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4 tips before tracking downloadable documents on your website

Downloadable documents are one of the most common elements that can be found in many websites. Out-of-the-box analytics platforms like Google Analytics (GA) only provide pageview information. Additional setups would be required to understand the actual consumption pattern for web documents.


In the market, the most common methods to set up additional tracking will be via Javascript or via tag management systems like Google Tag Manager.


The main purpose of this article is to empower anyone to understand the thought process and rationale that needs to be considered before any setup work.


4 tips to consider before setting up website trackers for downloadable documents


1. Brainstorm on all possible track elements

Before embarking on any tracker setups, it is always a good practice to brainstorm on what is available on the website before streamlining to what is really important for the data analyst.

For downloadable documents, here are some examples of possible track elements:

Document type: PDF, Excel, Txt, etcDocument file nameDownload button nameDocument sizeDocument location (aka. Page URL)User action: click, download, etcTotal download quantity


2. Consider key objectives

It will be a dream come true for data analysts if the webmaster is able to track every single element that is available on the website. However in the practical side of things, multiple trackers may impact the overall speed performance of the website.

As such, it is crucial to discuss with the business users to understand what are the key tracking objectives and rank them based on importance.


Example:

A bank website has different types of downloadable documents (credit card brochures, forms for loan application, forms for change of mailing address, etc). If the business objective of the website is to understand the visitors’ interest level on credit cards, webmasters should track the download behaviour of credit card brochures and monitor the web performance for a time period before deciding on setting up additional trackers.


3. Understand function and limitation of the chosen web analytics platform

The functionalities and limitations of the chosen web analytics platform should also be considered before any tracker set up.


For instance, Google Analytics (GA) event tracking provides 2 content slots (ie. Event Label and Event Action) for web analysts to capture information.


4. Choose the top track elements to feed into the web analytics platform

To maximise the benefit of web data analytics, it will be important to customize your track elements to fit the objectives for your business users and data analysts.


Example 1:

An university website would like to find out the popularity profile of course brochures. The brochures are found in multiple locations of the site and each page could contain more than 1 PDF. With that in mind, it is recommended to track the PDF Title and Page URL so that the web analyst is able to understand the viewing profile of the same PDF title across the site and the popular PDF in the same page. Since the purpose of the business user is to find out the popularity of course brochures, possible track elements like file size and document type is less important in this scenario.


Example 2:

A corporate website would like to find out the download profile of their yearly financial reports. The financial reports comes in editable format (ie. .xls, .xlsx, .csv, etc) and summarized format (ie. .pdf). With that in mind, it is recommended to track the Document Title and Document Type so that the web analyst is able to understand the total download volume on all financial reports and also the preferred file type by the web visitors.


Example 3:

A website selling e-books knows the conversion pattern of their sample e-book download and would like to find out if their website's call-to-action button design would change the overall conversion rate.

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