Recommended Read: Autotrack turns 1.0

Posted by Philip Walton, Developer Programs Engineer

Autotrack is a JavaScript library built for use with analytics.js
that provides developers with a wide range of plugins to track the most common
user interactions relevant to today’s modern web.

The first version of autotrack for analytics.js was released on
earlier this year, and since then the response and adoption from
developers has been amazing. The project has been starred over a thousand times,
and sites using autotrack are sending millions of hits to Google Analytics every
single day.

Today I’m happy to announce that we’ve released autotrack version 1.0,
which includes several new plugins, improvements to the existing plugins, and
tons of new ways to customize autotrack to meet your needs.

Note: autotrack is not an official Google Analytics product and does
not qualify for Google Analytics 360 support. It is maintained by members of the
Google Analytics developer platform team and is primarily intended for a
developer audience.

New plugins

Based on the feedback and numerous feature requests we received from developers
over the past few months, we’ve added the following new autotrack plugins:

Impression Tracker

The impression
tracker plugin
allows you to track when an element is visible within the
browser viewport. This lets you much more reliably determine whether a
particular advertisement or call-to-action button was seen by the user.

Impression tracking has been historically tricky to implement on the web,
particularly in a way that doesn’t degrade the performance of your site. This
plugin leverages new
browser APIs
that are specifically designed to track these kinds of
interactions in a highly performant way.

Clean URL Tracker

If your analytics implementation sends pageviews to Google Analytics without
modifying the URL, then you’ve probably experienced the problem of seeing
multiple different page paths in your reports that all point to the same place.
Here’s an example:

  • /contact
  • /contact/
  • /contact?hl=en
  • /contact/index.html

The clean
URL tracker plugin
avoids this problem by letting you set your preferred URL
format (e.g. strip trailing slashes, remove index.html filenames, remove query
parameters, etc.), and the plugin automatically updates all page URLs based on
your preference before sending them to Google Analytics.

Note: setting up View Filters in
your Google Analytics view settings is another way to modify the URLs sent to
Google Analytics.

Page Visibility Tracker

It’s becoming increasingly common for users to visit sites on the web and then
leave them open in an inactive browser tab for hours or even days. And when
users return to your site, they often won’t reload the page, especially if your
site fetches new content in the background.

If your site implements just the default
javascript tracking snippet
, these types of interactions will never be

The page
visibility tracker plugin
takes a more modern approach to what should
constitute a pageview. In addition to tracking when a page gets loaded, it also
tracks when the visibility state of the page changes (i.e. when the tab goes
into or comes out of the background). These additional interaction events give
you more insight into how users behave on your site.

Updates and improvements

In addition to the new plugins added to autotrack, the existing plugins have
undergone some significant improvements, most notably in the ability to
customize them to your needs.

All plugins that send data to Google Analytics now give you 100% control over
precisely what fields
get sent, allowing you to set, modify, or remove anything you want. This gives
advanced users the ability to set their own custom dimensions on hits or change
the interaction setting to better reflect how they choose to measure bounce

Users upgrading from previous versions of autotrack should refer to the upgrade
for a complete list of changes (note: some of the changes are
incompatible with previous versions).

Who should use autotrack

Perhaps the most common question we received after the initial release of
autotrack is who should use it. This was especially true of Google Tag Manager
users who wanted to take advantage of some of the more advanced autotrack

Autotrack is a developer project intended to demonstrate and streamline some
advanced tracking techniques with Google Analytics, and it’s primarily intended
for a developer audience. Autotrack will be a good fit for small to medium sized
developer teams who already have analytics.js on their website or who prefer to
manage their tracking implementation in code.

Large teams and organizations, those with more complex collaboration and testing
needs, and those with tagging needs beyond just Google Analytics should instead
consider using Google
Tag Manager
. While Google Tag Manager does not currently support custom
analytics.js plugins like those that are part of autotrack, many of the same
tracking techniques are easy to achieve with Tag Manager’s built-in triggers, and
others may be achieved by pushing data layer
based on custom code on your site or in Custom HTML tags in Google
Tag Manager. Read Google Analytics
in the Google Tag Manager help center to learn more about automatic
event tracking based on clicks and form submissions.

Next steps

If you’re not already using autotrack but would like to, check out the installation
and usage section
of the documentation. If you already use autotrack and
want to upgrade to the latest version, be sure to read the upgrade

To get a sense of what the data captured by autotrack looks like, the Google Analytics Demos &
site includes several reports displaying its own autotrack usage data.
If you want to go deeper, the autotrack library is open source and can be a
great learning resource. Have a read through the plugin
source code
to get a better understanding of how some of the advanced
analytics.js features work.

Lastly, if you have feedback or suggestions, please let us know. You can report
bugs or submit any issues on Github.

via Google Developers Blog


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