How to extract a portion of the URL Path using Google Tag Manager?

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Introduction

In digital marketing and analytics, tracking specific portions of URLs is critical for understanding user behavior and campaign effectiveness. These segments provide essential information about user intent and content engagement. Google Tag Manager (GTM) provides a powerful solution for extracting URL path segments without requiring complex coding.

Understanding URL Paths

 

URL STRUCTURE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF DIFFERENT COMPONENTS

 

URLs, or Uniform Resource Locators, are the addresses for web pages and online resources. They follow a structured format that comprises several components, each serving a distinct purpose in directing users to the desired content and facilitating communication between clients and servers:

 

1) Protocol:  The protocol or scheme of a URL indicates the method that will be used for transmitting or exchanging data. The most familiar scheme is the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) for transmitting HTML files. FTP (for files) and Mailto (for mail) are examples of other types of schemes.

2) Domain Name (eg: www.example.com): The domain or hostname of a URL is a user-friendly expression of the Internet Protocol (IP) address of a website. It points to the location of the website’s host server.

3) Path (eg: /folder/page.html): The path that follows the domain name inside a URL points to a specific file or other resource location. It can also include a query string.

4) Query Parameters (eg: ?key1=value1&key2=value2): Query parameters provide additional information to the server, often used for dynamic content generation or data retrieval.

5) Fragment Identifier (eg: #section): The fragment identifier points to a specific section within a resource, typically used in long documents or single-page applications.

 

IMPORTANCE OF EXTRACTING SPECIFIC PARTS OF THE URL PATH FOR TRACKING USER BEHAVIOUR AND MARKETING CAMPAIGNS

 

1) Granular User Behavior Analysis: By extracting specific parts of the URL path allows for granular analysis of user behavior. Marketers learn about their customers’ preferences, interests, and intentions by tracking which pages they visit and how they browse the site.

2) Campaign Attribution: URL parameters and path segments play a crucial role in campaign attribution. By adding unique tracking parameters to URLs, marketers can identify the source of traffic and attribute conversions to specific marketing campaigns, channels, or initiatives.

3) Performance Monitoring and Optimization: Monitoring specific parts of the URL path helps marketers assess website performance and identify areas for improvement. By tracking user interactions with different sections of the website, marketers can pinpoint bottlenecks, optimize navigation flows, and enhance the overall user experience.

4) Personalization and Targeting: Extracting URL path segments facilitates personalized content delivery and targeting. By analyzing user journeys and segmenting audiences based on their interactions with specific pages or products, marketers can deliver tailored messaging, offers, and recommendations.

 

Extracting URL Path with Google Tag Manager

 

In Google Tag Manager (GTM), marketers and analysts have access to two primary methods for extracting specific parts of the URL path: the URL Variable Method and the Custom JavaScript Method.

 

URL Variable Method: This method offers a straightforward approach, allowing you to extract URL path segments using built-in variables within GTM. This method is accessible to users with varying technical backgrounds, as it does not require coding knowledge. By navigating to the “Variables” section in GTM, users can create a new user-defined variable and choose “URL” as the variable type. They then select “Path” as the component type to extract the desired URL path segment. Once configured, marketers can associate triggers and tags with the extracted URL path segment, enabling tracking and analysis of user interactions with specific sections of the website.

 

Custom Javascript Method: This method provides greater flexibility and customization options for extracting URL path segments in GTM. It involves writing custom JavaScript code to extract and manipulate the URL path according to specific requirements. Marketers can create a custom JavaScript variable in GTM and write JavaScript code to parse and extract the desired URL path segment. Techniques such as string manipulation functions and regular expressions are commonly used to achieve accurate extraction. After testing the custom JavaScript code to ensure compatibility and accuracy, marketers can associate triggers and tags with the custom JavaScript variable to capture and analyze user interactions based on the extracted URL path segments.

 

URL VARIABLE METHOD

Step 1: To extract any of the components from the URL using the URL Variable, we will need to create some variables. To create a new URL variable, first click on Variables in GTM, then New under User-Defined Variables.

Step 2: Now, we’ll choose the URL as the Variable Type in GTM.

Step 3: In the Component Type dropdown menu, select which part of the URL you want to extract. In this example, we want to extract the Query:

We will be extracting the form_name from the Query Parameter in the URL. Below is the configuration for the same:

Step 4: In order to check that these are implemented correctly, simply turn on the preview and debug mode in GTM.

In the GTM preview pane, click on Container Loaded and then the tab Variables.

Now, as our variable is fetching data, we can configure triggers and tags to capture specific URL segments using the URL variable.

Step 5: Now let’s start by configuring our trigger. Go to Trigger > New > Trigger Configuration > DOM Ready (just for example). Below is the configuration of the trigger that we will use:

Step 6: Now let’s go to Tags > Click on GA4 Event Tag. Below is the configuration of the tag:

Step 7: Now, we will check if our configurations are working. So we will go to the Preview Mode and check if our tag is firing or not and also if our variable parameter is collecting its value or not.

CUSTOM JAVASCRIPT METHOD

Using custom JavaScript in Google Tag Manager offers a powerful way to extract specific segments of the URL path. This method provides flexibility and precision, allowing marketers to tailor extraction techniques to their exact needs. By writing custom JavaScript code within GTM, users can capture relevant URL segments for in-depth analysis and optimization of marketing efforts.

 

Benefits of using custom JavaScript for more advanced tracking requirements:

 

1) Offers flexibility to customize tracking logic according to specific business needs

2) Provides precise control over data extraction for in-depth analysis

3) Enables integration of complex data manipulation and parsing techniques

4) Facilitates tracking of dynamic URL structures and parameters

5) Empowers marketers to implement sophisticated tracking solutions without reliance on predefined variables

6) Enables real-time data processing and customization of tracking behavior

 

In order to extract part of the URL path, we’ll need to use a Custom JS variable. This flexible variable requires a script that meets two criteria:

 

1) It must be an anonymous function.

2) It should return some value.

Conclusion

 

In a nutshell, Google Tag Manager’s URL Variable Method and Custom JavaScript Method offer marketers powerful tools to extract specific URL path segments for advanced tracking and analysis in digital marketing campaigns. These methods provide flexibility and customization options, allowing users to tailor their tracking strategies to unique business needs.

FAQs

 

  • Are there any limitations or considerations to keep in mind when using the Custom JavaScript Method?
    Users should be mindful of performance implications and potential cross-browser compatibility issues when implementing custom JavaScript code in GTM. Additionally, thorough testing is recommended to ensure the reliability and accuracy of extraction logic.

 

  • What are some examples of scenarios where the Custom JavaScript Method might be preferred over the URL Variable Method?
    Custom JavaScript Method might be preferred for scenarios requiring dynamic extraction logic, complex data manipulation, or parsing of non-standard URL structures.

 

  • Can I use the URL Variable Method to extract other components of the URL besides the path?
    Yes, the URL Variable Method in Google Tag Manager allows the extraction of various URL components such as the hostname, query parameters, and fragment identifier.

     

About Author

Ananya Seth is a dynamic and skilled IT Professional specializing in Web Analytics and Data Visualization. Serving as a tech consultant, she is dedicated to solving technology-related business problems with innovative solutions. Ananya's expertise spans Core Java, Scripting Languages, Database Administration, Front-End Web Development, and Web Analytics Technologies. In the ever-evolving landscape of information technology, her interest in learning more ranges from Data Analysis to Networking to Cyber Security to Technology Research.

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