Tag Archives: dtm

Deploying Google Marketing Tags Asyncronously through DTM

I had posted previously about how to deploy marketing tags asynchronously through DTM, but Google Remarketing tags add an extra consideration: Google actually has a separate script to use if you want to deploy asynchronously. The idea is, you could reference the overall async script at the top of your page, then at any point later on, you would fire google_trackConversion to send your pixel. However, this is done slightly differently when you need your reference to that async script file to happen in the same code block as your pixel… you have to make sure the script has had a chance to load before you fire that trackConversion method, or you’ll get an error that “google_trackConversion is undefined”.

Below is an example of how I’ve done that in DTM.

//first, get the async google script, and make sure it has loaded
var dtmGOOGLE = document.createElement('SCRIPT');
var done = false;

dtmGOOGLE.setAttribute('src', '//www.googleadservices.com/pagead/conversion_async.js');
dtmGOOGLE.setAttribute('type','text/javascript');

document.body.appendChild(dtmGOOGLE);
dtmGOOGLE.onload = dtmGOOGLE.onreadystatechange = function () {
 if(!done && (!this.readyState || this.readyState === "loaded" || this.readyState === "complete")) {
 done = true;
 callback();

 // Handle memory leak in IE
 dtmGOOGLE.onload = dtmGOOGLE.onreadystatechange = null;
 document.body.removeChild(dtmGOOGLE);
 }
};

//then, create that pixel
function callback(){
 if(done){ 
 /* <![CDATA[ */
 window.google_trackConversion({
 google_conversion_id : 12345789,
 google_custom_params : window.google_tag_params,
 google_remarketing_only : true
 });
 //]]> 
 }
}

Why (and why not) use a Data Layer?

What’s a Data Layer?

Tag Management Systems can get data a variety of ways. For instance in DTM you can use query string parameters, meta tags, or cookie values- but in general, data for most variables comes from one of two sources:

  • To really take advantage of a tag management system like DTM, I may choose to scrape the DOM. I’m gonna call this the MacGyver approach. This uses the existing HTML and styles on a site to For instance, DTM could use CSS selectors to pull the values out of a <div> with the class of “breadcrumb”, and end up with a value like “electronics>televisions>wide-screen”. This relies on my site having a reliable CSS structure, and there being elements on the page that include the values we need for reporting.
  • If I want even more flexibility, control and predictability, I may work with developers to create a data layer. They would create a JavaScript object, such as “universal_variable.pageName”, and give it a value based on our reporting needs, like “electronics | televisions | wide-screen > product list”. This gives greater control and flexibility for reporting, but requires developers to create JavaScript objects on the pages.

Conceptually speaking, a data layer is page-specific (but tool-agnostic) metadata that describes the page and the actions a user may take on it. Practically speaking, a data layer typically consists of a JavaScript object that contains all of the values we’d want to report on for a given page or user.

Data layers are important because they save developers time by allowing them to abstract out the metadata into a tool-agnostic syntax that a TMS like DTM can then ingest and set as data elements. Whereas once I would have told IT “please set s.prop5 and s.eVar5 to the search term on a search results page, and set s.events to event20” now I can just say “please put the search term in a javascript object such as digitalData.page.onsiteSearchTerm and tell me what object it is.” Then the TMS administrators could easily map that to the right variables from there.

You can see an example data layer if you’d like, or you can pull open a developer console for this very blog and look at the object “digitalDataDDT” to see the data layer that is automatically created from Search Discovery’s wordpress plugin.

Why a Data Layer?

My friends at 33 Sticks also have a great blog post on the subject, but I’ll list out some of the reasons I prefer clients to use a Data Layer. To me, it’s an upfront investment for a scalable, easily maintained implementation going forward. It does mean more work upfront- you have to first design the data layer to make sure it covers your reporting requirements, then you’ll need developers to add that to your site. But beyond those upfront tasks, configuration in your TMS will be much simpler, and it will save you many hours of CSS guess work and DOM scraping, and it may prevent broken reporting down the line.

    Upfront LOE Maintenance LOE
Route Amount of Control Dev Analytics Dev Analytics
Old fashioned “page on code” Medium Heavy Heavy Heavy Heavy
DTM + “Macgyver” Low Minimal Heavy Minimal Heavy
DTM + Data Layer High Heavy Medium Minimal Minimal

Another potential benefit to a Data Layer is that more and more supplementary tools know how to use them now. For instance, Observepoint’s site scanning tool can now return data on not just your Analytics and Marketing beacons, but on your Data Layer as well. And one of my favorite debugging tools, Dataslayer, can return both your beacons and your data layer to your console, so if something is breaking down, you can tell if it’s a data layer issue or a TMS issue.

Ask Yourself

Below are some questions to ask yourself when considering using a data layer:

How often does the code on the site change? If the DOM/HTML of the site changes frequently, you don’t want to rely on CSS selectors. I’ve had many clients have reports randomly break, and after much debugging we realized the problem was the developers changed the code without knowing it would affect analytics. It’s easier to tell developers to put a data layer object on a page then leave it alone, than it is to tell them to not change their HTML/CSS.

How CSS-savvy is your TMS team? If you have someone on your team who is comfortable navigating a DOM using CSS, then you may be able to get away without a data layer a little more easily… but plan on that CSS-savvy resource spending a lot of time in your TMS.  I’ll admit, I enjoy DOM-scraping, and have spent a LOT of time doing it. But I recognize that while it seems like a simple short-term fix, it rarely simplifies things in the long run.

How many pages/page types are on the site? A very complicated site is hard to manage through CSS- you have to familiarize yourself with the DOM of every page type.

How are CSS styles laid out? Are they clean, systematic, and fairly permanent? Clearly, the cleaner the DOM, the easier it is to scrape it.

How often are new pages or new site functionality released? Sites that role out new microsites or site functionality frequently would need a CSS-savvy person setting up their DTM for every change. Alternatively, relying on a data layer requires a data-layer-savvy developer on any new pages/site/functionality. It is often easier to write a solid Data Layer tech spec for developers to reference for projects going forward than to figure out CSS selectors for every new site/page/functionality.

How much link-tracking/post-page-load tracking do you have on your site? If you do need to track a lot of user actions beyond just page loads, involving IT to make sure you are tracking the right things (instead of trying to scrape things out of the HTML) can be extremely valuable. See my post on ways to get around relying on CSS for event-based rules for more info on options.

What is the turn-around time for the developers? Many clients move to DTM specifically because they can’t work easily within their dev team to set up analytics. A development-driven data layer may take many months to set up, stage, QA, and publish. Then if changes are needed, the process starts again. It may be worth going through the lengthy process initially, but if changes are frequently needed in this implementation, you may find yourself relying more on the DOM.

Are there other analytics/marketing tag vendors that may use a data layer? You may be able to hit two birds with one stone by creating a data layer that multiple tools can use.

Have you previously used another tag management system? Often, a data layer set up for a different tool can be used by DTM. Similarly, if the client ever moves away from DTM, their data layer can travel with them.

Does the site have jQuery? The jQuery library has many methods that help with CSS selectors (such as .parent, .child, .closest, .is, .closest…). A CSS-selector-based implementation may be more difficult without jQuery or a similar javascript library.

Who should create my Data Layer?

Ideally, your data layer should be created by your IT/developers… or at bare minimum, developers should be heavily involved. They may be able to hook into existing data in your CMS (for instance, if you use Adobe Experience Manager you can use the Context Hub as the basis for your data layer), or they may already have ideas for how they want to deploy. Your data layer should not be specific to just your Analytics solution; it should be seen as the basis of all things having to do with “data” on your site.

Yet frequently, for lack of IT investment, the analytics team will end up defining the data layer and dictating it to IT. These days, that’s what most Tech Specs consist of: instructions to developers on how to build a data layer. Usually, external documentation on data layers (like from consulting agencies) will be based on the W3C standard.

The W3C (with a task force including folks from Adobe, Ensighten, Microsoft, IBM…) has introduced a tool-agnostic data layer standard that can be used by many tools and vendors. The specifications for this can be found on the W3C site, and many resources exist already with examples. Adobe Consulting often proposes using the W3C as a starting point, if you don’t have any other plans. However, in my experience, generally that W3C is just a starting point. Some people don’t like the way the W3C is designed and most everyone needs to add on to it. For example, folks might ask:

  • why is “onsiteSearchTerms” part of digitalData.page? Can I put it instead in something I made up, like digitalData.search?
  • I want to track “planType”- the W3C didn’t plan for that, so can I just put it somewhere logical like digitalData.transaction?
  • I don’t need “digitalData.product” to be in an array- can I just make that a simple object.

The answer is: yes. You can tweak that standard to your heart’s delight. Just please, PLEASE, document it, and be aware that some tools will be built with the official standard in mind.

The Phased Approach

Many folks adopt a TMS specifically because they don’t want to have to go through IT release cycles to make changes to their implementation. You can still use a TMS to get a lot of what you need for reporting without a data layer and without a ton of CSS work. It may be worthwhile to put a “bare minimum” TMS deployment on your site to start getting the out of the box reports and any reports that don’t require a data layer (like something based on a plugin such as getTimeParting), then to fill in the data layer as you are able. I’d be wary though, because sometimes once that “bare minimum” reporting is in place, it can be easy to be complacent and lose some of the urgency behind getting a thorough solution implemented correctly from the start.

Conclusion

I fully understand that a properly designed data layer is a lot of work, but in my experience, there is going to be a lot of effort with or without a data layer- you can choose for that effort to be upfront in the planning and initial implementation, or you can plan on more longterm maintenance.

What the DTM “top down” approach means for your page performance

Any javascript framework, including all Tag Management Systems like DTM, have the potential to ADD more javascript weight to your page. But if you approach things the right way, this javascript weight  and its effect on your page performance can by mitigated by using DTM to optimize how your tools and tags are delivered. In a partner post, I’ll be talking about how to get the most out of DTM as far as Third Party Tags go, but I think one key concept is worth discussing explicitly.
You may have heard DTM be referred to as a “Top Down” TMS. For instance, this appears in some of the marketing slide decks:
topdown

While yes, it’s worth discussing this as a holistic approach to your digital analytics, it actually has a very real effect on how you set your rules up and how that affects page performance. That’s what I hope to discuss in this post.

In a different TMS, or even in DTM if I haven’t changed my mindset yet, I may be tempted to do something like this:

down-upRules

Where I have differing rules for different scopes as well as for different tags (we’re pretending here that “Wuggly” is a Third Party Marketing Pixel vendor).

DTM does what it can to defer code or make it non-blocking, but there are parts of the DTM library which will run as syncronous code on all pages. Some of that is because of the way the code needs to work- the Marketing Cloud ID service must run before the other Adobe tools; older Target mbox code versions need to run syncronously at top of page. But there is also the code in the library that serves as a map for when and how all of the deferred code should run. For instance, my library may include the following:

downUpCode

All of this logic exists to say “if the current pageType is “home page”, run this code non-sequentially”.  The name, conditions and event code for each rule run on each page as part of the overall library- these serve as a map for DTM to know which code must run, and which code it can ignore and not run.
You’ll notice the code for the two rules is completely identical, except for the rule name (in blue) and the source of the external script (in yellow). Most importantly, the conditions (in green) are identical. Whereas if they shared a rule, we might see the exact same thing as above accomplished with half as much code:

topDownCode

I now have ONE rule, which would be used for ALL logic that should run on the Home Page. The part of the library that runs on every page to check against conditions only has to check if the “pageType” is “home page” once, rather than twice. And DTM still loads the two scripts as separate non-sequential javascript. This doesn’t look like a major change, but when viewed across a whole implementation, where there may be dozens of rules, it can make a big difference in how many rules and conditions DTM must check on every page.

In the DTM interface, this would look like this:
topDownRules

If I want to know which rules contain my “Wuggly” codes, I can use the  “Tag Name” filter in the rules list, which will show me all rules that have a third party tag that includes “Wuggly”:
topDownFilter

This is filtering based on the Tag Name specified when you add the tag code:
topDownTagName

Using this approach, where your rules are based on their scope (or condition) and contain all logic- Analytics, Target, third party- that applies to that scope can not only lighten your library weight, but it can also keep your DTM implementation organized and scalable, but it may also require a change of mindset for how DTM is organized- if someone else needed to deploy a tag on Product Detail Pages, they wouldn’t need to create a rule, but rather, they could see a “Product Detail Page” rule already exists with the scope they need, and they need only add the third party tag.

There is one potential downside to consider, though- the approval and publication flow is based on Rules in their entirety. You can’t say “publish my changes to the analytics portion of this tool, but not to the third party tag section”. Still, if you are aware of this as you plan the publication of new features, this potential drawback rarely overrides the advantages.

Get the most out of DTM for deploying Third Party Tracking

One of the benefits of using a tag management system like DTM is the ability to lighten the load on your page by moving tracking pixels into DTM. Now, simply moving code into DTM may not improve page performance- there are best practices you need to follow to get the most out of what DTM can offers.

1. Decide on the scope

When the DTM library loads, it defers as much code as possible to later in the page. In order to map out what should run where it must run through each of your rule conditions and see which conditions are currently met. That means that additional rules and additional conditions will actually slow down the synchronous part of your DTM library. When possible, don’t create a new rule for each new tag, but rather, have rules be specific to their condition. I have a partner post about how to improve page performance when planning out your rules, but for now, try to start thinking of your rules in terms of the user action- have one rule for when the user sees a product details page, for example, rather than a series of Product Details Page rules, each with a different tag.

2. Decide which type of DTM script to use

Since 3rd party Tag vendors generally deliver their code in HTML form, intended to be pasted directly into your page, there are usually a few changes you need to make before DTM can fire the code non-sequentially.  What you do varies by the tag.
Before proceeding, you need to decide: should you use non-sequential HTML or non-sequential javascript? DTM loads non-sequential HTML by setting it in a side <iframe> so it can load the content without blocking anything else. This can work well, but has some downsides: that iframe can’t get all the same information the parent page can. This includes many data elements- for security reasons, it can’t reference a data element that pulls from Custom JS or JS objects. If you’re referencing a data element, you need to use “%dataElementName%” rather than “_satellite.getVar(“dataElementName”)”. This isn’t the most supported usage, so definitely test it thoroughly.

3. Remove unneeded pieces

Next, remove any <noscript> tags: they won’t do any good in a Javascript-based framework like DTM. These days, these tags aren’t really needed and may actually inflate your data because the only folks who don’t have JavaScript enabled are bots.

4. Convert the code to suit your script type

Next, convert the code to the appropriate format (see below) and add it in a rule as a Third Party Tag.

Purely Script

Some tags are already just javascript. For instance, take this code from facebook:

<!-- Facebook Pixel Code -->
<script>
!function(f,b,e,v,n,t,s){if(f.fbq)return;n=f.fbq=function(){n.callMethod?n.callMethod.apply(n,arguments):n.queue.push(arguments)};if(!f._fbq)f._fbq=n;
n.push=n;n.loaded=!0;n.version='2.0';n.queue=[];t=b.createElement(e);t.async=!0;
t.src=v;s=b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window,
document,'script','//connect.facebook.net/en_US/fbevents.js');

fbq('init', '123456789123');
fbq('track', 'PageView');
</script>

<noscript>
<img height=""1"" width=""1"" style=""display:none""
src=""https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1552630471664132&ev=PageView&noscript=1""
/></noscript>

<!-- End Facebook Pixel Code -->

I would remove the <script> tags, the <noscript> portion, and HTML comments, and paste it directly as JavaScript:

!function(f,b,e,v,n,t,s){if(f.fbq)return;n=f.fbq=function(){n.callMethod?
 n.callMethod.apply(n,arguments):n.queue.push(arguments)};if(!f._fbq)f._fbq=n;
 n.push=n;n.loaded=!0;n.version='2.0';n.queue=[];t=b.createElement(e);t.async=!0;
 t.src=v;s=b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window,
 document,'script','//connect.facebook.net/en_US/fbevents.js');

fbq('init', '123456789123');
fbq('track', 'PageView');

I know Facebook and Chango are two tag types that fall in this category.

Simple Pixel

The easiest of pixels are those that just require the loading of a tiny invisible image. For instance, let’s say I got the following Yahoo dot code:

<img src="https://sp.analytics.yahoo.com/spp.pl?a=123456789&.yp=98765&js=no" height="0" >

If I want to load an image like this asynchronously, I could paste it in, unchanged, as a non-sequential HTML third party tag. As mentioned earlier, this would create an iframe that loads on the side of the page, so as to not slow down page performance.

I could also add it as a non-sequential javascript third party tag using document.body.appendChild to append it to the body, whether it has finished loading or not. This also makes it so you can add these pixels in event-based rules on SPAs or post-page-load user actions.

var dcIMG = document.createElement('img');
dcIMG.setAttribute('src', 'https://sp.analytics.yahoo.com/spp.pl?a=123456789&.yp=98765&js=no');
dcIMG.setAttribute('height','1');
dcIMG.setAttribute('width','1');
dcIMG.setAttribute('border','0');
dcIMG.setAttribute('style','display:none');
document.body.appendChild(dcIMG);

To my knowledge, Yahoo Dot, Bing, Vibrant/Intellitxt, Gumgum are examples of simple pixel code vendors.

Pixel with query params

Some vendors have simple pixels, with query parameters in the src url that helps tell the vendor what they need to know. (Coincidentally, this approach is the approach used by Adobe Analytics.) Let’s say I got this code from Doubleclick:

<!--<script type="text/javascript">
var axel = Math.random() + "";
var a = axel * 10000000000000;
document.write('<iframe src="//0.fls.doubleclick.net/activityi;src=123456789;type=clientsale;qty=1;cost=[Revenue];ord=[OrderID]?" width="1" height="1" frameborder="0" style="display:none"></iframe>');
</script>

<noscript>
<iframe src="//0.fls.doubleclick.net/activityi;src=123456789;type=clientsale;qty=1;cost=[Revenue];ord=[OrderID]?" width="1" height="1" frameborder="0" style="display:none"></iframe>
</noscript>
<!-- End of DoubleClick Floodlight Tag: Please do not remove -->

I could add this to my site like this, using data elements in place of [Revenue] and [OrderID]:

var axel = Math.random() + "";
var a = axel * 10000000000000;

var dcIMG = document.createElement('iframe');

dcIMG.setAttribute('src', "//0.fls.doubleclick.net/activityi;src=123456789;type=clientsale;qty=1;cost="+ _satellite.getVar('purchase: revenue') +";ord="+ _satellite.getVar('purchase: order id') +"?");


dcIMG.setAttribute('height','1');
dcIMG.setAttribute('width','1');
dcIMG.setAttribute('Border','0');
dcIMG.setAttribute('style','display:none');
document.body.appendChild(dcIMG);

Pixels with Script tags

Many vendors require you to add their javascript file to your site, as well as set some variables.

For instance, I might get this code from twitter:

<!-- Twitter single-event website tag code -->

<script src="//platform.twitter.com/oct.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

<script type="text/javascript">twttr.conversion.trackPid('123456', { tw_sale_amount: 0, tw_order_quantity: 0 });</script>

<noscript>

<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://analytics.twitter.com/i/adsct?txn_id=l5jl4&p_id=Twitter&tw_sale_amount=0&tw_order_quantity=0" />

<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="//t.co/i/adsct?txn_id=l5jl4&p_id=Twitter&tw_sale_amount=0&tw_order_quantity=0" />

</noscript>

<!-- End Twitter single-event website tag code -->

So there is a script that needs to run, then script that needs to fire afterwards. We can remove the noscript portions, but we still need to figure out a way to get the .js script to run before I fire twitter.conversion. There aren’t a lot of options for running a .js file after a page has loaded- if you have jQuery, you can use $.ajax, but if you don’t have jQuery you can use the below to append the .js file, make sure it has completed, then run twttr.conversion:

var dcJS = document.createElement('SCRIPT');
var done = false;

dcJS.setAttribute('src', '//platform.twitter.com/oct.js');
dcJS.setAttribute('type','text/javascript');

document.body.appendChild(dcJS);
dcJS.onload = dcJS.onreadystatechange = function () {
     if(!done && (!this.readyState || this.readyState === "loaded" || this.readyState === "complete")) {
          done = true;
          callback();
 
           // Handle memory leak in IE
           dcJS.onload = dcJS.onreadystatechange = null;
           document.body.removeChild(dcJS);
     }
 };
 function callback(){
      if(done){
           twttr.conversion.trackPid(pid,{
                tw_sale_amount:_satellite.getVar('purchase: total revenue'), 
                tw_order_quantity:_satellite.getVar('purchase: total units') 
           }) 
      }
 }

Google Adwords/Remarketing, Twitter, Linkedin, and Eloqua can all fit this general idea.

5. Validate the tag

There are many tools on the internet for validating tags are working. Some vendors, like Google, may have their own tool, but most tools can be validated either within a Developer Console or by using tool-agnostic tools like Ghostery or the chrome Observepoint plugin. Most methods require opening a developer console. An easy way to do this in most browsers is to right-click anywhere on the page and select the “Inspect” option. For instance, in Chrome:

chromeConsole

First, check there are no errors in the console. Then, to validate a specific tag:

Using the Observepoint plugin: Within the developer console, go to the “Observepoint” tab:

observepoint

Click the “Recording” button, then refresh the page. Observepoint should show every tracking technology running on the page, including the one you are validating.

Using the built-in tools in your browser: Open the network tab, then refresh the page. Often you can search for the name of the tag- for instance, here I’m searching for “twitter”, and it shows me that data was sent to twitter:

netTab

Other vendors use slightly more disguised names. Check with the vendor if you need more details on how to validate.

How do I use DTM for a Single Page App?

The question of how to use DTM on Single Page Apps (SPAs) is a VERY hot item right now. By Single Page App, I’m referring to a full user flow contained on a single web page, so as to provide the user a more seamless experience. Often, these pages act like typical web pages, but they don’t always change URLs or load new resources. Many common web development technologies, such as Angular.js, Ember.js, and AJAX use SPA principles.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single great answer for how to deploy DTM- it depends on many things. I’ll work through some of the options and the limitations to be aware of.

Suppressing Page View Beacons

Whatever method you take for tracking page views in a SPA, keep in mind most SPAs do have one true “page view” when the DOM first loads. If you are going strictly with the DCR or EBR route, you may need to suppress the initial page view beacon the Analytics tool will want to set by default. Otherwise, in the example below where the developers are firing a direct call rule on all page views, you’d get TWO beacons on the first page and 1 on all subsequent pages.

Picture1

Data Layer Considerations

You’ll need to make sure that whatever the sources of your Data Elements are (CSS selector, javascript objects, cookies…) have the correct values BEFORE your rule is triggered. I have an example site showing one way you might do this for a data layer (though you’ll need to look in the source code), but ultimately it’s going to depend on your site.

Variable Persistence

One last consideration is that once your Analytics object exists (as in, the “s” in “s.pageName”), variables set on it will continue to exist unless specifically overwritten. In most cases, you’d overwrite s.pageName with a new value so it isn’t a problem, but something like s.eVar5 may be set on the first beacon in your SPA, and not desired on subsequent beacons. You can use s.clearVars() to “refresh” your “s” object, but you have to make sure it fires at the right time- for example, after the beacon on Page A, but before DTM starts mapping Data Elements to variables for the beacon on Page B. How you do this will depend on the overall deployment method you choose.

Deployment Methods

1) Direct Call Rules

Perhaps the most straight-forward approach is to have developers fire a Direct Call Rule, like _satellite.track(“page view”) on every thing YOU consider a page view, whether it’s a fresh new DOM or not.

Advantages: Disadvantages: 
  • You have ultimate control over when a page view in considered a page view.
  • If you need to clear out variables between beacons (for instance, you set s.eVar5 in the first beacon in the SPA, and don’t want it in the second beacon), Direct Call Rules don’t provide a great place to use something like s.clearsVars(). There are some potential work-arounds, but none are ideal.
  • Developers need to add more DTM-specific code (satellite.track) to your pages.
  • Direct Call Rules don’t allow for extra conditions (like “fire THIS logic on pageA, and THAT logic on pageB”) in the interface.
  • Direct Call Rules don’t “stack”- if multiple rules have conditions that are met, multiple rules will fire.

2) pushState or hashChange

Many SPA frameworks, like Angular, use a certain flag to let the browser know the user is viewing a new “page”.

pushState

DTM can listen for this flag in an Event Based Rule using a pushState or hashChange condition.

ADVANTAGES: DISADVANTAGES: 
  • No additional code is needed- most SPA frameworks are already firing something DTM can listen to
  • It’s an Event Based Rule, which allows you to fire clearVars(), and set extra conditions
  • Because you are listening for an event set by the framework, you have less control over timing. Updating a data layer BEFORE the “pushState” event is detected would be critical.
  • Event Based Rules don’t “stack”- if multiple rules have conditions that are met, multiple rules will fire.

3) Custom Event EBR

Another option, which feels a bit like a blend of the first two options, is to use a Custom Event-based Event Based Rule (and no, that’s not a typo- it’s an EBR based on the JavaScript Concept of a Custom Event). It’s possible Developers are already using this Custom Event concept for their own code and purposes, and DTM can just listen for it… or you can have developers set one specific to our DTM needs by using something like my digitalData.userAction hack.

ADVANTAGES: DISADVANTAGES: 
  • You have a little more control over timing
  • It’s an Event Based Rule, which allows you to fire clearVars(), and set extra conditions
  • May require more developer work- similar level of effort as DCRs
  • Event Based Rules don’t “stack”- if multiple rules have conditions that are met, multiple rules will fire.

 4) (NEW OPTION!) “dataelementchanged” Event Based Rule

Just in the last few weeks, a new option emerged as part of the AEM Context Hub integration. This allows DTM to listen for changes to certain data elements- for instance, you could have a rule fire whenever the “pageName” has changed. My friends at 33 sticks have a great blog post about this already for more info.

ADVANTAGES: DISADVANTAGES: 
  • You have a little more control over timing
  • It’s an Event Based Rule, which allows you to fire clearVars(), and set extra conditions
  • Requires careful consideration of when the data layer changes/loads
  • Event Based Rules don’t “stack”- if multiple rules have conditions that are met, multiple rules will fire.

Setting up an Event-based Rule that be fired directly like a Direct Call Rule

Update:
As proud as I am of this solution/workaround, it may be far less needed now that you can use the dataelementchanged  condition to fire an Event Based Rule. Instead of using custom events, you can just have DTM listen for when your pageName Data Element has changed. 

The current limitations

If developers want to fire a DTM rule directly from their code (say, they want to make sure a beacon fires only after their data layer is ready), typically they would fire a Direct Call Rule, with its very specific syntax: _satellite.track(“rule string here”). There are, however, some limitations to this method.

Direct Call Rules:

  • Don’t allow for multiple conditions (you can’t say “if _satellite.track(“cart add”) is fired AND the current page has “/products” in the URL“)
  • Don’t allow for multiple arguments (you can’t pass _satellite.track(“cart add”,”sku1″) to attach the added SKU to the rule)
  • Don’t allow for firing s.clearVars() before your rule sets up your analytics variables (to clear out variables from previous beacons on the same DOM).
  • Require very specific syntax- they MUST be “_satellite.track()”

And unfortunately, both Direct Call Rules and Event-based rules don’t “stack”- if a certain condition triggers multiple similar rules, each rule will fire its own beacon. This is different from Page Load Rules, where if multiple rules have conditions being met by the current page, they all wrap nicely into a single page view beacon.

An alternative

To get around some (but maybe not all) of these limitations, I’ve been playing with another possible option, where we use the Custom Event conditions of an Event Based Rule to accomplish nearly the same thing. After getting it set up, I can fire something like this:

digitalData.userAction("cart add","sku1")

…to fire an Event-Based Rule in place of a Direct Call Rule. There are a few things I need to do in DTM to make this digitalData.userAction work.

Set Up the Logic

First, I have to set up the logic in a Page Load Rule- set to fire on DOMReady (no need for it to be sooner)- that will merely hold the following as a Sequential Javascript Third Party Tag:

//make sure digitalData is defined to prevent errors
if(typeof digitalData=="undefined"){
  digitalData={}
}

//create fake DOM item to bind the event to
var fakeDiv = document.createElement('div');
fakeDiv.setAttribute('id', "dtmHolder");
fakeDiv.setAttribute('height','1');
fakeDiv.setAttribute('width','1');
fakeDiv.setAttribute('style','display:none');
document.body.appendChild(fakeDiv);

//define custom event
digitalData.userAction=function(n,details){

 document.getElementById("dtmHolder").addEventListener("dtmEvent", function(e) {
    console.info("Event is: ", e);
  })

  // First create the event
  var dtmEvent = new CustomEvent(n, {
    detail:""
  });

  jQuery("#dtmHolder").attr("detail",details)
  
  // Trigger it!
  document.getElementById("dtmHolder").dispatchEvent(dtmEvent); 
}

(Update: note that this code should not run before the DOM is created- it will create an error if you try to run it at page top because you are trying to append something to a body that doesn’t exist yet).
Now, whenever a developer fires digitalData.userAction(“string here), you can listen for that string as the Triggered Event Type in a Custom Event Event Based Rule. Obviously, you can alter the above code if you want a function named something other than digitalData.userAction.

Set Up an Event Based Rule

The rule will need to be bound to the CSs selector of the tiny fake div (“#dtmHolder”) we created for the custom event to bind to:

2016-04-20_12-38-12

You can create as many of these rules as you want, for whatever different strings you pass into digitalData.userAction()where the “triggered event type” reflects that string.

Pass Additional Info

If you want to pass a second argument ( e.g. digitalData.userAction(“cart add”,”sku1″)) I currently have that second argument  passing as a new attribute (“detail”) on the tiny invisible div, so you can access it off the “this” object directly in the rule:2016-04-20_12-41-52

You can give this a try at my ugly test site– open a developer console, turn on DTM debugging, and fire either digitalData.userAction(“cartAdd”,”sku123″) or digitalData.userAction(“pageView”) to see two example rules at work.

Run ClearVars

This opens the ability to run s.clearVars on s.t() beacons in cases where multiple beacons may be firing on a single DOM. (As a reminder, if you’re using the old DCR route, there are some hack-ish options for doing this- we call it daisy-chaining).

In an Event Based Rule, there IS a code block that runs before the Analytics tool, giving you a perfect opportunity to make sure you are starting with a ‘clean slate’ of variables: the Conditions Custom Code block. Just create a new Rule Condition with “custom” criteria, then put “s.clearVars()” in the code block, followed by “return true” (so that DTM doesn’t think some condition didn’t pass):

2016-04-20_12-52-49

You can also apply additional conditions, like “only fire this “cart add” rule on certain pages”, by adding more criteria under Rule Conditions.

Conclusion

I’m very open to suggestions and feedback on this- maybe we can crowdsource a better way, but for now, this seems to be a reasonable alternative to Direct Call Rules. Let me know what you think!

Referencing “this” in Event-Based Rules

Not many people know you can pull information out about the element that an Event-Based Rule fires on, without any custom code. Let’s say I want to fire a rule on a link that looks like this, and I want to capture the domain of the link that was clicked in eVar3:

<div partner="adobe">
     <a href="http://www.adobe.com" class="partnerExit" alt="go to our partner Adobe" target="_blank">This is an example link.</a>
</div>

I would set my rule up to correctly fire on that link (with something like “a.partnerExit”), then for eVar3 I would put %this.hostname%, where “this” refers to “this thing that the rule fired on”.

I don’t have to have to do any custom code, or have a data element set up (in fact, data elements are NOT particularly useful at pulling out information specific to the element that fired an event-based rule.)

Putting this in the interface…

Would let me access…

Which would yield this…

%this.hostname% The domain of the link that was clicked www.adobe.com
%this.href% The full URL of the link that was clicked http://www.adobe.com/
%this.src% The source of the element that was clicked (works for images, not links) (Not applicable here.)
%this.alt% The “alt” value of the element that was clicked go to our partner Adobe.
%this.@text% The internal text of the element that was clicked This is an example link.
%this.@cleanText% The internal text of the element that was clicked, trimmed to remove extra white space This is an example link.
%this.className% The class of the element that was clicked (less handy in reports, but very handy for DTM troubleshooting) partnerLink

For more advanced “DOM-scraping” you may need to take to the custom code. I find jQuery often simplifies things greatly for this. For instance, in the above example, if I wanted to get the ID not of the anchor tag, but of the <div> that HOLDS the anchor tag, I could do this in the custom code:

Note that I remembered to also add it into s.linkTrackVars, since this is an s.tl beacon (DTM automatically creates s.linkTrackVars for any variables you configure directly in the interface, but can’t know which variables you are adding to the custom code section, so you must be sure to add them to linkTrackVars or linkTrackEvents yourself, or the s.tl() beacon will ignore those variables).

How to get a global “s” object in DTM

At this point in time, by default, DTM creates your analytics object (usually an “s”, as in “s.pageName”) with a local scope. This means it should be able to be referenced from any custom code blocks within DTM that are tied to your analytics tool. However, it would NOT be accessible from code on the page (or a developer console) or even non-analytics code blocks in DTM (like Third Party Tags). This can cause some pretty big problems if you aren’t aware.

sUndefined

 

 

 

To get around this, you need to define your own s object within your library. This does mean you can’t let DTM manage your library, but the change you need to make is pretty minor. You need a “Custom” configuration, and you’ll need to “Set report suites using custom code below” (since you’re essentially going to be overwriting the “s” object that DTM created, where it set your report suites for you.

configureScode

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you open the editor, add this code to the top:

s = new AppMeasurement();
if(_satellite.settings.isStaging==true)
{s.account="myDevSuite"}else{s.account="myProdSuite"}

Make sure to replace the “myDevSuite” and “myProdSuite” with the correct report suites- these should match what you have in the interface. This uses _satellite.settings.isStaging to detect the current library and set the appropriate s_code.

 

With that in place, you should be able to access the “s” object from anywhere in DTM or on your page.

UPDATE: Because of a current quirk in DTM where it looks for the H code version of your s.account, I recommend also setting this line, below the ones above:

var s_account=s.account

This should prevent any report suite confusion on s.tl beacons from Direct Call Rules and Event Based Rules.