Google Analytics Custom Campaign Tagging

As discussed in the Google Analytics Checklist, if you have email, banner ads or other third party traffic acquisition campaigns you should add additional tracking parameters to these destination URLs for your campaigns so that the campaign data will show up in Campaign standard reports.  The benefit of doing this is you’ll be able to weed out poor performing campaigns and spend more on the champions.

How to set up Custom Campaigns

To set up custom campaigns you need to add parameters to the end of a URL.  This is sometimes referred to as ‘campaign tagging’.  For example, if a landing page is www.test.com/landing, a destination URL with tagging for an email newsletter might look like this:

www.test.com/landing?utm_campaign=fall-2016&utm_medium=email&utm_source=list20

What are parameters? Parameters are name-value pairs that contain the campaign identifying information and values for each campaign that you want to label or ‘tag’. For example, the tag, or name-value pair, utm_medium=email identifies that the traffic came from through the email marketing channel (the ‘medium’ in Google terminology).

There are five parameters available for you to use.  Only 3 are mandatory:

  • utm_campaign:The individual campaign name or promotion code for a product.
  • utm_medium: The advertising medium, like an email or  banner ad.
  • utm_source: Identifies the advertiser, site, publication…that is sending traffic to your web property, like Google, or….
  • utm_term: Identifies paid search keywords.
    •  If you’re manually tagging paid keyword campaigns, also use utm_term to specify the keyword phrase you are bidding on.
  • utm_content: This is used to differentiate similar content or links within a single advertisement.  For example, if you may have more than one call to action or offer in your newsletter.  Using utm_content and setting different values for each hyperlink can help you determine which call to action or offer was the stronger performer.

How to format parameters:

  • Separate the parameters from a URL with a question mark
  • List the variables and values as pairs separated by an equals sign
  • Separate each variable-value pair with an ampersand
  • Parameters can be added to a URL in any order, but must use the proper syntax
  • Case sensitivity applies for each variable you define
  • Parameters can be set up manually or through Google’s URL builder tool.

At minimum, always use utm_source, utm_medium, and utm_campaign for every link to keep track of where your traffic is coming from. While there is no limit to the variety of values you can use, use names that make sense to you.  Track the campaigns at the detail that makes sense for you.

Let’s work through an example.  You have a major fall campaign consisting of emails, banner ads, paid search engine advertising and a vanity URL that will be printed on ads in bus shelters.  All will land on the same landing page.  You want to know which channel and creative leads to the highest conversion.

  • Email – you have multiple email lists used, and multiple calls to action within the email
  • Banner ads – of various sizes will be placed in various online properties, such as the New York Times
  • CPC – different text ad messages will launch for different keyword themes
  • Vanity URLs – 301 server redirects will send traffic that from various shortened URLs to a common landing page
Decide what values to use in your tags…
Parameter Email Banner Ad Text Ad Vanity URL
Campaign Name*
utm_campaign
fall-2016 fall-2016 fall-2016 fall-2016
Campaign Medium*
utm_medium
email banner cpc mkturl
Campaign Source*
utm_source
list20 nyt bingads fall2016
Campaign Term
utm_term
blue shoes
Campaign Content
utm_content
rhs-txt-5 720x80v3 txt-20160901v1

 * mandatory

Finally, build your tagged destination URLs by using Google’s URL builder tool.  Using our fictitious landing page www.test.com/landing, the first column will become:

www.test.com/landing?utm_campaign=fall-2016&utm_medium=email&utm_source=list20

When you have a lot of these, to minimize error, build a spreadsheet with functions that will concatenate these in bulk for you.

Please Contact Us if you have any comments, questions or need any help with custom  campaign tagging.