Web Analytics

New Autotrack for Google Analytics

If you are using Google Analytics out of the box, without additional event tracking codes or custom configurations, you are missing out on a wealth of good data about what users are doing on your website. Unfortunately, many Google Analytics users do not have the technical know-how or the resources to set up the custom tracking necessary to capture that data.

Google Analytics developers have created Autotrack to help remedy this situation. Autotrack is a new set of plugins for Google Analytics that adds tracking for many common events. 

Despite the name, Autotrack is not exactly automatic, since it still requires code changes to your website and some manual configuration. Nonetheless, it is a useful set of tools to consider adding to a basic Google Analytics setup. What can Autotrack do, and is it right for your website?

What can Autotrack track?

1.     Social interactions: Autotrack automatically adds tracking for the official Twitter tweet/follow buttons and the Facebook like button.

2.     Improved session duration: Google Analytics counts the session duration of single-pageview sessions (bounces) as zero. In addition, Google Analytics considers the time on page for the last pageview of a session to be zero.  Autotrack provides a better session duration measurement by tracking an event when a user actually ends a session.

3.     Outbound links: Google Analytics does not automatically track any action when users click from a link on your site to another domain. Autotrack automatically tracks this as an event in the event category “Outbound Link”.

4.     Outbound forms: Google Analytics also does not automatically track any action when users submit a form to an external domain. Autotrack automatically detects when forms are submitted to external sites and records an event in the event category “Outbound Form”.

5.     URL changes: By default, Google Analytics only tracks a single pageview on single page applications. Autotrack detects URL changes (but not hash changes) in single page applications, and tracks these as pageviews.

6.     Declarative events: Autotrack will automatically detect any events declaratively added to elements, for example:

<button data-event-category=”Video” data-event-action=”play”>Play</button>

This makes it easy to track simple events like button clicks, directly in the elements’ HTML.

7.     Media queries: Now that so many websites use responsive design, it makes sense that their analytics should be able to track which layouts (media queries) are being used. For example, how often is a page being viewed in landscape orientation? Autotrack lets you set up which media queries your site uses and tracks those as custom dimensions in Google Analytics (for example breakpoints, resolution/DPI, device orientation). Note that this requires some extra configuration in order to work correctly.

How to use Autotrack

To use Autotrack, you will have to add the JavaScript file to your site, and make a small change to your Google Analytics tracking codes.  You will also have to configure any options required for the individual plugins. Most of the plugins can be used without additional configuration, unless you want to track across subdomains, across different domains, or with multiple Google Analytics trackers. The full technical details can be found on the official Autotrack repository.

Who should use Autotrack

Users who would benefit the most from Autotrack are the following:

  • users who currently use only default Universal Analytics tracking codes,
  • users whose event tracking needs include only the features that are part of Autotrack.

Who should not use Autotrack

If you have already invested resources in setting up custom Google Analytics tracking codes or Google Tag Manager, then you should be cautious about using Autotrack. At best, it cannot do anything that you could not also accomplish in Google Tag Manager. At worst, it is possible that the Autotrack scripts could conflict with your custom tracking, or double-count events that you are already tracking.

We still recommend Google Tag Manager as the best option for users that want to add event tracking to their websites. If you have any questions about how you should set up event tracking for your website, send me an email!