Google Analytics Asynchronous Tracking: What It Means For PPC

Earlier this month, Google released a beta version of new code snippet that enables asynchronous tracking in Google Analytics. So what exactly is this, you ask? Well, under the current setup of Google Analytics, code is read sequentially by the user’s browser. When a page loads, first the header is rendered, then the body, then all of the elements in the body, etc. Most people put their Google Analytics snippets just before the close body tag, so the analytics script is one of the last things executed by the browser. If a user is having issues with Javascript or slow load times, sometimes the code snippet won’t be executed and you won’t get accurate data. You could move the snippet higher in the code to solve the loss of tracking fidelity, but due to the sequential nature of browser rendering, there may be a page load delay as the browser tries to execute the Google Analytics Javascript before it executes the rest of the HTML code.

With this new asynchronous tracking snippet, the Javascript code is executed separately from the rest of your scripts and HTML content. This means that you can put your tracking snippet higher up in the page code and not experience a page load delay as the browser executes the code. Think of it this way: the old Google Analytics code was a one-lane road, where cars (or in this case, scripts) couldn’t pass each other. Asynchronous tracking opens up another lane, where your Google Analytics code can zip by the rest of your sluggish code without impacting site load times.

So what does this all mean for PPC? Well, the main benefit of this asynchronous tracking is an improvement in site load times. And site load time is a commonly overlooked factor in landing page optimization. Consider this paper by Ron Kohavi and Roger Longbotham. In a web experiment, they tested the effect of site load times on Amazon.com. They found that for every 100 millisecond increase in site load time, sales decreased by 1 percent. One hundred milliseconds! That’s only a tenth of a second. It’s barely perceptible, yet somehow has a drastic effect on the psychology of e-commerce. A poorly implemented analytics tracking snippet could probably hold up your site loading time by this amount.

Sure, the new asynchronous tracking snippet promises greater accuracy in Google Analytics (always a good thing), but I think it’s the improved site load time that’s going to make the real impact. Good PPC marketers should always pay attention to what their analytics programs are telling them. But maybe we should be paying attention to what our analytics snippets are doing to our pages, as well. Having a web page that loads slowly and awkwardly could be costing you sales and conversions, and you wouldn’t even know it.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
This entry was posted in Analytics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.