Group URL's Any Way You Want In Google Analytics With Google Tag Manager

...When you Can't Even use a DataLayer!

You can do it

Have you ever needed to change the URL of your pages tracked by Google Analytics, so you can better understand how your content is performing?

For example, sometimes your site may have been built so that all of your product pages or blog posts are directly on the root of your domain, instead of being in a /products or /blog folder.

When you try to do analysis on how these pages are performing, it can be challenging, because it's not easy to see these pages grouped together.

You could use Content Grouping to see how your content is performing, but personally I find that Content Grouping has some limitations. Sometimes it's better just to edit the URLs when they are tracked by Google Analytics.

This post is going to show you how to change the URLs for a section of your site in Google Analytics using Google Tag Manager

FROM: www.example.com/blog-post
TO: www.example.com/blog/blog-post

Changing URLs in Google Analytics

You may have already been changing the page URLs tracked in Google Analytics, since you've been able to do this for a long time now. You might have this already built into your website code. For example:

In Google Universal:

How you used to edit page URLs, in the code
How you used to edit page URLs, in the code

In "Older" Google Analytics:

How you used to edit page URLs, in the code
How you used to edit page URLs, in the code

But how do you migrate the ability to edit URLs in Google Tag Manager??

Time for a Case Study!

We have a client whose blog posts are built right onto their root domain. It would be disruptive and potentially expensive to change all the URLs to be in a /blog folder. But we need to track the performance of the blog posts, and the Content Grouping function isn't quite going to do the job.

So we decided to change all the blog URLs to be tracked as being in a /blog folder which doesn't actually exist.

Since nothing is ever as easy as it seems on paper, we had the added challenge of not being able to add dataLayer code before the Google Tag Manager script. This is a big problem! We've found that GTM behaves unpredictably at best - or doesn't work at all - when the dataLayer is inserted after the GTM code.

So we had to get this done without using a dataLayer.

.

How to Change Page URLs Using Google Tag Manager Without Using a dataLayer

The implementation is actually pretty simple.

.First, we added a bit of code to the site that would identify which pages are blog pages:
Put some Javascript on the pages where you want Edit the URLs
Put some Javascript on the pages where you want Edit the URLs

However you identify your blog posts, the important part is that you have a JavaScript variable (in this case sitesection) that is only set when the visitor is looking at a blog page. Or whatever it is you're tracking.

Next, we use Chrome's Console to make sure it's working before we go further. This can save you stress later. Just type in sitesection, or whatever your variable is called. You just want to make sure that the variable is being set on the pages you want to change, and not set on the pages you want to keep as they are.

Check that the javascript works in your console
Check that the javascript works in your console

Now we go to Google Tag Manager

First, you'll need GTM to grab that JavaScript variable you set up in the pages. You can do this very easily by creating a simple Macro:

Create a Macro to grab your javascript variable
Create a Macro to grab your javascript variable

Now let's assume you already have a Google Analytics tag set up in GTM. It's best to COPY the existing tag. You can easily do this by clicking the "Copy this tag" button at the bottom right. You might need to hit "Save" after you hit "Copy" to make this work.

Copy your existing Analytics Tag
Copy your existing Analytics Tag

You are copying the tag because you're going to run 1 tag for the pages where you want to change the URL, and 1 tag for all the pages on the rest of the site. Rename this Analytics tag something clear, so you know what it does.
To make this work, you need to change the Firing rules for the 2 Analytics tags.

On the Analytics tag that's going to track the whole website, you'll need to exclude the blog pages:

Exclude blog pages from your normal Analytics Tag
Exclude blog pages from your normal Analytics Tag

On the Analytics tag that's going to track only the blog, you'll need to only include the blog pages:

Create a rule to only include blog pages on the new Analytics tag
Create a rule to only include blog pages on the new Analytics tag

Finally - edit the Analytics tag that's going to track only the blog pages. Open up "More Settings > Basic Configuration" and take a look at the "Document Path" field. This little field lets you change the URL of your pages.

In this case, we want all the blog posts to be tracked in a "/blog" folder that doesn't actually exist. So we're going to enter /blog, then pull in the macro for the original path to track the rest of the URL.

This will add /blog to the beginning of the URL for all your blog pages.

Now Edit the Document Path to change your URLs
Now Edit the Document Path to change your URLs

Save & Publish

Remember to hit "Save" on your Tag and "Publish" your container before leaving Tag Manager.

Also remember you should do a hard refresh on your site (or clear your cache) before checking to make sure it works.

Do some QA

Also make sure you do some QA to make sure it's working - use the excellent Tag Manager Debug feature.

If all goes well, you should start seeing views in your Real Time reports within minutes:

Analytics reports with changed URLs
Analytics reports with changed URLs

Happy Tracking! 🙂

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