How to Setup Cross-Domain Tracking in Google Analytics

by Jeff Sauer
In this post, we’re going to delve deep into a topic that keeps analytics consultants in business – Cross-domain tracking. Cross-domain tracking is a term we use to describe the act of tracking multiple domains in a single Google Analytics property. Now, cross-domain tracking is a pretty advanced concept that is not easily understood.Read the full article

How to Setup Cross-Domain Tracking in Google Analtyics

In this post, we’re going to delve deep into a topic that keeps analytics consultants in business – Cross-domain tracking. (Read full article - https://goo.gl/5skjb7) Sign up for FREE Analytics Mini-Course - https://goo.gl/Stoa2p Cross-domain tracking is a term we use to describe the act of tracking multiple domains in a single Google Analytics property. Now, cross-domain tracking is a pretty advanced concept that is not easily understood. It’s also not necessary for everyone who operates a website. The truth is that most Google Analytics users are tracking just one domain name at a time. But for those who want to track multiple domains in a single property? It takes a lot problem solving and debugging to make this tracking solution work effectively. There is no simple cross-domain tracking solution Now before you get too far into this article, I want to warn you that there’s no way I can promise to “quickly solve your cross-domain tracking issues.” This is a 2,000+ word article that explores cross-domain tracking from several angles. Chances are, the information within will help you solve your cross-domain tracking problems. But it’s going to take some work on your end. With that out of the way, I’m going to do my best to explain this advanced concept in Google Analytics. Not only that, but I’ll give you a set of steps that you can follow to help solve any cross-domain tracking issues that you are experiencing. In the post and video below, we’ll take a look at when you need to use cross-domain tracking. We’ll show you how to use Google Tag Manger to help you set up cross-domain tracking. And I’ll outline some steps that can make installing this tracking solution easier. For those of you who were about hit the back button because you heard advanced and Google Analytics…. We’ve included both an Austin Powers and a Spice Girls meme in this post. That’s right, we’re making history on Jeffalytics. We are going to become the first web analytics article to include a reference to the Spice Girls*! If that doesn’t make this post worth reading in of itself, I’m not sure what does? * Note: I have no idea if others have mentioned the Spice Girls before in a web analytics article. Why would you need to use cross-domain tracking? To unravel the mystery that is cross-domain tracking, we need to start with how standard web tracking works. Standard Google Analytics tracking Most websites, businesses, and blogs only need to track one domain at a time. The default Google Analytics tracking is setup to treat each domain as a property. So, using standard Google Analytics tracking: 1 domain = 1 Google Analytics property. By default, one domain per property User behavior that occurs on a domain is tracked in Google Analytics using sessions. When a user leaves a domain, their session ends. Cross-domain tracking scenarios But what if you need to track user behavior across more than one domain? Let’s think about this in terms of ecommerce. We can use the Google Merchandise Store (GMS) analytics account as an example. As you can see from the example below, the GMS is getting a lot of referral traffic from sites that Google owns. referral traffic in Google Analytics The GMS’s highest converting traffic is coming from gdeals.googleplex.com. referral traffic in google analytics Here’s the potential problem. If these sites are essentially referring to themselves (i.e. self-referrals), they can give you an inaccurate picture in your analytics reports. It might be better to track the referring domains in the same analytics property as the Merchandise store. This way, the original traffic source would get credit for the sale, not the referral between Google properties. To put it more simply, if we link these domains in Googe Analytics, a user session that starts with a search visit landing on gdeals.googleplex.com will continue as the visitor lands on the Google Merchandise Store. So, shopping behavior starting on one domain will carry over to the next domain in Google Analytics. Makes sense, right? Cross-domain tracking for third party shopping carts Here’s a common scenario where cross-domain tracking makes sense: Ecommerce platforms with third-party shopping carts. In this situation, users land on the main site to view a product. When the user goes to check out, they’re directed to a shopping cart on a different domain. Without cross-domain tracking, the shopping behavior and check out won’t get linked together. The default Google Analytics settings will not track conversions across domains. So, these merchants need to link their domains in Google Analytics, otherwise the conversion is credited to the third party shopping cart, not the original traffic source. Tell Google Analytics what you want Google Analytics is smart. Very smart! But Google Analytics can’t read your mind. (Read full article - https://goo.gl/5skjb7)