Consider the situation in which you give a link to someone (over, let's say, a privately encrypted chat room).

Problems like link sharing aside, how can you track exactly what he is viewing (the whole navigation path, along with timings & co) if he starts navigating with the link you gave him?

You have full control over how the link looks like, and the website might be a SPA and most of the pages don't require user authentication.

I would guess one has to start with a query parameter in the URL, and invalidate it for future use, but how to make the fact that the user first found out about your site from the link you gave him stick with that particular user? And that even after he closes the browser (and the query parameter from the URL gets lost).

We're not talking "adwords campaign" here, as that means sharing the link with a group of people.

I'm not targetting tech savvy computer users with this, just regular users for which it works reliably most of the time.

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    Google Analytics is not the right tool for the job. GA collects aggregate stats about lots of users. If you want to follow a single user you need to use a session tracking tool or a usability monitor. Feb 15 '18 at 14:41

Use Event tracking and UTM codes. Inject event tracking on all link clicks, and even AJAX clicks if you need. UTM code will help when a user bookmarks the page (so long as they don't remove the code from the url.)
If the user needs to log in to browse the site, your job will be a lot easier. Use the login id or a unique identifier as the event label and track it.

From GA site:
"Events are user interactions with content that can be tracked independently from a web page or a screen load. Downloads, mobile ad clicks, gadgets, Flash elements, AJAX embedded elements, and video plays are all examples of actions you might want to track as Events."

To analyze:
1. Go to Behavior -> Events -> Event flow . This will show you the user paths based on events.
2. Go to Behavior -> Behavior flow. This will show you the user path based on pages. This is available in GA by default, without implementing event-tracking. Set the starting point at that page, and then see the flow.

Before implementing event tracking, do a test run using "Behavior flow". Since you have a unique starting URL, it may be the case that "Behavior flow" will give you a good amount of data. Then solve for other data using event tracking.


If they use the link with the utm parameters, then you track whatever they did through the information in the utm link - whatever source / medium / campaign name you assigned to that link. If you think they may be bookmarking the page without the utm parameters, you can use a url alias, so that you know that the version of the url they have could only have come from one place.


Use a vanity url - aka an alias url. So that you have one version of the url that is only given in one place. It works for offline as well, and gets used a lot for that e.g. you use www/mysite/chatroom in that one chat room and that one chat roon only.

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