17 March 2018: MeasureCamp London
As the year changed to 2018, I decided to abandon WordPress, which I had been using for over 12 years as my content management system of choice. I had many reasons to do so, but the biggest motivators were the opportunity to try something new and to abandon the bloat and clutter of WordPress for a more simple, more elegant order of things. Spurred on by another adopter, Mark Edmondson, I decided to give Hugo a go (pun intended).

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been coding like crazy. The three biggest outcomes of this frenzy have been this new blog design (switched finally away from WordPress and took the plunge back into the world static sites using Hugo), a new Google Sheets add-on for managing Google Tag Manager containers and assets, and a Slack integration in GTM Tools. In this article, I’ll quickly introduce the last two, as I’m writing a separate article about the site redesign.

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A while ago I posted a #GTMTips post where I detailed the steps you can take to opt-out of all Google Analytics tracking and the DoubleClick redirects that often follow. It was a fun exercise, but because it relies on preventing requests on a tag-by-tag basis (using the ubiquituous customTask), it can be a chore to handle in large containers. In this article, we’ll continue with the theme of opting out from Google Analytics tracking by leveraging a solution provided by the tool itself.

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Google Tag Manager makes it fairly easy to do cross-domain tracking. Basically, you list the hostnames you want to automatically decorate with linker parameters in the Auto-Link Domains field of your Page View tag, and that takes care of decorating the URLs with the necessary parameter. It’s dead easy, even if there are a bunch of traps you need to watch out for (see my post on troubleshooting cross-domain tracking issues).

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When Google released gtag.js, the new, global tracking library designed to (eventually) replace analytics.js, many Universal Analytics practitioners and users were confused (see e.g. Jeff’s great overview here). It seemed like gtag.js wasn’t really solving any immediate problem, since analytics.js had done a bang-up job with Universal Analytics tracking for all these years. However, gtag’s modus operandi is the ability to leverage the same semantic information (distributed across dataLayer!) across a number of Google products, starting with GA and AdWords.

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One of the challenges in working with Google Tag Manager (or any JavaScript-based platform for that matter) is what to do with race conditions. A race condition emerges when you have two resources competing for execution in the browser, and there is a degree of unpredictability to which “wins” the race. A prime example is working with jQuery. It’s one of the most popular JavaScript libraries out there, and websites utilize it for a multitude of things, many useful for Google Tag Manager, too.

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I really like Google Optimize. It has a fairly intuitive UI, setting up experiments is easy, and there’s integrations for both Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics built into the system. It’s still a JavaScript-based, client-side A/B-testing tool, so problems with flicker and asynchronous loading are ever-present (though this is somewhat mitigated by the page-hiding snippet). One issue with the Google Analytics integration is the difficulty of creating segments for sessions where the users were actively participating in the experiment.

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Author's picture

Simo Ahava

Husband | Father | Analytics developer
simo (at) simoahava.com

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland