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Are you measuring views of PDF documents?

Of course it’s great if someone comes on to your website, completes an enquiry form, and you can monitor where they came from. But as I’ve remarked many times, that’s a dubious measure of what the effective sources of visitors to your website are. Firstly, the number of forms completed will never be that high, so the data isn’t going to be that statistically valid. Secondly, many people will come on to your site and enquire in less measurable ways, but it’s not fair to assume the measurable ways are a fair sample. Some sources might be more likely to lead people to make, say, a telephone enquiry than others. Thirdly, many enquirers may be repeat visitors, and the visit where they made the enquiry may not have had the same source as the original visit which was the critical one.

Instead, I prefer to see if there are actions we can measure which:

  1. Indicate that the visitor is interested, and might become an enquirer;
  2. Occur frequently enough to have some statistical validity; and
  3. Are likely to happen on the first visit to the site.

The most obvious of these, and one which we use with most of our AdWords analysis, is simply whether the visitor looked around the site. This passes all three tests, although we accept that it’s a long way from looking around a site to making an enquiry – and whether it can truly represent the latter is of course arguable.

A metric which might be a better representation of genuine visitor interest is tracking the views of sales documents and datasheets. It’s impossible to prove this is a really good measurement of likely enquiries either, but common sense tells us it should be.

So, how do we measure views of sales documents and datasheets? If they’re in PDF or any other non-HTML format, it’s impossible to record them in our analytics application as having been viewed. However, we can measure the click on the web page which opens them. Surprisingly few companies seem to do this; their Google Analytics reports don’t have any record of visitors attempting to look at PDF documents.

This is a real waste, especially as it’s straightforward to set up. Once upon a time, it would require code to be added to each button or link which opened the PDF document. Now, even that’s not necessary. Google Analytics plays very nicely with Google Tag Manager, a system which can make all sorts of things happen behind the scenes in response to visitor actions, including passing their occurrence to another application.

So my questions to you are:

  • How are you measuring a successful visit, and is this the best measure you could be using? and
  • Are you measuring views of PDF documents, and if not, why not?