Virtual pageviews in Google Analytics – Complete Guide

Index (Virtual Pageviews)

#1 What are Virtual Pageviews? #5  Debugging Virtual Pageviews tracking
#2 When to use Virtual Pageviews #6  Scaling and automating virtual pageviews tracking via Google Tag Manager
#3 Naming Conventions for Virtual Pageviews #7 Setting up virtual pageviews as goal
#4 Tying virtual pageviews to web page elements via Event Handlers

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

 

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.

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.

 

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/light boxes
# Loading of 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 disadvantage 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 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 send 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 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 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:

virtualPageview-Naming

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 page view 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 debugging

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

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 goal

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

virtual pageview

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Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of OptimizeSmart.com

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

  • Over eleven years' experience in SEO, PPC and web analytics
  • Google Analytics certified
  • Google AdWords certified
  • Nominated for Digital Analytics Association Award for Excellence
  • Bachelors degree in Internet Science
  • Founder of OptimizeSmart.com and EventEducation.com

I am also the author of three books:

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