There is a new paradigm taking shape in the world of web analytics. For a long time, the most granular piece of data we collected was the pageview (Figure 10-14). However, with the onset of new technologies, like Flash and Ajax, and the addition of new content types, like movies and widgets, pageviews no longer provide the necessary data to understand user actions.
Figure 10-14. The old web analytics data hierarchy
We need a new, more granular piece of data that describes how visitors interact with our content. In Google Analytics, that new piece of data is called events.
Events are actions that visitors take on a web page that don’t generate new pageviews. Interacting with a video player, a widget, or an audio player are all common events that you can track with Google Analytics.
In the old days (i.e., 2008!) we could track this data as a virtual pageview (see Understanding Pageviews), but this is really ineffective for two reasons. First, it creates lots of pageviews that pollute our true pageview numbers. Second, the reporting wasn’t built to handle events, so it doesn’t provide any real insight. That’s why we have event tracking.
Event tracking adds another layer of data to the visitor data hierarchy, shown in Figure 10-15.
Figure 10-15. The new web analytics data hierarchy, ...