How to Test CSS Selectors Using the Chrome Dev Console

Test CSS Selectors using Chrome Dev Console

Written by Michael Wilson

Michael is the Digital Analytics Director at GlowMetrics, implementing complex tracking for our largest clients via Google Tag Manager while leading our wider analytics work across Google Analytics, Data Studio and Optimize.
March 23, 2021

If you’ve been using Google Tag Manager for a while, you’ve probably encountered a scenario where you want to distinguish between clicks on buttons that don’t have unique IDs or Classes.  CSS Selectors allow you to create triggers in a more flexible way, targeting the building blocks developers use to style your website.

Say you want to narrow down your targeting and track clicks on a button that has a specific Class but there are multiple buttons on the page with the same Class and you just want the one that’s in a certain ‘div’.  You’d use a CSS Selector in your trigger to do that.

This blog post isn’t going to be an exhaustive guide to CSS Selectors but there’s a handy reference guide we’d recommend here: https://www.w3schools.com/cssref/css_selectors.asp

If you wanted to track a button on a website, the first thing you’d do typically would be right-click on the button, click on ‘Inspect’ and then look at the code.  If we take the ‘find out more’ button to the right of all of our blog posts (including this one!) as an example, we can see that it has the Class ‘et_pb_button’.

 

 

However, there may be other buttons on the same page that use the same Class.  Remember that CSS is primarily used to group elements together for the purpose of styling them consistently, so it’s more than likely that the Class you see on a button is not unique.  So how do we check if there are other buttons on the page with the same Class?

 

Testing CSS Selectors Using the Chrome Dev Console

 

If you’ve right-clicked on an element and already have the Dev Console open, you just need to click on the ‘Console’ tab (to the right of ‘Elements’ in the screenshot above). Otherwise, you can get here by clicking on the three dots to the top-right of your Chrome browser -> More Tools -> Developer Tools.

Then you simply need to type this line in the Console:

document.querySelectorAll(‘.et_pb_button’)

 

You can replace the CSS Selector in brackets with whatever the selector is you’re trying to test – the example above is how we will check to see how many buttons on this page have the Class ‘et_pb_button’.

 

 

See the NodeList(4) line at the bottom? That means there are four elements on the page that match our CSS Selector!  Good job we didn’t just assume it was unique to that button, eh?

You can click to expand this NodeList and you will see all of the elements that match your selector. You can even hover over each one and it will highlight that element on the page for you – see example below.

 

 

So how do we narrow our CSS Selector down to the one button only?  We have to be more specific, to only look for buttons with Class ‘et_pb_button’ which are in the div with Class ‘et_pb_blurb_description’ – take a look at the first screenshot in this guide to see how we know this.

So this time, we’ll use:

 

document.querySelectorAll(‘.et_pb_blurb_description .et_pb_button’)

 

 

You can see this time, our CSS Selector only matches one element.  So we now know this CSS Selector is unique to this particular button on the page.

 

How to Use CSS Selector in GTM Trigger

 

Now we know what our CSS Selector is for our button, we can use it in our trigger in GTM.  If you want to use a CSS Selector in a trigger, you must always use the ‘Click Element’ variable to match it against, as per the example below.

 

 

Hopefully the steps above help you test your CSS Selectors quickly from within the Chrome Dev Console and allow you to implement them within your GTM triggers – if you have any problems following this guide, feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll advise as best we can!

 

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