Analytics & Conversion Tips & Tricks No. 5: Event or Virtual Page? Analytics & Conversion Tips & Tricks No. 5: Event or Virtual Page?

Analytics & Conversion Tips & Tricks No. 5: Event or Virtual Page?

by , Consultant Digital Analytics
on 30 October 2017


When using an Analytics solution, at a minimum, each page must be tagged so each page viewed gives feedback to the solution interface. Consequently, if an interaction does not lead to the loading of a new page, no information is fed back to the tool. To go further in analysis of the pathway touchpoints, it is necessary to use events or even virtual pages!

Let’s remember that an event makes it possible to register a click, a scrolling or any other user interaction most often when no page is reloaded. The virtual page consists in copying the page tag in a context where there’s also no page reload.

But then, what’s the difference?

Here the objective is to define the respective advantages and inconveniences in each case to then choose the best solution. And to better understand, here’s the most recurrent example: a funnel where each step occurs at the same URL: this is notably the case when there’s a multiple-step order funnel on one same page.

In the above example, barring any specific implementation, it’s impossible to know how far the user goes in the funnel before abandoning the shopping cart. One could add events until a new step is displayed which makes it possible to manually reconstruct the funnel. Manually because it’s impossible to configure an events-based funnel in a solution like Google Analytics. So let’s use virtual pages like in the illustration here below:

By virtue of this solution, you can configure a goals funnel and also obtain an exit rate and the average time spent on each step. That is to say, what’s essential to analyze and optimize your funnel and so to increase your conversion rate. The Holy Grail. Further, the events you implement at each step will be associated with the corresponding pages, either the initial page or the virtual pages which is practical for analysis.

Technically, it’s the same principle as implementing event tracking. You must executre a new Analytics tag, in this case, a “pageview” type, by manually setting the page name (e.g.: /checkout/summary). The Analytics solution will interpret this as the loading of a standard page and so will you!

General rule, counter examples and traps

Generally, it’s practical to use a virtual page when user interaction is similar to loading a new page and you want to analyze it as such in the tool. Exception: uploading a document is not the same as a page; it’s generally considered an event. But if one wants to use a goals funnel as we have seen, it’s necessary to use a virtual page to configure the steps. Another example, in theory, you cannot record the page view for the bank site but you can send a virtual page to the button which makes it possible to access the summary page!

However, be careful. Don’t overuse virtual pages in place of events. Here is another example which illustrates the consequences of a virtual page on analysis.

A pop-in could be considered like a page but only if the latter is instantly produced on a landing page, for example, choosing a point of sale, and consequently your bounce rate will be canceled! In fact, the user will automatically see 2 pages when s/he arrives. In this case, you must use an event without forgetting to configure it as “non-interactive”, that’s to say, that it will prevent the recording of the session as a bounce if the user does not view the other page. Note: by default, an event is “interactive” and so does not solve this problem!

In another context, if the pop-in triggers a virtual page which is then closed by the user, from the analytic tool’s perspective, s/he is still on it until a new page is loaded. As a result, the time spent will be, for example, associated with the pop-in. In addition, all events that occur on the “real” page will then be connected to the pop-in. That is, unless you send back the corresponding “real” page tag just as it would for a virtual page as shown in the example below. So be careful of the consequences of such a configuration and the interpretation of the data.

Sometimes indispensable, often very useful

Finally, the question becomes essential for a one-page site, a Single Page App or simply content “tiles” that are similar to successive pages being scrolled with a mouse. In that case, tweak your virtual page implementation for sharper analysis of the users’ pathways. Even if in that case, use of a visit capture tool like Hotjar will be much more practical to understanding how your users browse.

In conclusion, if you want to record interactions with an component on your site, here are the questions to ask:

  • Is my component similar to a page?
  • Do I want to analyze the component or its consequence as a page?
  • Do I want to influence the initial page’s bounce/exit rate?
  • Do I want to record events and associate them with my component?

All corresponding solutions are hidden in this article =)

We look forward to seeing you soon for the next Analytics & Conversion Tips & Tricks!


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Analytics & Conversion Tips & Tricks No. 5: Event or Virtual Page?