Google Analytics 404 Tracking And Downloaded Files

I was reading Bruce Clay’s September Newsletter and came across a couple of inaccuracies in Jim Sterne’s web analytics article, specifically this part:

Google won’t report on downloads of files like PDF’s, jpg’s of Flash. You want to know about server error messages? You have to look to the pay-to-play vendors.

Well Google Analytics may not give you those reports out of the box, but it’s not too difficult to put these two solutions together:

1) Tracking files downloaded from your site:
http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=27242

Caveat – this method only reports on people clicking links on your website which are tagged with this code. If someone remotely links to a file on your site, none of the javascript web analytics packages will report on that traffic.

2) Tracking 404 error pages:
http://analytics.blogspot.com/2006/09/tip-tracking-404-pages.html

This could also be used to create error pages and tracking for 5XX errors.

And on a side note, for those of you who use WordPress, here’s a handy way to create a custom 404 page:
http://codex.wordpress.org/Creating_an_Error_404_Page

If you have your Google Analytics code in a footer include file, you could create a second include and call it from the 404.php.

5 thoughts on “Google Analytics 404 Tracking And Downloaded Files

  1. NOT exactly true!

    Google Analytics will never show you the number of downloads. It will only show the number of clicks on the tracked links.

    Number of downloads may be absolutely different from number of tracked clicks on “download file”. Anyone can link to file on your website and you’ll measure nothing!

    Same problem with 404 websites… Many 404s’ are visited by bots. Those bots that aren’t tracked in Google Analytics though info about their 404 vistis may be usefull too.

    Google Analytics is my favourite tool, but it still has its limits :-)

  2. Hi Roman

    Anyone can link to file on your website and youíll measure nothing!

    Yes, that’s why I wrote:
    “this method only reports on people clicking links on your website which are tagged with this code. If someone remotely links to a file on your site, none of the javascript web analytics packages will report on that traffic.”

    Those bots that arenít tracked in Google Analytics though info about their 404 vistis may be usefull too.

    I tried to explain in the second half my post how to track 404 errors using Google Analytics. If you follow the second link, you’ll find more detailed info.

    Reuben

  3. Online Marketing Tips

    They both have their accuracy problems, for instance awstats may count scrapers and bots looking for vulnerabilities as visitors. Google Analytics will not count people who have javascript disabled, or who have difficulty downloading the urchin.js file from Google’s servers. If you’re a marketing person, I would probably look at using Google Analytics. If you’re a webmaster who is also responsible for server security, then you may find a logfile analyzer beneficial. But remember, one is not better than the other and using one, doesn’t mean that you can’t also use another. Just don’t compare numbers between the two, you’ll drive yourself nuts, just compare the trends.

Comments are closed.