Are you tracking your marketing campaigns correctly?

Google Analytics campaign tags, also known as UTM tags allow you to compare the performance of your custom marketing initiatives. When you combine campaign tags with conversion metrics, like goal completions or transactions, you can pinpoint what’s working (and not working) when it comes to your marketing. This means you can inform your strategy moving forward and even reallocate your budget to campaigns that are delivering the best results.

It’s critical to be using campaign tags for all of your inbound marketing initiatives. That’s actually a super important point, so just for emphasis – you should be using them for all of your inbound marketing. Now you might be asking, why just inbound marketing, well this is because they work in a very particular way which means that if we were to use them within our own website to measure promotions we would actually be impacting our data (and not in a good way). So if you want to measure internal promotions within your own website, then you should read my post on measuring internal campaigns and use event tracking.

Campaign tags can be a tad confusing if it’s the first time you’re using them and that’s really because they’re 100% specific to your website. You can name your campaign tags anything you like. We’ll look at recommended naming conventions for your tags, but it’s also important to understand because if someone else has already been using campaign tags you might see some unexpected names showing up in your campaigns report.

What are campaign tags?

Campaign tags are extra parameters that you can add to the end of URLs used for inbound campaigns and allow you to capture details about where the link was seen and how it was shared. This allows you to understand and compare the performance of different marketing campaigns.

Here is an example of a campaign tagged URL:

http://www.lovesdata.com/courses?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=twitter%20ads

And here is the same link without the campaigns tags:

http://www.lovesdata.com/courses

You’ll notice that there are extra parameters at the end of the tagged URL. The value of each of these parameters is automatically captured by the Google Analytics tracking code and presented within your reports. The parameters are:

utm_source is used to define the source of the campaign. The best way to think of source is to ask ‘where is the message seen?’ For the example above, the link was posted on Twitter so the source becomes twitter.com

utm_medium allows you to define ‘how the message was communicated’ (in our example this was set to social). I’ll talk about what I’ve used as ‘social’ in detail in a moment, but for now this allows me to understand that the link was shared on a social network.

utm_campaign is used to define the overarching marketing campaign. In our example, this is Twitter ads which quickly allows me to see that this was a paid marketing campaign.

utm_term and utm_content are two optional campaign tags. They are specifically designed for tracking keywords and headlines of non-AdWords Cost Per Click (CPC) campaigns. For example, if you’re running ads on Bing. Although you can make use of these for your own needs in other types of campaigns, I’d recommend avoiding them unless you know what you’re doing as they can have unintended effects.

These all map to dimensions available within your Google Analytics reports. For example, you will find the values you set for utm_campaign in the Campaign report and utm_source and utm_medium in the Source/Medium. They will also be mapped to the Channel Groupings within the Acquisition report (learn more about the Channel Groupings report).

How do I add campaign tags to URLs?

There are a few different ways to add campaign tags to your links. The most common method is to use the Google Analytics URL Builder. This tool allows you to quickly see the different tags that can be used and construct a tagged URL which you then copy and paste into your campaign.

Once you’re comfortable with the different campaign tags available, you can simply add them to the end of the URLs within your campaigns themselves. You might decide to use another tool, for example, a spreadsheet tool to add campaign tags and keep a record of all the tags you’ve used historically. There’s even a Chrome extension designed to make life easier. But there’s no right or wrong way to add tags, so go with whatever option works for you.

How should I name my campaign tags?

This is a great question! There is no one way to name your campaigns, I’ve seen very custom campaign tags right through to simple tags. I’d always recommend going with something that is simple and readable over something like an internal code, simply because it makes it easier for people to understand the campaigns within your reports. Now let's look at my best practice recommendations for the most common campaigns you are going to tag.


Email Campaigns

When you begin to track email campaigns there are three options. You can track editions, email segments or a combination. Here’s an example of using the ‘Source’ to track the edition:

SourceMediumCampaignTermContent
march 2016emailemail news article link
march 2016emailemail news button
march 2016emailemail news image

Here’s an example of using the ‘Source’ to track the email segment or list:

SourceMediumCampaignTermContent
membersemailemail news article link
previous buyeremailemail news button
generalemailemail news image

And here is an example where we use the ‘Source’ to track the edition and the ‘Campaign’ to track the email segment:

SourceMediumCampaignTermContent
march 2016emailemail members article link
march 2016emailemail previous buyer button
march 2016emailemail general image

A lot of email systems, like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor, allow you to automatically add campaign tags to your links. This is a great option to speed up campaign tagging, but in some cases, you might choose to manually tag your links to have more control over what appears within your reports.


Non-AdWords CPC Campaigns

Here is an example of how we might tag a non-AdWords CPC campaign:

SourceMediumCampaignTermContent
bingcpcsummer promotion{keyword}{AdId}

You will notice the use of ‘Term’ and ‘Content’ for this tagging convention. In this example, the keyword will automatically be pulled into the tag along with the ad ID from Bing.


Social Media Campaigns

Examples of tagging paid traffic on social media:

SourceMediumCampaignTermContent
linkedin.comsociallinkedin ads ad version one
facebook.comsocialfacebook ads ad version five

Setting the ‘Medium’ to social for an inbound campaign will show up within the campaigns report and the social reports. It will also mean you can compare the performance of your organic (free) and paid social initiatives because your organic social posts that link to your website will appear as referral traffic. For example, linkedin.com would be the source and referral would be the medium for an untagged link.


Offline Campaigns

An example of tagging an offline campaign that sends traffic to your website:

SourceMediumCampaignTermContent
newspaperofflineprint ad

Once you’ve created your campaign tagged link for your offline campaign you will need to create a redirect that is then used in the actual print ad. Continuing our example, you might set up the following URL:

http://www.example.com/print 

Which is printed within the ad, but redirects to the campaign tagged URL of:

http://www.example.com/content/promotion?utm_source=newspaper&utm_medium=offline&utm_campaign=print%20ad

This now allows you to measure people seeing the ad who then visit your website.


Is there anything I shouldn’t tag?

Yes, I don’t recommend tagging Google AdWords campaigns, instead, you should use Google’s integration. This provides you with better (and more accurate) data within your reports. To link Google AdWords and Google Analytics, head to ‘Admin’ and link the products together. If you need details on this, read my post on linking AdWords to Analytics in 3 quick steps.

Now that you’re tagging your campaigns you should check out our Google Analytics Fundamentals and Advanced courses. Join me as we cover best practice techniques and tips for using Google Analytics and presenting your data.