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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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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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The steady increase in mobile use over the last years has introduced some new challenges for web analytics. It’s not just about mismatches in the tracking model (the concept of sessions is even more absurd for apps than it is for desktop browsing), but about something more fundamental, more basic. Think about it: if a visitor visits the website using a mobile device, there’s a significant chance of them losing internet connectivity and going unintentionally offline.

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More often than not, much of what we do in web analytics can be automated. This applies especially to implementations, audits, configurations, and reporting. So when I’m faced with a menial, manual task that might take hours for me to complete if done by hand, I always look at what could be done with some scripting and API work. I want to introduce a couple of Google Sheets add-ons I’ve written and released to the public.

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Autocomplete search is a tricky thing to track. The underlying logic is that when the user starts feeding characters into a search form, the search suggests results based on a limited input. If the user is not satisfied with the results, they can continue adding characters to the search, thus increasing the accuracy. Often there’s also the option to revert to a regular search with what they’ve already written. Tracking this logic in tools like Google Analytics is difficult, because there’s really no way to know if the search was successful.

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To be fair, this tip isn’t just for Google Tag Manager but for regular old on-page Google Analytics as well. It’s one of those little things that’s corroding your data quality without you ever realizing it. Namely, this tip is about how to handle cross-domain tracking in situations where you are sending data to multiple Google Analytics properties on the same page. It’s a very typical scenario - you have a “local” property, which tracks only the traffic of the current site, and then a “rollup” property, where you send data from all your organization’s websites.

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READ THIS (26 Aug 2019)!! Unfortunately, the update I made in 2016 contained code that was incomplete and broken. I nevert noticed this until it was pointed out to me almost three years later. At this point, I don’t have a working backup of the solution, so unless some internet archive / cache service manages to surface the code, this article is basically lost. UPDATE 20 December 2016: I made some fixes to the solution - be sure to grab the latest code snippet from below!

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Simo Ahava

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

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland