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Cross-Domain Tracking

Whether it is a small company with a separate domain name for its eCommerce store or a large company with multiple brands and websites, the need for precise tracking and analytics across different domains is widespread. The cross-domain tracking feature of Google Analytics is the go-to tool that can make this possible. Let’s see below how this can be done.

What is cross-domain tracking?

Cross-domain tracking in the context of Google Analytics refers to the monitoring of website visitor activity across two or more domains. It enables you to see sessions from related websites as a single session rather than two distinct ones (for example, an eCommerce website and a different shopping cart website). “Site linkage” is another name for this method.

In simple terms, cross-domain tracking involves consolidating a user’s session across multiple domains into one.

Importance of cross-domain tracking

Cross-domain tracking is essential for evaluating user sessions precisely across many domains. Cross-domain tracking:

  • Is a crucial part of analytics/dashboarding that aids in giving a thorough account of a user’s journey from one domain to another.
  • Helps digital marketers understand the traffic, engagement, and overall online performance of a company. It is most frequently utilized by organizations that run a booking or shopping cart platform independent from their main website or by big parent corporations with several brands/audiences.
  • Ensures accurate user monitoring across several domains, which is particularly helpful when contemplating the reporting impacts of paid media expenditures like Google Ads and social media advertisements.
  • Also plays a significant role in email marketing, content marketing, and SEO across several domains.

Setting up cross-domain tracking

Cross-domain tracking may be implemented in a few different ways. The most popular and simple to use and manage option is Google Tag Manager (GTM), nevertheless.

Consider GTM to be the dependable mediator for implementing analytics, enabling you to install tags (code snippets or tracking pixels) that monitor desired occurrences (e.g. a user moving between domains).

Note that implementing GTM does not eliminate the necessity for Google Analytics. Instead, both work in conjunction.

Read here for instructions to set up cross-domain tracking with GTM.

QA of cross-domain tracking

It depends on whether you used Google Tag Manager or Google Analytics to run quality assurance on your cross-domain setup. Although the procedure can involve considerable investigation, the following steps can help to simplify the overall strategy:

  • To identify the cross-domain links, scan or crawl your website.
  • Ensure that any inter-domain connections are correctly styled.
  • Make sure that “allowLinker” on the receiving, target domain is set to “True”.
  • Ensure that the source and target domains for the property ID match.
  • Verify the referral exclusions list to ensure that cross-domain visits do not result in new sessions.

Cross-domain tracking difficulties are frequently exclusive to your circumstance and websites. Google provides analytics documentation that might be useful in addressing problems you face with QA and seeking expert assistance.

Common problems with cross-domain tracking

There is a tendency of showing inflated direct traffic (and conversions) when cross-domain tracking problems are present. On the other hand, statistics from other channels could seem deflated. Instead of recording this action as a single session when visitors move between websites, user data is duplicated and recorded as direct traffic.

The following are a few of the most typical issues that lead to poor cross-domain tracking:

  • Incorrect setup of referral exclusion list – The most frequent problem here is that the same session gets counted twice (once from the trustworthy source and the second being a referral from itself). Any multi-domain tracking method, including cross-domain tracking, is susceptible to the danger of traffic “referring itself” and erroneous session recording if referral exclusions are not used.
  • Gathering data using several Google  Analytics properties – Both domains must collect data under the same Google Analytics Property for tracking cross-domain traffic between two different domains. Each Property has a unique ID, tracking setup, and data table. Also, client IDs (cookies) cannot be transferred between properties.
  • Client ID not tracking link URL parameters across different domains – The source page’s URL must include the GA link parameter for basic cross-domain tracking to function. This lets GA recognize that the user is browsing during a single session. Make sure your website is not automatically stripping this parameter if you’re having trouble getting cross-domain tracking to operate.
  • Incorrectly configured “allowLinker” or “Auto Link Domains” values – For cross-domain tracking to function, the allowLinker field in Google Analytics must be set up for any linked target domains.

Does setting up cross-domain tracking cause loss of historical data?

You won’t lose previous data as long as you set up cross-domain tracking with an existing property (as opposed to generating a new property for each new site added).

To conclude –

Cross-domain tracking is an essential procedure to effectively monitor consumers across many domains, despite its setup challenges. Without it, a new referral session will start each time a user switches from one site to another, inflating the number of sessions.