Let’s say that you have a landing page with a signup form, all submissions are stored in the Customer Relationship Management system (CRM). This campaign has been running for a week and you want to know who filled in the form and what information did they enter. But what about some additional data, e.g. where did this submission come from (what is the traffic source)?

You might say that the CRM you’re using has these additional tracking features. That’s nice, congratulations. But, from my experience, usually, businesses are using some basic form modules/plugins which have only one purpose – capture and store form submissions.

So you try to dig deeper, open Google Analytics and check conversion reports. Even though you can see how many form submissions happened, you still cannot distinguish the traffic source of an individual form submission.

But that’s not an issue because in today’s blog post I’ll show you how to enrich form submission data with additional data (not only traffic source). And we’ll do that by….. drumroll please ….. hiding some form fields and prefilling them with Google Tag Manager.

 

Why is it useful?

The answer’s pretty simple, you get more insights on the individual level because each form submission will have additional fields. As a result, you will be able to export them (I hope that your form module/plugin allows that) to Excel (or Google Sheets, or whatever) and slice the data from different angles.

So what’s the plan?

  1. First of all, you’ll need to create and then somehow hide several form fields. I prefer doing that in the form module itself. Why not GTM + Custom JavaScript? Because Google Tag Manager CAN be blocked by aggressive adblockers or other similar extensions. Imagine what would happen if a visitor comes to your landing page (with GTM blocked) and sees some strange form fields. Chances of successful submission are becoming much lower.
  2. Then we’ll train Google Tag Manager to fetch some data and enter it in those hidden form fields.

Keep in mind that your form builder/plugin/module must have a functionality to hide individual form fields. If you’re not sure if it’s possible, do a Google Search: [your form builder name] hidden fields.

In this blog post, I’ll be demonstrating a plugin called Formidable which enables me to hide certain form fields (here’s the solution).

If unfortunately, your form builder cannot hide fields, maybe you could ask a developer to do that? Just keep in mind that all hidden form fields must not be required. We do not want to block the form submission if, for some reason, those fields will not be prefilled.

 

requirements for this technique to work

  1. Your form builder must have a feature to hide individual form fields (or you must have access to the developer who can hide them).
  2. Each hidden form field must contain an ID (it’s an HTML attribute).
  3. The form must not be in the iframe. Do a right-click somewhere on the form. Do you see an option Reload frame? If yes, I’ve got some bad news, this blog post will not be useful for you.

 

Step #1. Create Additional form fields

Here’s the case: you’re running an ad campaign which attracts traffic to a particular landing page containing a form. All links which refer to this landing page are tagged with UTM parameters, utm_medium, utm_source, utm_campaign.

It would be awesome to also catch those UTMs and pass with each form submission. How can you do this? Let’s find out.

In your form module, create additional 3 fields (for each UTM parameter). An example could look like this:

sample form

Remember, those three new fields must remain optional. Well, that was easy! Let’s proceed to the step #2.

 

STEP #2. Prepare Variables

Now we need to teach Google Tag Manager to read the page URL and extract 3 variables: utm_medium, utm_source, utm_campaign.

Since those 3 parameters are visible in the URL, we can utilize a built-in GTM variable called URL variable. Go to your Google Tag Manager account > Choose the container > Variables > Hit New (under the user-defined variables) and create three variables with the following settings:

utm campaign source and medium

What did just happen now? We taught the GTM to read the URL of the current page and if it contains utm_campaign, utm_medium or utm_source, they are turned into variables.

We’ll need those variables a bit later.

 

STEP #3. Prefill Those Form Fields

For this magic trick, I’ll be using a tiny JavaScript code snippet:

It scans the page and looks for the element with a particular ID (some_id) and once it’s found, the script changes its value to something that we define.

Let’s go back to the form and check those three newly created form fields. Right click on the first field and hit Inspect.

Inspect form field

Start looking for the “id” attribute. In my case, the id is field_ftdix. 

Input id

I will add it to the aforemention script.

Repeat the same action with other two fields. Since we’ll be working with 3 fields in total, we’ll need to add two more lines of code because one line changes the value of one field.

Remember those 3 URL variables which were created in the Step #2? Let’s insert them in the script. Instead of some_value you should enter names of all three URL variables (surrounded by double curly brackets {{}} ).

 

STEP #4. Create Custom HTML tag

Now, that the script is ready, we need to implement it via Google Tag Manager. Go to Tags > Create > Custom HTML and paste that code. Also, assign a trigger with the following settings:

  • Type – Pageview
  • Rule: Page Path contains some-landing-page. The value of this rule should be changed according to the actual address of the landing page.

Prefill forms with GTM - Custom HTML Tag

STEP #5. Test

Enable preview and debug mode in GTM, then go to the landing page and refresh the page. A large panel should appear at the bottom of the screen where you can see which tags fired, which didn’t, etc.

First of all, check whether the Custom HTML tag fires only on the particular landing page and not anywhere else. Next, go to the page with that form and see whether all three UTM-related fields are filled in. But before that, you need to fake UTM parameters by adding them to the address bar manually.

At the end of the page address, mywebsite.com/some-landing-page add a question mark and three UTM parameters connected with an ampersand (&). The final address to test could look like this mywebsite.com/some-landing-page?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=february_newsletter.

Once the page (with those 3 UTM parameters in the address) is reloaded, form fields should be prefilled. Are some of those fields prefilled with undefined? There might be several reasons:

  • You made a typo while faking parameters in the URL.
  • You made a typo while inserting URL Variables in the form-prefilling script.

sample form with prefilled fields

Let move on.

 

STEP #6. Hide those fields

For this step, there is no single effective solution because there is a ton of different forms and landing pages so you need you’ll need to do a research on your own. In this blog post, I’m using a Formidable Forms plugin and they enable me to hide form fields by adding a CSS class frm_hidden to all three fields.

In your case, the solution might be different: maybe there is a checkbox which does it, or maybe you will have to contact a developer if the form is custom made. The list of possibilities could go on and on, but first, try to google.

Here’s an example of one field’s settings but I also did the same thing with the other two.

Additional class to hide the form field

Save the changes and proceed to the final step.

 

STEP #7. Final Check

Let’s test everything on a full scale:

  1. Add fake UTM parameters to the web address of the landing page with the form and hit enter (the page must be loaded with all 3 UTM parameters).
  2. After the form is loaded, those 3 new form fields should be invisible.
  3. Also, the Custom HTML tag (which prefills form fields) should be fired (you can check that in GTM Preview and Debug panel).
  4. Fill in all fields, submit the form.
  5. Somewhere in your CRM, CMS or whatever, check the data of the submission. It should contain 3 UTM parameters fetched from the address bar.

Email submission

That’s it! Now, you’re officially taken your lead generation tracking to the next level. This should give you more insights from which traffic source each individual submission has been acquired.

 

Ideas for the future

But don’t limit yourself just to UTM parameters. There might be plenty of other data that you could prefill in the form. Here are several ideas:

  1. What if a visitor lands on page X and then goes to the page Y which contains the form? UTM parameters will be lost in the transition from the first page to the second. Well, you could parse UTM variables on the first page (just like I explained in this blog post) and then save them in 3 cookies. Here’s a guide how to set cookies with Google Tag Manager. When the visitor with those cookies visits the page with a form, GTM can read cookies (with the help of 1st party cookie variable) and insert their values in the form-prefilling script.
  2. Ask a developer to push some data about the visitor/user to the Data Layer, read that data with the help of Data Layer Variable, store it in the cookie, and the use that data form-prefilling script. If you know JavaScript, you directly read the Data Layer and store information in the cookie. Since I’m not one of JS magicians, I’m forced to take the longer route. Maybe your website contains a page with the pricing calculator where visitors can find out the potential price? Why not push the calculated result (price) to the Data Layer? You could later pass that price with the form submission and it could give you a better perception of how important that prospect is.
  3. Track which affiliates drive the most conversions to your site. Usually, when affiliate traffic lands on your website, the URL contains a particular affiliate ID, say, mywebsite.com/?affiliateid=123456. By following the exact UTM-extraction technique (described in this blog post), you can also pass the affiliateid with the form submission.

 

Conclusion – How To Enrich Form Submission Data with GTM

After learning how to enrich form submission data, now you have a better opportunity to see the context of each form submission without requiring a visitor to fill in some additional fields.

Everyone should know that the more fields there are in the form, the fewer people will complete it. But now with this technique, you are adding some useful and insightful data without giving the burden to the visitor.

The workflow of how to enrich form submission data goes like this:

  • Create several additional form fields
  • Prepare variables in Google Tag Manager (it’s up to you whether you’ll be using URL variables, Data Layer Variables, or something else).
  • Prepare a form-prefilling script.
  • Install that script via Google Tag Manager.
  • Test.
  • Hide those additional form fields (and make sure you left them as optional).
  • Test again.
Julius Fed

Head of Developer Operations at Omnisend. I am highly interested in Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, Adwords, Email marketing, Email Deliverability, Digital Marketing in general. You can follow me on Twitter.