Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Form abandonment tracking is extremely useful for conversion rate optimization. Not only can form analysis give you data on drop offs but you’ll have information on user behavior in each field of the form. By measuring field abandonment you get a greater depth of insight into exactly why users are leaving your form. In this blog post I’ll show (1) how you can track form engagement with Google Tag Manager, (2) pass that data to Google Analytics, and (3) case study of how I implemented form abandonment tracking in practice.

There are existing solutions (like Hotjar) that do this in a much more elegant manner (compared to GA), with reports dedicated specifically to form analytics. Think of it like the goal funnel visualization reports, but applied to forms.

If you have a budget, I’d recommend using already existing paid solutions. However, if you don’t have it, or just want to keep all data in one place (i.e., Google Analytics), continue reading.

In this blog post:

  • You’ll learn how to track form abandonment with Google Tag Manager.
  • You’ll learn to send form abandonment data to Google Analytics.
  • I’ll show you when form abandonment tracking does not work.
  • I’ll show you a quick case study how form abandonment tracking can be implemented via GTM in not-so-perfect real-life situation.

 

Form Abandonment Listener

Lauri Piispanen wrote a script which automatically tracks form abandonment (even if there are multiple forms on the same page). If the form is abandoned (i.e. visitor proceeded to another page or closed browser tab), this script (a.k.a. listener) will fire a dataLayer event. That event will show us which fields did the visitor interacted with. This is done as a trail that might look like this:

firstName > lastName > address > creditCardNumber

The example above shows that the Credit Card Number field was the last one which was filled by a visitor, meaning that the next form field is probably responsible for the bounce. If the visitor clicks submit, then form abandonment event will not be created (but there are some limitations – keep reading!)

Keep in mind that Lauri’s form abandonment listener will not track the exact history of interaction. If visitor filled in lastName field and then returned to firstName field, this interaction will not be displayed in GA event reports. Here’s a scheme which should help you better understand what data will be provided under different circumstances.

form abandonment scheme

As you can see in the image above, visitor jumped from First name field to Credit card number and then went back to Last. Nonetheless, the form abandonment listener returned value: Email > First Name > Last name > Credit card number.

 

 

So What’s The Plan?

  1. First, we need to create a custom HTML tag (withing Google Tag Manager) with form abandonment listener’s code. It should be fired only on those pages where you keep your forms (not All pages, because tag optimization is one of best GTM practices).
  2. That custom listener will fire a dataLayer event every time the form is abandoned, so we’ll need to “teach” Google Tag Manager to recognize that new data by creating Data Layer variables and custom trigger.
  3. Then we’ll create a Google Analytics Event tag which will transport the event metadata from Data Layer to Google Analytics servers.

 

 

LEt’s create a Custom HTML Tag in GOogle Tag Manager

Open your GTM account and go to Tags, click Create new. Choose tag type Custom HTML and paste the following code snippet:

The script below is upgraded! Lauri Piispanen’s script tracks only input fields, check boxes and radio buttons. The script in this blog post also tracks text areas and dropdowns. So make sure you’re using this one.

 

In triggering section (of a tag) click a button with Plus icon (Create new trigger).

Plus button - create new trigger

Enter the following settings:

  • Title – Pageview – Contact page (adjust the title to the page where your form is placed).
  • Trigger type – Pageview
  • This trigger fires on – Some Page Views
  • Rule: Page Path contains /contact-us.
    Instead of /contact-us you should enter the address of the page where your form is. If your website is on multiple domains, I’d recommend using Page URL instead of Page Path.

Trigger - Contact page

Save both the trigger and the tag. At this point testing is not possible yet, because form abandonment event will be fired only when you close browser tab or navigate to another page, thus GTM Preview and Debug console will not show anything. Continue reading and I’ll show you how to test everything.

 

Create Trigger and Data Layer Variables

Before we create the Universal Analytics event tag, you’ll need to create a Custom Event Trigger and two Data Layer Variables.

Form abandonment listener will push a dataLayer event formAbandonment into the Data Layer once a form is abandoned:

As you can see in the example above, formAbandonment event contains two variables – eventCategory and eventAction. This metadata is really valuable, so let’s transfer it to Google Analytics!

We can use formAbandonment event as a custom trigger, which looks like this:

formAbandonment trigger

 

And the two Data Layer Variables should look like this:

dlv- eventAction

dlv- eventCategory

 

 

Let’s Send Data To Google Analytics!

Next, onto the Event Tag itself:

  • Choose Tag Type – Universal Analytics
  • Enter Google Analytics Tracking ID
  • Choose Tracking Type – Event
  • Fill in Event Category and Action fields with newly created Data Layer variables.
  • I’ve set the Non-Interaction field to True, since this isn’t really a user interaction but more like metadata about the page view, but you can do as you wish.
  • Important: go to More Settings -> Fields to Set, and add the following:
    • Field Name: transport
    • Value: beacon (this feature will send the data when user abandons the form)

Google Analytics Event tag - Form abandoned

 

And don’t forget to assign the formAbandonment custom trigger to this Google Analytics Event tag.

In conclusion:

  • Form abandonment listener spots that visitor abandons the form, and then fires dataLayer event with eventCategory and eventAction.
  • The dataLayer event triggers Google Analytics Event tag and values of eventCategory and eventAction are transferred to GA servers.

 

Testing

Enable GTM’s Preview and Debug mode  (if it’s not working, check out 10 ways how to fix the P&D mode) and refresh the page where your form is located. Fill in several fields (but not all) and then close browser tab. Then open GA Real-time event reports and click “Events (Last 30 min)”, because non-interaction events are displayed only in this section of real-time reports.

That’s it! You’re good to go!

Success

If the event did not appear, read the next chapter of this blog post. I also recommend checking most common Google Tag Manager mistakes.

 

 

This Form Abandonment Tracking isn’t Working For me, why?

If you have tried tracking forms before, then you already know it might be a real pain in the ass sometimes. The fact that there are at least 5 form tracking methods with GTM just proves my point. Form abandonment tracking is no exception.

The main problem with form tracking via Google Tag Manager is that there are no global standards of how forms must be developed. Some developers may prefer one technology (e.g. AJAX) over another – and they have a full right to do so. Just remember – there is no “one method to track them all”.

These are the reasons why form abandonment tracking probably did not work for you:

 

#1. Unsupported Browser

A visitor must use Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera or modern Android browser. Safari (even on iOS) and Internet Explorer do not support this feature, thus their form abandonment will not be tracked. Here’s a full list of (un)supported browsers.

 

#2. <form> tag

A form must be developed using <form> HTML tag. I have seen forms, which use only <div>, thus could not be tracked with this listener. You can check this by inspecting the form.

form tag highlighted

 

#3. “Name” Attribute

Each input field of the form must contain “name” attribute (in order to track form field titles).

name attribute

Or you’ll need to edit form abandonment listener’s code. Since I am not very Javascript-savvy (and don’t want to break the entire website), I choose not to edit it. If you have access to developers, as them to help you edit the code.

 

#4. Valid form “Submit” event

The form must dispatch a valid form submit browser event. Lauri Piispanen’s form abandonment script listens for browser submit event – if it occurs, the script won’t fire form abandonment event.

If your form is built with AJAX, then form abandonment listener will fire event if there was a successful form submission.

In this blog post I’ll show you a case study with this very same problem when a form does not dispatch a valid submit event, and how the problem can be solved.

Now let’s see the Form Abandonment Tracking listener in action (case study).

 

Case Study

Context

This blog post was inspired by my fellow Nathan Hague who asked for a form tracking advice. Instead of giving him the direct answer, I decided to publish a blog post. Nathan, I hope you’ll find this useful, mate.

Nathan’s client Epic Charters offers tours with private Luxury Sailing Yachts, Catamarans, Motor Boat Charters for Day Trips, Overnight and Extended cruising around Phang Nga Bay, Krabi, Phi Phi Islands, Racha Islands, Phuket and the Andaman Sea.

In their website you’ll see a catalog of various boats. Each one of them has a dedicated Enquiry button which opens a form. Nathan asked me, if I could track abandonment of these forms and push data to Google Analytics.

So let’s see what I could do about it.

 

Investigation

Every Google Tag Manager implementation requires an investigation first. I created a test GTM container, added (1) custom HTML tag with Form Abandonment listener, two Data Layer variables ((2) eventAction and (3) eventCategory), (4) custom trigger (formAbandonment) and (5) Google Analytics Event tag. With the help of Tag Manager Injector (Chrome extension) I injected my GTM container’s Javascript code into Epic Charters website’s source code (but only within my browser; other website visitors were not affected).

Next step is Preview and Debugging. After I enabled P&D mode in Google Tag Manager and refreshed the Epic Charters page, a Preview and Debug console appeared. As you can see in the image, form abandonment tracking tag fired, so I am ready to start testing (this means that listener is now monitoring abandoned forms on a website).

Tag fired

 

After clicking Enquiry button I filled in two first form fields, closed browser tab and immediately opened Google Analytics real-time reports. This is what I saw:

Google Analytics real-time reports

Awesome! This is a good start, since my Form abandonment event was captured. As you can see in the image above, Event Action value shows that a visitor (me) managed to fill the first two form fields and then bounced (or navigated to another page on Epic Charters website).

Form field names were captured properly because they all have “name” attribute:

inspect form - name attribute

 

Also, this form is built using <form> HTML tags which is also a requirement for this form abandonment listener to work:

form tag

P.s. this “tag” has nothing to do with “GTM tag”

 

 

Problems

However, not everything is perfect here. There are several problems:

  1. This form does not fire a valid form submit event. Instead, it redirects user to a “Thank you” page. This means, that even after successful form submission the Form abandonment event will be sent to GA anyway.
  2. I could not find an easy way to differentiate (within GTM) which form was abandoned. Since there are multiple forms on a same page, this data is crucial in analytics reports.

 

How To Fix IT?

Both aforementioned problems should be solved by developer. As I have already mentioned it in my previous blog post 22 Google Tag Manager best practices, developers are not your enemies. It’s OKAY to ask for their help.

 

Solution to Problem No.1

In order to avoid false Form abandoned events, a form must dispatch a valid Form Submit browser event. It’s the same event that is required for GTM form auto-event listener to work. In other words, if GTM default form tracking triggers don’t catch your form submissions, then Form abandonment listener will send you false Form Abandonment events. To sum up, a developer will have to edit form’s source code accordingly.

 

SOLUTION To PRoblem NO.2

The best way (in my opinion) to track which form was abandoned is to ask developer to fire a dataLayer.push event (with additional metadata) every time a visitor opens an enquiry form.

“product” variable’s value should change dynamically based on which product’s form is opened.

Then, I’d create a Data Layer variable product in Google Tag Manager and add it to Google Analytics Event tag as Event Label. It should look like this:

Upgraded Google Analytics Event tag - Form abandoned

The result? Each form abandonment event in Google Analytics would also have particular product as event label, thus I could analyze which product forms are abandoned most often.


 

Conclusion

So there you have it – an extensive guide how to track from abandonment with Google Tag Manager and pass that data to Google Analytics. Personally, If there is a budget, I’d rather choose ready-made paid solutions (like Hotjar) which are created specifically for this purpose and track forms in a much more elegant manner (compared to GA), with reports tailored specifically to form analytics.

However, if you don’t have it, or just want to keep all data in one place (i.e., Google Analytics), feel free to do to so:

  • Add custom HTML tag to Google Tag Manager and paste the form tracking script that I have posted in this blog post.
  • Create Data Layer variables, trigger and Google Analytics event tag.

Every time someone starts filling in your form and then closes browser tab or navigates to another page, form tracking script will fire a GA event.

But not everything is so easy. The main problem with form tracking is that there are no global standards of how forms must be developed. Some developers may prefer one technology (e.g. AJAX) over another – and they have a full right to do so. But remember – there is no “one method to track all forms”.

The form tracking method described in this blog post will not work if:

  • The form is not created by using <form> HTML tags.
  • The form is using AJAX, form abandonment events will be sent to Google Analytics even if the form has been successfully submitted.
  • Form fields do not have “name” attribute.

This form abandonment tracking script was originally created by Lauri Piispanen and was automatically tracking input fields, checkboxes and radio buttons. My co-worker (developer) slightly upgraded it and added support for text areas and dropdowns.

So if you need support for all aforementioned fields, use the script from this blog post.

If you have questions, feel free to post a comment below.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn
Julius Fedorovicius

Product manager at Soundest. 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.