Virtual Pageviews -- Ways to Measure so Much More With Analytics

Using virtual pageviews inside Google Analytics can give you the deepest information about Web site activity that you've received since analytics began. Obviously, we get more improved results and ways of tracking with each passing year, but virtual pageviews was a change that has had as much impact as the start of analytics itself.

For some time, analytics have allowed you to create event tracking -- actions within your pages that you want specific data for -- but the addition of virtual pageviews and even more detailed event tracking now allows Web site owners to get granular and create data about certain actions that can be used to make design, marketing, and site architectural decisions.

Google has a great video about the difference in their newly launched Conversion University. Basically, to create a virtual pageview you have to call the following JavaScript method:

pageTracker._trackPageview('/The-Name-Of-Your-VIRTUAL-Page');

Now we can track the viewing of a Flash video inside a page, an abandonment of a form and what field caused it, and a click off a link on a page (this is better than just seeing it in the exit data). You can create a virtual pageview anywhere that you can call a JavaScript method. This virtual pageview will show up everywhere in the Content reports section that a "real" pageview will.

Wherever you use CSS to create changes to a page, you can track its usage.

If you want to know if a certain action (e.g., viewing a movie on your site) leads to conversion, then you can employ virtual pageviews and funnels. Set a virtual pageview for the click to play the video, create a goal -- say a sign up or any other action that calls a particular page which becomes your goal page -- then simply create a funnel where the virtual pageview is the first step and is a required step, and step two is getting to the goal page. This can have all sorts of applications.

If you're going to stay in front of the constantly changing space that is our industry, take some time and explore what Google's Conversion University has to offer. From advanced segmentation to high-end filters, there's a wealth of knowledge to be gained.

I spent some time going through this during the past holidays and I'm now trying to run under all the new things I want to add to my analytics. It was like a Christmas present to myself. Ways to identify quality traffic and better identifying of conversion drivers are just a couple of the things these tools can help you with.

Customized tracking codes are always a winner. While you're at it, consider adding motion charts to your skill set.

Motion charts can help you tie keywords to conversions and pageviews in a visual presentation. Here's a good video that may whet your appetite and have you exploring this great new asset.

There are a lot of advanced analytics strategies. Hopefully these help, and I'll try to write about more in the coming year.