We’ll let you in on a secret … Google Analytics captures a lot of data about visitors to your website. Two very useful bits of data captured include: acquisition medium (did visitors come to your website from an ‘organic’ search-engine query, a referral from another website, or somewhere else?) and source (for example, which website did they come from?). The great thing is Google Analytics lets you specify this data and more with your own custom values. This is useful for all sorts of circumstances, but one example is ensuring that you properly track clicks to your website from your email campaigns.
What data can you track?
There are three main pieces of data that you can set with campaign tagging:
medium This dimension should be used to track where your visitors are coming from at the highest level. If you’re used to looking through Google Analytics acquisition reports, you’ll already be familiar with many of the standard mediums, such as ‘organic’ for non-paid search engine traffic, ‘cpc’ for paid search traffic and so on. You would want to specify something similarly high level, such as ‘email’ for traffic from your enewsletters.
source This is the next level of detail after medium, and should be used to understand your traffic that little bit more. Just as ‘organic’ medium traffic is broken down into individual search engines (for example, Google, Bing, etc.), you should use this field to breakdown your traffic in the same way. Using the example of enewsletters, you could use this to identify which of your many enewsletters was the traffic source.
campaign Finally, to understand the results of your marketing campaigns through the behaviour of your website visitors, use this field as a cross-medium campaign name identification. For example, you could use a single piece of text to identify all traffic from your ‘summer 2015 widget drive’ campaign run across multiple channels, within one Google Analytics report.
There are also two further pieces of data that you can supply to Google Analytics. These are often omitted, but they could let you breakdown and analyse traffic to another level if useful to your situation.
content This lets you add a bit more information to distinguish between otherwise identical sources within the same medium, source and campaign. For instance, if you send out an enewsletter with two links to your website for the same campaign, you might want to use the ‘content’ term to distinguish between the two links (for instance, ‘header-click-now-button’ and ‘inline-find-out-more-button’). This way, you can investigate differences in performance or user behaviour between the two links.
term This is used in Google AdWords and other paid search campaigns to identify which search terms were used. It can be set to a value of your choice in your own links but people rarely find a use for it outside of paid search.
How to tag your campaigns
Tagging your campaigns is as easy as changing the links to your website that you distribute – in your enewsletters, for example – by appending your tracking data to the end. For example, your enewsletter might include a link to your website to:
You would just change that by adding the following string to the end:
However, it’s very easy to get confused between the different pieces of data. To make things easy, our streamlined URL Builder Tool can generate these URLs for you: no login is required, and it is freely accessible on our Analytics Checkup website. To use it, just enter the relevant details
… and then click ‘Generate Tagged URL’. Correct links will then be generated for you to use, including a shortened link for convenience:
We strongly recommend that you keep track of all your custom-generated campaign tag parameters in a reference document. A simple spreadsheet will do the trick and will assist when you’re analysing results in Google Analytics and trying to remember the origins of all these custom tags. Keeping track will also help maintain standard naming conventions to keep things tidy in Google Analytics: you don’t want to have your traffic split between ‘email’ and ‘E-mail’ mediums or to have a messy assortment of differently organised campaign names!
And you should also note that it is not necessary to generate tags for your Google AdWords campaigns. Instead, make sure your Google AdWords account is linked with your Google Analytics account and that auto-tagging is enabled.
This is an update to an article first published in 2012