Google Analytics Virtual Pageviews Tutorial

This article is in conjunction with the article Event Tracking in Google Analytics – Complete Guide where I explained event tracking in Google Analytics in great detail.

What are Google Analytics virtual pageviews?

A virtual pageview is a hit which Google Analytics tracks as a ‘pageview’, even when no new web page has actually been loaded into a web browser.

Follow is the syntax for tracking virtual pageviews in Google Analytics:

ga(‘send’, {
‘hitType’: ‘pageview’,
‘page’: ‘name of your virtual page’,
});

The code above can also be written without field names as:

ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’, ‘name of your virtual page’);

Example #1:

<a href=”https://www.abc.com/gu/dw/seo-beginners-guide.pdf” onClick=”ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’, ‘/virtual/guides/download/seo-beginners-guide.pdf’);“> Download SEO Beginners Guide</a>

Here, when a user clicks on the link ‘Download SEO Beginners Guide’, GA will generate a virtual pageview called ‘/virtual/guides/download/seo-beginners-guide.pdf’.

Example #2:

<a href=”https://www.abc.com/gu/dw/social-media-guide.pdf” onClick=”ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’, ‘/virtual/guides/download/social-media-guide.pdf’);“> Download Social Media Guide</a>

Here, when a user clicks on the link ‘Download Social Media Guide’, GA will generate a virtual pageview called ‘/virtual/guides/download/social-media-guide.pdf’.

You can see the virtual pageviews in ‘All Pages’ and ‘Content Drilldown’ reports (under Behavior > Site Content) in your Google Analytics account along with the real page views.

Note: If you are heavily using virtual pageviews then create a separate view, just to track them.

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When to use virtual pageviews

Track those types of users’ interactions as virtual pageviews which are equivalent of a page being viewed.

For example, following users’ interactions are equivalent of a page being viewed and could be tracked via virtual pageviews:

  • Downloading a file
  • Loading of ajax contents
  • Loading of popups/lightboxes
  • Loading of a dynamically generated web page
  • Scrolling down a page

” Virtual pageviews are ideal for tracking goals or funnel pages hosted on a different website.”

One of the disadvantages of event tracking is that you can not use tracked events as funnel steps while setting up a goal in GA. However, you can use virtual pageview as a funnel step, while setting up a goal in GA. In this way, you can track funnel steps hosted on a different website.

For example, if you are using a third-party solution for checkout or if you are an affiliate, then it is quite common that the final part of the checkout process takes place on a different website. So if your third party checkout sends virtual pageviews (some, in fact, do that) on each page load, you can then track the checkout pages as funnel pages via virtual pageviews:

virtual pageviews virtual pageview use case

To learn more about setting up goals and funnel steps in Google Analytics, check out this article: The Geek Guide to Understanding Funnels in Google Analytics

Naming conventions for virtual pageviews

  1. Use descriptive names for virtual pageviews. So that just by looking at the name, a person can understand what type of data is being collected.
  2. Use consistent names for virtual pageviews.
  3. Use the word ‘virtual’ somewhere in the virtual pageview name so that you can easily differentiate them from regular pageviews in your Google Analytics reports. ‘virtual page views’ are not highlighted as ‘virtual’ in the Google Analytics reports. So if you do not include the word ‘virtual’ somewhere in the virtual pageview name then you will have a hard time identifying them in GA reports.
  4. Determine in advance, all of the users’ interactions for which you want to trigger virtual pageviews.
  5. Use an Excel Spreadsheet to decide the names of all your virtual pageviews in advance. Create a hierarchy of virtual pageviews that is scalable. So that you don’t need to change the names of virtual pageviews often.

You can create a hierarchy of virtual pageviews by grouping all virtual pageviews into categories and by making them a part of a virtual directories:

virtual pageviews virtualPageview Naming1

Note: work with your report users, to make sure that your hierarchy is understandable.

Tying virtual pageviews to web page elements via event handlers

Just like events, you can also tie virtual pageviews to web page elements via event handlers (mouse, keyboard, frame and form event handlers).For example:

<a href=”https://www.abc.com/gu/dw/seo-beginners-guide.pdf” onClick=”ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’, ‘/virtual/guides/download/seo-beginners-guide.pdf’);“> Download SEO Beginners Guide</a>

Note: You can create a virtual pageview wherever you can call a JavaScript method.

Debugging virtual pageviews tracking

There are two ways in which you can make sure that virtual pageviews is working as intended:

#1 By looking at the real-time content report:

virtual pageviews virtual pageviews debugging

#2 The second way to see the real-time firing of virtual pageviews is through ‘Google Developers Console’:

virtual pageviews virtual pageviews debugging2

Note: The biggest disadvantage of using virtual page views is that it can inflate your overall pageviews metric.

Scaling and automating virtual pageviews tracking via Google Tag Manager

Just like events, you can also scale and automate virtual pageviews tracking by using Google Tag Manager.

Setting up virtual pageviews as a goal

Just like events, you can also set virtual pageviews as a goal in your Google Analytics account and assign a monetary value to it:

virtual pageviews virtual pageview

Other articles on specialized tracking in Google Analytics

  1. Google Analytics Ecommerce Tracking Tutorial
  2. Google Tag Manager Event Tracking Tutorial
  3. Google Analytics Event Tracking Tutorial
  4. Google Analytics Store Visits Tracking Tutorial
  5. Offline Conversion Tracking in Google Analytics – Tutorial
  6. Ecommerce Tracking Google Tag Manager (GTM) – Tutorial
  7. Tracking Virtual Pageviews in Google Tag Manager – Tutorial
  8. Google Tag Manager YouTube Video Tracking
  9. How to unlock not provided keywords in Google Analytics?
  10. Google Analytics and YouTube Integration Tutorial
  11. Google Analytics for Facebook Tutorial
  12. Cross Domain Tracking in Google Analytics – Complete Guide
  13. How to use two Google Analytics codes on one page
  14. The one thing that you don’t know about PayPal.com and the referral exclusion list
  15. Google Analytics Calculated Metrics – Tutorial
  16. Creating your own Google Analytics Tag Auditing System
  17. Google Tag Manager Search Tracking without Query Parameter
  18. Tracking Google Analytics Paypal Referral and other payment gateways
  19. How to Track Phone Calls in Google Analytics – Call Tracking Tutorial
  20. How to track leads in Google Analytics via CRM
  21. Postbacks in Google Analytics Explained
  22. Subscription & Recurring Revenue Analytics in Google Analytics
  23. Track the Impact of Google Analytics Cookie Consent on Website Traffic
  24. Tracking Offline Conversions in Google Ads
  25. Implementing Scroll Tracking via Google Tag Manager
  26. Scroll Depth Tracking in Google Tag Manager – Tutorial
  27. Site Search Tracking In Google Analytics Without Query Parameters
  28. Google Tag Manager Youtube Video Tracking via YouTube Video Trigger
  29. How to Correctly Measure Conversion Date & Time in Google Analytics
  30. Google Analytics Social Tracking – Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn
  31. Cross Domain Tracking in Google Analytics – Complete Guide
  32. Google Analytics Linkedin & Twitter Tracking
  33. Creating Content Group in Google Analytics via tracking code using gtag.js
  34. Google Analytics Site Search Tracking via Query Parameters
  35. Google Analytics Site Search Tracking Tutorial
  36. Creating and Using Site Search Funnel in Google Analytics
  37. Learn to Setup Facebook Pixel Tracking via Google Tag Manager
  38. AMP Google Analytics Tracking – Learn to track AMP pages
  39. Setting up Sales Funnel across websites in Google Analytics
  40. Regex Google Analytics & Google Tag Manager – Tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions About Google Analytics Virtual pageviews Tutorial

What is a virtual pageview in Google Analytics?

A virtual pageview is a hit which Google Analytics track as ‘pageview’, even when no new web page has actually been loaded into a web browser.

When should I use virtual pageviews?

Track those types of users’ interactions as virtual pageviews which are equivalent of a page being viewed. For example:

– Downloading a file
– Loading of ajax contents
– Loading of popups/lightboxes
– Loading of a dynamically generated web page
– Scrolling down a page

Can I use virtual pageviews as funnel steps?

Yes, you can use virtual pageview as a funnel step, while setting up a goal in GA. In this way, you can track funnel steps hosted on a different website.

Can I tie virtual pageviews to web page elements via event handlers?

Just like events, you can also tie virtual pageviews to web page elements via event handlers (mouse, keyboard, frame and form event handlers). For example:

<a href=”https://www.abc.com/gu/dw/seo-beginners-guide.pdf” onClick=”ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’, ‘/virtual/guides/download/seo-beginners-guide.pdf’);“> Download SEO Beginners Guide</a>

Note: You can create a virtual pageview wherever you can call a JavaScript method.

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