The Difference Between Total and Unique Events in Google Analytics

By Elizabeth Falwell

Google Analytics is one of the web tools offered by Google. Google Analytics lets website owners or developers track the number and frequency of visitors to their pages. Additionally Google Analytics account holders can also use the tool to track the views or downloads of a specific element on their websites. Using Google Analytics in this way is called "event tracking," and is further broken down into two categories: total and unique.

What You Can Track

Google Analytics' Event Tracking feature only works with certain elements on your webpage. You can obtain statistical information using Event Tracking for videos, music clips and file downloads. Likewise, you can only track certain actions taken upon these files. These actions -- such as play, stop, pause, click or download -- are also part of the HTML method outlined in the next section.

Setting Up Event Tracking

In order to get the total and unique event statistics for your website, you must first set up Event Tracking within your Google Analytics account. To do this, include the HTML tracking language in the source code for the download, image or widget for which you wish to obtain statistics. It will look like this: _trackEvent(category, action, opt_label, opt_value). Embedded in the HTML source code for a video, it will appear this way: Play. The first two elements -- "category" and "action" -- are required. Category refers to the type of element you're tracking, such as a video or widget, while action refers to the type of action executed on the element, such as "play" or "download." The second two elements -- "opt_label" and "opt_value" -- are optional, and do not need to be included to obtain accurate statistics.

Total Events

Every time a visitor to your website executes the specified action on the specified file, Google Analytics' Event Tracking tool will note this. For example, if 300 different people clicked "Play" on your video file a total of 350 times, the total events for this would be 350. Google Analytics will compile this information over time, generating a downloadable file you can use to compare these statistics to each other -- from day to day, week to week or month to month -- as well as to other Event Tracking statistics used on other files.

Unique Events

Unlike total events -- which tracks the action taken upon a file every time -- unique events are user-based. This means that the action is only logged the first time a visitor executes it. For example, if 300 different people clicked "Play" on your video file a total of 350 times, the unique events would be 300. Because of this difference, the number of total events will always be greater than or equal to the number of unique events.