In a step toward better measurment of on-site social activity, Google Analytics today announced that all clicks on Google “+1” buttons on your website will automatically be tracked. In fact, users should begin to see +1 data by early next week, at the latest. You’ll be able to see how visits that include a click on the +1 button differ from other visits. Do +1 clicks correspond with better user engagement and higher conversion rates? Now it’s easy to find out!

On top of that, Google Analytics is releasing a new JavaScript method for tracking your on-site social interactions: trackSocial. The trackSocial method accepts four arguments: network (e.g. Twitter), socialAction (e.g. Tweet), opt_target (the URL being shared; this is customizable), and opt_pagePath (the page on which the action occurs; this can be manually set, similar to a virtual pageview). As their names suggest, opt_target and opt_pagePath are optional, just like labels and values are with generic event tracking.

The data generated by Google’s new method for social interaction tracking will appear in a new family of reports in the Visitors section. Of course, if you’re already using trackEvent to collect this data, you’ll continue to see it in the Event Tracking area.

Bottom line: the trackSocial method appears to be a spin-off of trackEvent and the Event Tracking feature in general. If you’ve already got social interaction data being collected via trackEvent, I’m not sure there’s much value in migrating to trackSocial, as the data you’re able to collect doesn’t change. However, if you’re new to tracking on-site social activity, it’s a good idea to use trackSocial. Overall, a relatively minor change (compared to completely revamping the interface!), but a clear statement that Google intends to start providing more insight into social activity through Google Analytics.

  • Good post Nick – At first, I was on the same page wondering what’s the difference between this and events. But the more I think about it, the more I agree with the move.

    Social is still very young and who knows what it will grow into. Making the separation early on will allow more flexibility to integrate, add, or remove whatever comes and goes with time without disturbing the relatively unchanged idea of event tracking – i.e. a download will always be a download.

    I’m sure I’ll look back at this post in a couple of years and say something starting with “If I had known X was going to come out…”

  • If only there were a way to access social tracking without first having to access these social APIs. For the average blogger or web owner this is a messy solution to a simple problem.