Cross-Domain tracking with clean urls

I’ve been told by a lot of clients that the way that Google Analytics cross-domain tracking works is “ugly”, referring to having the linker param attached to the URL.

I must admit is not elegant having all that long hash on the url, thougt it won’t affect the page functionality. In the other side there isn’t any other to pass the current client Id from the Universal Analytics cookie to the destination domain without dealing with server-side hacks (we can’t not read POST data in JS ,yet).

Browsers have the History API . Which holds the current user navigation history,allows us to manipulate it and is widely supported by browsers:

history api support by browser

If you ever dealed with an Ajax based website, I’m sure you have noticied that even if the page does not reload, the url gets changed.

The history API does allow us to play with the current user session history, for example:

window.history.length

The above line will return the number of elements in the session history, if you have browse 4 pages in the current it’ll return 4.

window.history.back()

Will return the user back to the previous page in the session.

But we’re going to focus on the pushState and replaceState methods. Those ones will allow us to add a new entry to the history record and will allow us to change the current page pathname without needing to reload the page.

I bet you’re guessing that we’re going to strip out the _ga parameter with those functions and you’re right. This won’t be harmful for the crossdomain tracking since we’re going to do it after the Google Analytics object has been created so it won’t affect our implementation but we’ll end showing the user a cleaned up URL after Google Analytics does all it’s cross-domain tracking magic.

We’ll using the “replaceState” in this example, to avoid users clicking on back button to be sent to the same. This method will just change the URL but WON’T add a new entry to the session history.

To achive this hack, we’ll be using the hitCallback for our Pageview Tag on Google Tag Manager.

In first place, we are going to need a variable that is going to take care of reading the current URL, cleaning it up, and manipulating the browsers URL using the History API.

I’m calling it “remove _ga from url pushState” , feel free to name it at your convenience:

function(){
  return function(){
      if (document.location.search.match(/_ga=([^&]*)/)) {
          var new_url;
          var rebuilt_querystring;
          // A small function to check if an object is empty
          var isEmptyObject = function(obj) {
              var name;
              for (name in obj) {
                  return false;
              }
              return true;
          }
          // Let's build an object with a key-value pairs from the current URL
          var qsobject = document.location.search.replace(/(^\?)/, '').split("&").map(function(n) {
              return n = n.split("="),
              this[n[0]] = n[1],
              this
          }
          .bind({}))[0];
          // Remove the _ga parameter
          delete qsobject['_ga'];
          // Let's rebuilt the querysting from the previous object with the _ga parameter removed
          var rebuilt_querystring = Object.keys(qsobject).map(function(k) {
              if (!qsobject[k]) {
                  return encodeURIComponent(k);
              } else {
                  return encodeURIComponent(k) + '=' + (encodeURIComponent(qsobject[k] || ""));
              }
          }).join('&');
          // We want to if the current querystring was null
          if (isEmptyObject(qsobject)) {
              new_url = location.pathname + location.hash;
          } else {
              new_url = location.pathname + '?' + rebuilt_querystring + location.hash;
          }
          // Use replace State to update the current page URL
          console.log(new_url);
          window.history.replaceState({}, document.title, new_url);
      }
    }
}

Now we only need to add this new variable as the hitCallBack value for our pageview tag:

So this is what is going to happen now:

1. Google Analytics Object will be created
2. It will process the linker parameter, overriding the current landing domain clientId value as long as the linkerParam value is legit
3. After that the current page URL will be changed for the same URL but with the _ga parameters stripped out.

David Vallejo

Google Analytics Consultant and implementer. I have some experience with Google Tag Manager
Follow me: @thyng

Author: David Vallejo

Google Analytics Consultant and implementer. I have some experience with Google Tag Manager Follow me: @thyng

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