any single-page visit as a bounce. So you might be asking yourself how can you track events and still report the visit as a bounce if it’s a single-page visit? Simple!

The Solution
Google updated its event tracking script to include an optional parameter called Non-Interaction Events. You can simply include a “true” to tell Google it is not an interaction hit and should not be used in the bounce rate calculations. Conversely, by not including this parameter or including the parameter with a “false” will result in the event being calculated in the site bounce ratio. Regardless of the approach you take this can better help you understand the benefits of using event tracking and have more control over your sites bounce rate calculation.