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Tracking Google Analytics events in development environment with GoogleAnalyticsProxy

Posted by Sun, 01 Nov 2009 19:55:00 GMT

1 comment Latest by Justin Gallagher Sun, 03 Jan 2010 23:11:32 GMT

As mentioned in a recent article1, I’ve been diving deep into Google Analytics lately while working on a few client projects. We’re aiming to use much more of the features of Google Analytics and have been hitting some roadblocks with the development versus production application environments. Once you begin to dive into event tracking and AJAX-driven goal conversions, relying on just the sample code that Google Analytics provides you is going to result in you looking at a handful of JavaScript errors.

pageTracker is not defined

another example from the firebug javascript console…

firebug pageTracker is not defined

We see JavaScript errors like this because we don’t load the google analytics code in our development environments. As you can see, we are only loading this in our production environment.

  <% if RAILS_ENV == 'production' -%>
    <!--// Google Analytics //-->
    <script type="text/javascript">
    var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www.");
    document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "google-analytics.com/ga.js' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E"));
    </script>
    <script type="text/javascript">
    var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-XXXXXX-1");
    pageTracker._trackPageview();
    </script>
  <% end -%>

To track an event with Google Analytics, you’d need to trigger something like:

  pageTracker._trackEvent('Button', 'Click', 'Get in touch');

As you can see from our code earlier, in development, the pageTracker variable isn’t defined and that’s why we’re getting those JS errors. We also don’t want to add conditionals everywhere in our application to check if we’re in development or production environment.. as that’d just make our views uglier than they need to be. So, I decided that I’d create a proxy class in JavaScript that would allow us to trigger _trackEvent() and _trackPageview() and handle it appropriately.

This class works with the following logic:

  • if google analytics is loaded, pass the parameters to the real pageTracker
  • if google analytics is NOT loaded, output the information to console.log() for debugging purposes

For example, on a gallery on our web site… we track when people navigate next and/or previous through the photos. In our development environment, I can watch the JavaScript console output the following:

Firebug - GAP

And in our production environment, we can see that this was sent to Google Analytics.

Firebug - trackEvent()

We’re able to do this by initializing the GoogleAnalyticsProxy class and calling these functions through it. For example:

  _gap = new GoogleAnalyticsProxy();
  _gap._trackEvent('Video', 'Play', 'Homepage video');
  _gap._trackEvent('Video', 'Pause', 'Homepage video');
  _gap._trackEvent('Button', 'Click', 'Call to action X');

You’ll see that we’re just calling _gap versus pageTracker. We then replace all the instances of pageTracker (except where it is defined in the google analytics code block they provide you). You’ll find this located near the bottom of our application.html.erb file.

<% if RAILS_ENV == 'production' -%>
  <!--// Google Analytics //-->
  <script type="text/javascript">
  var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www.");
  document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "google-analytics.com/ga.js' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E"));
  </script>
  <script type="text/javascript">
  var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-XXXXXX-1");
  pageTracker._trackPageview();
  </script>
<% end -%>

<script type="text/javascript">
  var _gap = new GoogleAnalyticsProxy();
</script>

We now have _gap available throughout our project and can call _trackEvent() and _trackPageview() with it. Note: You can use any JS variable name that you want, _gap is just what I went with.

Get GoogleAnalyticsProxy

I’ve gone ahead and tossed this small JavaScript class (known as GoogleAnalyticsProxy) on Github for your enjoyment. I have some more articles in the works that will show you some tips for how to make the most of Google Analytics. If you have any questions and/or ideas for related article topics, don’t hesitate to let me know.

1 Tracking AJAX-driven events in Ruby on Rails for Google Analytics conversion goals

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  1. Avatar
    Justin Gallagher Sun, 03 Jan 2010 23:11:32 GMT

    Robby,

    Thanks for this, it was almost exactly what I was looking for to track events in production and log events in development. I’ve been using jQuery in my Rails apps lately, and have forked your project on github and modified the code slightly to work without the Prototype framework. I’ve included the link above in case you or anyone else is interested.

    Thanks again.

    -Justin