At Creative Blend we work with many different charities and we know using 3rd party web plugins is super common so our technical expert Liam has put together some really useful insights for tracking success using 3rd party off-site systems within GA4.
A large proportion of charity websites use 3rd party tools such as Access Suite and Local Hospice Lottery, to take donations, lottery sign-ups and even contact emails. Some of this functionality can occur outside of the eyes of tracking tools however. This can make it difficult to see if your website or your fundraising campaigns are actually generating income. Here we will discuss how to identify if tracking a 3rd party process is an issue and potential solutions.
Google Tag Manager form submission trigger
In some cases, Google Tag Manager (GTM) can track form submissions within a page using the form submission trigger. Once GTM is set up on site (which involves adding several snippets of code to the <head> and <body>), this can be set up and configured to track form submissions in GA4.Whilst this won’t track revenue, it can help charities track submissions such as volunteer interest forms, newsletter sign ups and contact forms. It can be set up for specific pages and given a unique label so it can be identified within GA4. Not all forms can be tracked in this way however, but this can be a good catch all option. If you have set this up correctly and it is not tracking, or you want to track revenue processed by a 3rd party, then read on.
Should you require help setting up Google Analytics 4 or transitioning from Universal Analytics, then please get in touch with us. We can help your charity get everything set up and even provide training on how to get the most out of GA4.
An iframe essentially acts as a window looking onto another website. They can be a great way to quickly add functionality to a site, such as newsletter sign up, direct debit form or donation payment, without having to hard code from scratch. To the user, they are indistinguishable from the webpage, but technically they are a separate website entirely. For tracking tools such as GA4, any actions the user takes within an iframe is considered as happening off-site and as such will go unnoticed by their tracker. This can mean any iframe transactions or form submissions are invisible and cannot be attributed to a channel e.g. did the donation come from a user that found the website through a Google search, a social media post or the latest email newsletter?
Checking for an iframe is easy to do. In most browsers, simply right click the element on the page and click Inspect. If contained within an iframe, the code should include similar to:
<iframe src=”https://example.com” height=”200″ width=”300″></iframe>
Tracking iframe functionality can be difficult, though there are potential solutions. The simplest method of tracking iframes functionality is by having the 3rd party redirected the user to a page on site. Though this is dependent on the 3rd party having this functionality. This could be in the form of a simple thank you page. To help track donation revenue, the amount of money must appear somewhere on this thank you page (this can even simply take the form of a querystring in the URL, such as ?donation-value=45). Tracking in Google Analytics can then be handled by a snippet of code in the page called a data layer, which can be relatively easy to set up. Once this is in place, GA4 can be configured to pull this revenue data into the platform and attribute it to traffic.
If a form is confirmed as not using an iframe, nor redirecting to a separate thank you page, there is a chance it is using AJAX. This may take the form of a plugin that has been added to the site to handle a particular functionality (quite common when using sites built on WordPress). In practice, functionality will look similar to an iframe: the user will complete the form within the page and then be presented with a thank you/confirmation message all on the same URL. Whilst Google Tag Manager won’t be able to track this functionality using the form submission trigger mentioned above, there are other elements that we can track: the thank you message. Whilst we won’t outline the technicalities of identifying the variable to use (that could be a post in itself!), within GTM we can create a custom trigger which fires only when that particular message appears on a page.
Redirecting to a 3rd party site
It can be common for charity sites to redirect users to a third party domain, such as taking lottery sign ups through Local Hospice Lottery. GA4 tracking cannot follow a user that is essentially leaving the site, therefore any actions taken by the user are invisible. If tracking users is crucial, then ensure that upon completion, the 3rd party redirects the user back to the charity site e.g. to a thank you page. If tracking revenue is important, then the value of the donation must be included within that page somewhere, akin to an order summary page that you would receive on an ecommerce website. As discussed in the iframe section, this would allow the use of data layers to link that data to GA4 and allow tracking and attribution.
Use of 3rd party functionality such as Access Suite, can be a cost effective and simple way for charities to take donations and enquiries, but if tracking is necessary to measure performance, they can be a bit of a nightmare. If you take one thing away from this post, it’s to always ensure any prospective 3rd party processor allows you to redirect back to the site to a stand alone thank you page. This will prevent most issues. If revenue tracking is key, the value has to appear on that thank you/confirmation page. If that is in place, any analyst familiar with Google Analytics will be able to configure GA4 to track revenue.
If this has all been complete technobabble, then get in touch with us and we can help guide you through all aspects of GA4 tracking.
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