Counter eVars

I think I have mentioned eVars often enough by now for you to know what they are and what we use them for. (Let me know if not, I’m happy to write more about them! They are way better than props!)

In essence, they serve as dimensions in reports. Rather than just knowing that 200 people looked at the product page for your newest product, you can tell that 35 found it by browsing, 47 searched using your internal search facility, and a whopping 110 clicked on the big banner on your home page.

Breaking a metric down by something that happened or that people did is what eVars do. And they can even do it over a span of time (“persistence”).

Sometimes that isn’t quite enough.

Let’s use a forum as an example, this time, because it is easy to understand.

On our forum, people read articles written by others, but they can also rate those articles, share them, comment on them, and, crucially, write articles themselves.

We measure all those activities, using Success Events. Obviously. They are what makes our forum live!

But here is an interesting question that we currently cannot answer: are people who read a lot of articles more likely to write one?

Other sites and industries ask the same question.

  • For the travel industry, the question would be: how many flight searches do people do before they book?
  • For automotive, it’d be: how many times do my visitors build their dream car in the configurator before they ask for a test drive?
  • For finance, it could be: how many articles on my brochure ware site do people read before they apply for a credit card?
  • And for retail, it might be: how often do people look at a product before they buy it or put it into their cart?

Counter eVars

All those questions are pretty important, or rather the answers to those questions are.

Unsurprisingly, there is a way in SiteCatalyst Adobe Analytics to record the data that will help answer those questions — Counter eVars

Rather surprisingly, almost noone seems to know about Counter eVars! I remember Adam Greco talking about them at the EMEA Summit in 2009 and Ben Gaines did the same in the US. They are mentioned in countless blog articles and pop up in discussions with colleagues and customers every now and again. But somehow noone is really using them. So it goes.

My hope is that by explaining them in a post aimed at developers, you (yes, you!) will be able to educate your friendly marketer when the need arises.


Piece of cake.

You know how you normally write values into eVars? Like so:


Instead you just write the value you assigned for the specific situation.

Someone reading an article is “one point”? Do this on article pages:


Commenting is “3 points”? Do this when someone has submitted a comment:


I guess it is safe to say that the implementation is pretty trivial.

The actual work is with your friendly marketer. She has to figure out how many “points” she assigns to the different things people can do on your site.

She has to configure the eVar once. She also must use SAINT Classifications with the Counter eVar or she’ll get reports that are ugly and unreadable, like this one:

Counter eVar Report, no Classifications
What she’s probably interested in is more something like this:

Counter eVar Report with Classifications
Or maybe even this:

Counter eVar Report with Named Classifications
The reports that have classifications applied to them make actual sense. You can look at them, understand what they say and draw conclusions or decide where to dig deeper.

But just so you understand what is actually happening in those reports, let’s look at the first one. It says: “1254” on the left, so that’s “Forum Articles Read”, and “28” on the right, that’d be “Forum Articles Written”.

The column on the right is the metric here, so something happened 28 times.

To be more specific, the “Forum Articles Written” event was sent into the system 28 times. It was sent more often than that in total, but 28 times, when it was sent, the visitor who triggered the sending (by posting an article) had at that very moment in time consumed 1254 articles.

Now this might be one visitor who posted 28 articles and then carried on reading more, or it might have been a couple of visitors. We don’t know because we didn’t add that metric in this report this time. Let’s add it:

Counter eVar Report, no Classifications, with Visitors metric
Yup, one single visitor. That visitor had read 1254 articles on the forum. And at that time, she or he wrote 28.

Makes sense?

A Counter eVar works just like every other eVar in that whatever the current value in the eVar is when an event fires, that value gets the credit. The only difference is that you don’t have to count how many articles people have written, the eVar will do it for you.

It’s the notation that makes all the difference, the fact that you can set s.eVar15="+20" and the system will take whatever value eVar15 currently had for the visitor and add 20 to that.


If you are implementing for an app, or you have generally decided to use Context Data or maybe a data layer object, you can just pass the same values.


along with a Processing Rule putting the value into your Counter eVar works nicely, as does


along with some tag management software.

Counter eVars are not to be confused with Incrementor Events! The latter are also used when you need more than just counting things, but they will be metrics, while Counter eVars will be dimensions in your reports.

If you’re scratching your head now, let me just say that you often use them together, and that there are some good articles about by Ben and Adam:

You can also pass those articles to your friendly marketer, I guess. She really should know what Counter eVars and Incrementor Events can do.

4 thoughts on “Counter eVars

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