Track Progressive Web Apps with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager

Progressive Web Apps

In this era of modern web, there are many new technologies that enable you to work towards improving user experience. You must have heard of or read about PWA (Progressive Web Apps) sites. It provides yours users an app like experience on their mobiles and also work offline. It has a magic master called “Service Workers” which makes it possible to load and store all the HTML, CSS and Javascript files on client’s browser in the first run itself and then requests for the data that needs to be updated from the website. With PWA, you get features like lower bandwidth usage, efficiency, well supported libraries and communities for implementations. What else you need?

Progressive Web Apps

 

Image: service worker in developer option menu

Do you find yourself asking questions like what about Google Analytics implementation? How will that work in such dynamic sites? How can I debug my implementation? How GA will handle my offline analytics request?  What about pageviews, sessions, source/medium? Well, we have all the answers for you in this blog, read on to find out.

Google Analytics in PWA

PWA sites, one page sites or Ajax based sites – we have invested our time and efforts to get the best GA implementations that supports all the Javascripts. You can make use of virtual pageviews to track dynamic pages. For detailed GA implementation guidelines, you can follow this link.

In July 2016, Google launched an update called Offline Analytics made easyHere, they have provided a library offline-google-analytics-import.js which supports offline implementation. This library takes advantage of the Service Workers to store Google Analytics hits while user is off the internet, and once that user connects to the internet, it sends the offline hits to GA.

Regular GA syntax will work just fine in case of tracking events and pageview hits according to the user actions.With extensive research, we also discovered that you can even differentiate the hits on the basis of users’ state (online or offline) when he performed any particular action. You can use Navigator.onLine API which returns true or false values based on the user’s network status.

ga('set', 'HitScope CustomDimension', navigator.onLine);

Use the above syntax to send the said user state in hit level custom dimension.  The recommended approach here is to set this custom dimension with each hits. This will help you to understand user behaviour or their state (offline or online).Based on this data, you can get insights which will help you improve your user experience by adding relevant offline features or re-arrange them.

Using Google Tag Manager for PWA

Until here, we have discussed about on page implementation. Now lets talk about Google Tag Manager and DataLayer implementation on these Web Apps. Read this Google document for quick implementation of GTM on your website and this one for DataLayer implementation. We always recommend creating new containers for PWA sites.This ensures  reduced load on the PWA since your existing site container may contain some extra tags that are not useful.
offline tracking

Image: Google Tag Manager container

You can access all the regular GTMs features in PWA as well. Only “All Pages” and “Pageview triggers” do not work as expected because GTM will load only once. All your dynamic pages and user interaction can be captured via DataLayer implementation smoothly in such cases. We recommend the implementation of DataLayer in such a way that for all page loads, gtm.js (All Pages) trigger should fire the pageview where as for dynamic pages, DataLayer should be pushed.

I’ve listed few of the hurdles that we faced when we started implementing GA( via Google Tag Manager) on PWA site.

  • firing pageviews incorrectly
  • Session breaking in between user journey due to source/medium changes
  • Higher bounce rate due to session break
  • Tracking offline hits, GA script caching (GA script freshness) in service worker which sometime stops sending the hits due to unavailability of tracker on that particular page.

Every site serves a different purpose and has different business objectives. Hence, accommodating a generalized solution for all issues is not recommended. Owing to this, the PWA implementation may vary.

Google Tag Manager for PWA

Image: Hits from service worker and hits from live network

Best practices for PWA implementation

For such a robust Google Analytics implementation, we recommend that you follow a set of best practices like

  • Create separate GTM container for PWA
  • Implement library which stores offline google analytics hits, Separate online/offline hits
  • Create separate view as well for PWA site
  • If you have implemented GTM, then GA script caching will not be an issue

In case of GTM implementation, we have implemented many solutions for overcoming such issues by using the tracker name settings, forcing the referrer values to be set as null(“”) to stop the session breaking for all the tags except pageview, forcing document location values in fields to set.

With PWA, one needs to be closely involved while setting up the tracking as it differs from the regular GA implementations. There are certain courses which Google provides to help you understand what PWA is and how you can debug service worker for debugging your tracking. Once you have implemented, for thorough audits, you can use the network tab of browser’s developer option menu and check how your hits are being sent to Google Analytics.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to comment. We would love to answer your queries.

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