Analytics comes in a variety of flavors - there's built in analytics provided by feature rich CMS platforms, Free third party analytics such as Google Analytics and Piwick and paid enterprise options like Google Analytics Premium, Adobe SiteCatalyst and IBM's Coremetrics.

The value of third party tracking becomes apparent when you need to measure a visitors as they move across multiple web properties.

What is Cross Domain Tracking

Cross domain tracking is what ties the user and session information together when someone moves from one environment to another. For example - if you have a completely external microsite, a main brand site and a shoping site subdomain and you don't preserve the same user information across all three - you will lose important attribution information.

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When you lose attribution information you remove credit from your efforts in paid and organic demand generation and you start attributing success to your internal websites. This creates a trap for some users where they will spend more time trying to juice more traffic out of their brand domain rather than focus on an SEO content strategy or a paid traffic strategy.

You Don't LOSE Anything with Cross Domain Tracking

Cross domain tracking preserves the clickstream. You can still review attribution information about users that entered your site through different points - but instead of digging it out of referral information, you will see the information through pageviews.

Google Analytics (Free) has a powerful segmentation engine that will allow you to track different specific journeys. Alternatively you can look at landing pages and see if there is a particularly valuable experience that can be duplicated elsewhere. Without cross domain tracking your landing page would be fractured. In the case of the above example you would have THREE landing pages from different users.

How to Start Cross Domain Tracking

We will use Google Analytics as an example because it is free to use and has some great documentation on the subject.

Below is an example of the default code that a user would place on their site. You would retrieve this from the Google Analytics Admin Panel under the Tracking Code link.

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Your three hypothetical sties are two completely separate microsites, a brand site and a subdomain of your brand site:

  • test-microsite.com
  • test2-microsite.com
  • test-brandsite.com
  • store.test-brandsite.com

After you grabbed the standard Google Analytics Tracking Code you could place it in a notepad or notepad-like application and add the following code.

// Part 1 - Load the plugin. This allows GA to select the proper domain to use from your list below
ga('require', 'linker');

// Part 2 - Define which domains to autoLink.
ga('linker:autoLink', ['test-brandsite.com', 'test-microsite.com', 'test2-microsite.com']);
Now you may notice that we did NOT create a subdomain "store.test-brandsite.com" in part 2 of the code. This is because the subdomains will be automatically linked together.
 
The last item is to add an allow linker parameter below where you declared the property UA number.
ga('create', 'UA-XXXXXX-X', 'auto', {
  'allowLinker': true
});
When you put it all together it should look like this!
 

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){
(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m)
})(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga');
ga('create', 'UA-#######’, {allowLinker: true});
ga('send', 'pageview');
ga('require', 'linker');
ga('linker:autoLink', [ ''test-brandsite.com', 'test-microsite.com', 'test2-microsite.com' ' ] );

We hope this has been an enlightening experience - if you are interested in the technical side of cross domain linking be sure to visit Google's official documentation to discover what materials will best help you track what is important to your individual setup!

If you would like to learn more about SEO, web analytics, or user experience as it regards to your website and Truvisibility you can learn more at http://www.truvisibility.com/en/blog. If you are interested in trying Truvisibility out today simply go to truvisibility.com and press the “Get Started” button, it is free and easy.