How To Track PDF and File Downloads In Google Analytics

Have you ever just assumed people were downloading your free report? I mean its free right – so why wouldn’t they? Well frankly people are busy, click happy, and have the attention span of an ant! But who can blame anyone for this these days, with so many shiny objects calling for our attention, I know I often forget where I was that I requested information when I get to my email to find an opt-in message. Hopefully this concerns you!

If you consider all the time and effort you put into creating content (especially an ebook) and the reasoning behind it – hopefully you have a goal in mind, then knowing the percentage of people who follow through and actually download or open your file or PDF should be quite important. If they’re not actually consuming the information, then likely your online goals are paying for it. That great content you’ve prepared is not even making it into their hands and the relationship nurturing it was intended to create is not happening.

Like most things on the web, opening or downloading a file is measurable via Google Analytics (check out our FREE Google Analytics tutorial here for the types of information you should be tracking) and can be improved through tweaking and fine tuning.

How To Track File Downloads Via Google Analytics

The first step to tracking downloads or views on your PDFs or other files is to modify your links that point to the files/PDF’s to include the tracking code required for your google analytics to pickup the data. By default there is no code on a PDF file or other file format when viewing the file in a browser. So by simply adding the proper code to the link directing to the file, Google Analytics will pick up the data.

In the video I outline the process for adding the code, and 2 strategies for improving your content consumption by your subscribers.



The code required :

onClick=”javascript: _gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’, ‘/downloads/map’]);”>

Obviously this needs to be added into the HTML part of your link.


How To Improve User Consumption Of Your Content

In the video above I cover two strategies for improving your content consumption.

First is the confirmation page. When a user completes a form to view your content (PDF file or other type of content) they are generally transferred to a confirmation page. This page outlines the opt-in process and is often taken too lightly. Remember not all users will go from completing your form, to checking their email to consuming your document. Therefore at each point of communication you must encourage the next step to progressing them towards your content.

Email Confirmation Page

This confirmation is outlined after you enter your name and email on an opt-in page. This is your first chance to improve your consumption rate. What you put on this page and how you lay it out can have dramatic effects on your consumption. So be careful to outline next steps for the user. After you start seeing what your consumption rate is, play with fonts and colours, headlines and layout to see if you can improve it. The option to add an auto-play audio clip or video can be a powerful technique.

Opt-In Email

Within the opt-in email is the second opportunity to increase the consumption. Often there is a delay between the time someone subscribes to your information and when they confirm their subscription in their email. So you need to be diligent about a clear subject line and message that not only outlines what they need to do as next steps, but reminds them what they are about to receive. If there was a big enough delay between their subscribing and checking their email, often they won’t even remember what they signed up for. Remind them here and reignite their excitement.

In doing this, you will find that not only will you have higher consumption rates, but the relationship will be off to a far better start.

Don’t forget, if you want to start empowering your business with the implementation of Google Analytics, get `our FREE Marketing Blueprint now.


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About the Author

George Gill is the founder of GILL Solutions. He lives in Peterborough Canada, and is an avid learner, passionate trainer and speaker. For over 20+ years, he's helped businesses implement growth strategies and systems to consistently out perform their expectations. Measurement is always key!

Leave a Reply 8 comments

George - 4 years ago Reply

I hate to sound like an ad, but I came across this page and thought that others might be interested in a software product that my employer started using to track PDFs and Office Documents. It’s inexpensive, it provides back-end analytics, and you can revoke access to documents that have fallen into the wrong hands. It’s called Call-Home ( Maybe your audience will like it too.

santosh - 4 years ago Reply

Hi sir i need some help on how to track a visitor that comes from any pdf document in analytics

Mark - 4 years ago Reply


Thanks for sharing such a useful article with us. Keep posting this type of wonderful articles…..

Ryan - 4 years ago Reply

I work a startup called Docalytics ( and we take this tracking one step further. You can upload your PDF to our system and we provide it in an in-browser viewer. You can then track how far people are reading in to the document, where they are bouncing, etc. We also let the user download the original PDF and track the number of times that happens as well. You can tie the viewer to your Google Analytics account (as well as marketing automation systems) to feed the data back into your other analytics data.

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