In today's digital world, where users hop between websites like a nimble ballerina, it's not enough to just track their movements on one domain. To truly understand their journey and optimize their experience, businesses need to grasp their entire digital footprint. That's where GA4 cross-domain tracking comes in.
So, in this blog post, we'll delve into the nuts and bolts of setting it up, uncover the insights it can provide, and transform your understanding of user behavior across the digital landscape.
Table of Contents
Google Analytics is a powerful tool for tracking website traffic and user behavior. However, it's important to understand how cookies work in order to interpret the data accurately. Google Analytics primarily relies on first-party cookies to track users across different platforms or websites. First-party cookies are set by the website itself and can only be read by that website. This means that if a user visits two different websites that use Google Analytics, the user will be seen as two separate visitors by Google Analytics.
This can inflate Google Analytics data and make it difficult to get a true picture of website traffic. For example, if a user clicks on a link from Website A to Website B, Google Analytics will see this as two separate visits, even though it's the same user. This can lead to overstated traffic numbers and make it difficult to track user behavior across multiple sites.
Maybe you're wondering, how about subdomains? Well, subdomain share cookies with their root domain. This means that when User A transitions from domainA.com to test.domainA.com, Google Analytics seamlessly merges their interactions across both subdomains, providing a unified view of their user journey.
If you're still confused and want to get a clearer way to understand how it works, you can watch our video explaining this in detail:
Alright, now that we've wrapped our heads around the issue and its remedy, it's time to put it into action. How do we set this up? Before diving straight into the configuration, we'd like to introduce you to this guidelines we've developed to assist you through the process of setting up cross-domain tracking.
So, now that we’re confident on what to do and if we’ve identified these things to consider before moving on to the next step, let's get down to business and see how we can make this happen.
Step 1: Go to the Admin of Google Analytics > Data Streams and select web data stream
Step 2: Go to Configure Tag Settings.
Step 3: Click Configure your domains
Step 4:Enter all domains that should be included in the cross-domain tracking setup. Then hit Save.
While configuring cross-domain measurement through the Analytics interface is the preferred method, there may be situations where you need to create a custom solution using the measurement code. In such cases, you can manually set it up using the get and set commands of the gtag.js API to maintain IDs across domains. For more details, check out the guide on manually setting up cross-domain measurement.
In the example image, the ID is 1698746802 and the page_location is https://zenanchor.com/
I bet you did great in setting up and testing your cross-domain tracking. You should be good to go. But sometimes, even if you’ve configured it correctly, there will always be some technical issues. Here are some that you should be aware of.
Issue: URL redirects and inconsistent URL structures can cause tracking issues.
Solution: Ensure that the parameter _gl is not dropped in the destination domain
Issue: Users may have privacy settings that prevent tracking, which can make cross-domain tracking less accurate.
Solution: Be aware of this and consider using other methods, like server-side tracking, to improve accuracy.
Issue: Some browser extensions and ad blockers can block tracking codes
Solution: Unfortunately, there is often no easy solution to this type of issue, as we cannot force users to disable their browser extensions and ad blockers when they visit our websites.
Issue: Other scripts on the page can interfere with your code, preventing your events from being processed.
Solution: Get the help of your experienced web developer to ensure that it can move and reach the event listener.
In addition to this text, we've also prepared a video that walks you through these steps.
We can't finish this blog post without sharing with you how to manage the data in Google Analytics 4 reporting. Here are the steps you might want to consider.
Two ways to achieve this:
You should be able to see a report generated similar to this:
Before we conclude we’d like to share with you these best practices which should help you stay on top of your cross-domain tracking.
Maintain a Detailed Documentation of Your Setup
Thorough documentation is your key to staying informed and organized when managing your cross-domain tracking implementation. It serves as a roadmap, allowing you to easily identify and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. By documenting the specific configurations, parameters, and integrations involved, you can readily understand the structure of your cross-domain tracking setup and make informed decisions for future modifications or optimizations.
Continuously Monitor and Analyze Data
Regularly reviewing and analyzing the data collected through cross-domain tracking provides invaluable insights into user behavior and the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Pay close attention to metrics such as website traffic, conversion rates, and user engagement across different domains. These insights can help you identify areas for improvement, optimize your tracking strategies, and make informed decisions to enhance your overall cross-domain tracking performance.
Adhere to Data Privacy Regulations
Data privacy regulations are becoming increasingly stringent worldwide, and it's crucial to ensure that your cross-domain tracking practices comply with these evolving requirements. Familiarize yourself with the applicable regulations in the regions you operate in, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States. Implement appropriate data governance measures, such as obtaining user consent and providing transparent privacy policies, to maintain compliance and protect user privacy.
Schedule Regular Audits of Your Cross-Domain Setup
Regularly auditing your cross-domain tracking setup is essential for maintaining its accuracy and effectiveness. This involves checking for any configuration errors, verifying that data is being collected and processed correctly, and ensuring that your tracking tools are integrated seamlessly with other marketing platforms. Regular audits help you identify and address any potential issues promptly, minimizing disruptions to your data collection and preventing data loss.
By following these recommendations, you can stay ahead of the curve in cross-domain tracking, ensuring that you collect accurate, reliable data that drives informed decisions and enhances your overall marketing efforts.
Also, we offer a video that walks you through these steps. You can watch it here.
No, GA4 handles self-referrals automatically based on the domains that you entered in the "Configure your domains" section. A referral exclusion list is needed for things like payment gateway domains, etc.
There are a few things you can do to ensure that your cross-domain tracking is compliant with data privacy regulations:
As we've explored, GA4 cross-domain tracking empowers businesses to transcend the confines of individual websites and paint a holistic picture of their users' digital odyssey. By stitching together disparate data points across domains, you gain a deeper understanding of user preferences, engagement patterns, and conversion pathways. This newfound knowledge empowers you to make data-driven decisions that optimize user experience, enhance marketing campaigns, and ultimately drive business growth.
With GA4 cross-domain tracking, you're no longer confined to a fragmented view of your users' interactions. Instead, you're equipped with a comprehensive understanding of their journey across the digital landscape, enabling you to anticipate their needs, personalize their experiences, and ultimately, foster enduring customer loyalty.
Thank you for reading!