Tracking Site Search without Query Parameter in Google Tag Manager

This article is in conjunction with the article Understanding site search tracking in Google Analytics where I introduced the concept of ‘site search tracking’ in Google Analytics and also introduced ‘GET based’ and POST based’ search engines.

Following is an example of a search page URL which contains the search term but not the query parameter:

Today I am going to show you, how to set up site search tracking in Google Analytics via Google Tag Manager when the search term is present in the search page URL but without query parameter.

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Perform a search on your website and then note down the request URI.

For example if the search URL is:

https://www.optimizesmart.com/search/enhanced+ecommerce+tracking

Then the request URI would be:

/search/enhanced+ecommerce+tracking

Step-2: Convert the request URI into a JavaScript based regular expression.

So in our case the regex equivalent of /search/enhanced+ecommerce+tracking would be: 

\/search\/(.*)

You can test this regex via regex101.com to confirm its validity:

To learn more about regular expressions (or regex), read this article: Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager Regex (Regular Expressions) Guide

Step-3: Create and test the JavaScript function which check for the search URL and whenever it finds one, it append the query parameter to it and then return the modified URI:

function() {
  var regex = /^\/search\/(.*)/;
  var pagePath = '/search/enhanced ecommerce tracking/';
  if(regex.test(pagePath) 
  {
  var searchTerm = regex.exec(pagePath)[1];
  var NewUri = "/search/?s=" + searchTerm;
  return NewUri;
  }
  return false;
}

Here,

regex’ (as in var regex) is a regular expression object which is used to store a regular expression.

Both ‘test’ and ‘exec’ are the methods of the ‘regex’ object.

test’ method (as in regex.test) test for a match in a string.

It returns a boolean value: ‘true’ if its find a match, otherwise it returns ‘false’

Syntax: RegExpObject.test(string to be searched)

pagePath is the variable which is used to store the request URI of the page which loads into a user’s web browser.

exec’ method (as in regex.exec) also test for a match in a string.

But unlike ‘test’, it returns the array which contains the matched text, if it finds the match.

Otherwise it returns NULL.

Syntax: RegExpObject.exec(string to be searched)

‘exec’ method return an array of all matched text.

So for the regex ^\/search\/(.*) and pagePath = ‘/search/enhanced ecommerce tracking/’

The regex.exec(pagePath) = [‘/search/enhanced ecommerce tracking/’, ‘enhanced ecommerce tracking/’];

The regex.exec(pagePath)[0] = [‘/search/enhanced ecommerce tracking/’];

The regex.exec(pagePath)[1] = [‘enhanced ecommerce tracking/’];

So when we use regex.exec(pagePath)[1] we can extract the search string from the request URI.

The ‘searchTerm’ variable is used to store the search term extracted from the request URI.

The expression ‘“/search/?s=” + searchTerm;’ is used to append ‘/search/?’ and the query parameter ‘’s’ to the search term.

Basically we are concatenating two strings here using the ‘+’ operator.

If you are new to JavaScript then read this article ‘Beginners guide to JavaScript for Google Analytics

The ‘NewUri’ variable is used to store the modified URI (the one which contains the query parameter).

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Step-4: Replace the ‘pagePath’ variable we created above with {{Page Path}}.

So now the function will look like the one below:

function() {
  var regex = /^\/search\/(.*)/;
  if(regex.test({{Page Path}})) 
  {
  var searchTerm = regex.exec({{Page Path}})[1];
  var NewUri = "/search/?s=" + searchTerm;
  return NewUri;
  }
  return false;
}

Here,

{{Page Path}} is a built-in variable in Google Tag Manager which returns the request URI of the page which loads into a user’s web browser.

Step-5: Create a new custom JavaScript variable in GTM and copy-paste the function we created above there:

Step-6: Edit the tag which you use to deploy Google Analytics pageview, navigate to the section named ‘Fields to set’ and then click on the ‘Add field’ button:

Step-7: Set ‘page’ field to ‘{{Append query parameter to search pages}}’ and then save the tag:

Step-8: Preview and publish your container.

Step-9: Open Google console, switch on GA debugger and then navigate to the ‘console’ tab.

Step-10: Now perform a search on your website and check the ‘page’ field in the GIF request:

This shows that the request URI for search pages are successfully being re-written.

Step-11: Configure the site search settings in your Google Analytics reporting view i.e. set the ‘Site Search Tracking’ toggle button to ON and enter your query parameter in the text box under ‘Query Parameter’:

Step-12: Perform a search on your website and then after 20 or so minutes, check your ‘site search’ reports in GA for the new data.

Related Article: Creating and using Site Search Funnel in Google Analytics

   

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Himanshu Sharma

Digital Marketing Consultant and Founder of Optimizesmart.com

Himanshu helps business owners and marketing professionals in generating more sales and ROI by fixing their website tracking issues, helping them understand their true customers' purchase journey and helping them determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

He has over 12 years of experience in digital analytics and digital marketing.

He was nominated for the Digital Analytics Association's Awards for Excellence. The Digital Analytics Association is a world-renowned not-for-profit association that helps organisations overcome the challenges of data acquisition and application.

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