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How to Track Your Marketing Campaigns Using UTM Parameters in Google Analytics
In an earlier post I discussed the importance of using UTM parameters to track marketing campaigns in Google Analytics. The key findings were that the failure to tag your marketing campaigns correctly:
1. Hinders your ability to do effective campaign analysis.
2. Corrupts visitor attribution data in your Google Analytics account.
Neither outcome is optimal and negatively impacts the ability of any analyst to contribute positively to the bottom line. So, how do you prevent these suboptimal outcomes (nightmare scenarios) from arising? That’s where UTM parameters save the day. Used correctly, UTM tags allow you to organize and track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns in ways that make sense in your Google Analytics account.
What is a UTM Parameter?
UTM parameters are tags you append to the end of your URLs to collect marketing intelligence data. When someone clicks on a URL with UTM parameters appended, information in the tags is captured by the Google Analytics servers and populates reports in your Google Analytics account. The data collected then allows you to assess which elements of your online marketing strategy are working.
What a URL with UTM Parameters Appended Looks Like
For reference purposes, here’s a mock version of a landing page URL with campaign tracking parameters appended for (ad version 1 of) a PPC ad on the Yahoo! Advertising network for the paid search term ‘wordpress widgets’ that was part of your January 2014 promotional activities:
Landing page URL with no parameters appended:
Landing page URL with UTM parameters appended (parameter syntax in bold):
(Note: some parameters are optional, others required – see the table that follows for details. All available parameters have been used for reference purposes in the above example).
Whether you wish to track pay-per-click networks (Google AdWords being the only recommended exception – more on this below), social media campaigns, banners, links within digital documents (e.g., PDFs) or email marketing, the same tags are (or at least can be) appended in the manner indicated above. Be warned: if you elect not to append UTM parameters in the marketing campaigns sending traffic to your site, visitor attribution data in your Google Analytics account will be inaccurate (corrupted), precluding effective campaign performance analysis and marketing spend optimization.
The Five Parameters Available for Campaign Tracking in Google Analytics
When appending campaign tracking parameters to your landing page URLs, there are five Google Analytics parameters to consider. The following table identifies the five parameters available (parameter name plus syntax):
Adding Campaign Parameters to Your Landing Page URLs
You can, of course, manually append UTM parameters to your landing page URLs. However, there’s an easier way to create them. Use the Google Analytics URL Builder tool instead. The page also contains helpful hints on how to use each of the parameters, as well as links to other instructional materials. For reference purposes, here’s how I used the URL Builder tool to generate the UTM parameters for the landing page URL referenced earlier (http://www.mysite.com/wordpress_widgets.htm)
Upon clicking ‘Submit’ in the form, the URL Builder tool generated the following URL for use on my (ad version 1) PPC ad on the Yahoo!
Viewing Your Campaign Data
Your campaign data can be viewed in Google Analytics by going to Acquisitions > Campaigns and when you click on an individual campaign name you will then see information on the source/medium combinations generating traffic under that Campaign Name. For additional details (utm_term and utm_content – where used), use the secondary dimension capabilities to further segment your data.
No Need to Tag Your AdWords URLs
If your Google Analytics account is linked to your Google AdWords account and you have auto-tagging enabled, there’s no need to tag your AdWords URLs. With the accounts linked, Google automatically tags your AdWords campaigns for you and imports all AdWords campaign data into your Google Analytics account. Google strongly recommends that users use auto-tagging.
Do Not Use UTM Parameters to Track Links on Your Own Website
Do not use UTM parameters to track clicks on banners and/or text links inside your own website. This is an absolute ‘no’. It negatively impacts the reliability of the data in your Google Analytics account. Brian Clifton sums-up the matter emphatically: “Do not attempt campaign tracking for internal links (links within your website). Doing so will cause Google Analytics to restart the session for the same visitor. That is, the visit will be double-counted with new referrer details, and you will not be able to trace back any subsequent transactions or goal completions to the original referrer.” (Source: Brian Clifton, Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics, Third Edition; Chapter 7: ‘Advanced Implementation’, page 226.)