Google Analytics Campaign Tracking Guide

utm_tags
utm_tags
Nicole Grodesky
By Nicole Grodesky

What Are UTMs, Why They Are Important, How To Use Them, And Common Pitfalls

In this digital day and age, data is essential to determining the success of your digital marketing activities. The data is there, you just have to reach out and configure it properly. Properly tagging your URLs will siphon the data directly into Google Analytics. That is the golden ticket. Before we go into detail on how to find your UTM tracking in Google Analytics (GA), lets first understand why you should care about UTM tracking codes and the must know rules on how to use them. Okay, let’s get started with this Google Analytics campaign tracking guide!

Why Are UTMs Important?

Great question, right? This often gets totally overlooked. We know that tracking and analyzing data is critical, but often we see UTMs used incorrectly or not at all.  But why all the buzz about UTMs – what exactly makes them so important? UTM parameters are tags you can add to a URL to track the effectiveness of your campaigns. When you link is clicked, the tags are sent back to analytics to be tracked.

Examples of places you would use UTMs include the following:

  • Social Posts (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter )
  • Email Campaigns
  • Paid  Advertising (Bing and other third party advertising platforms other than Google AdWords.)*
  • Basically any external link that you can tag*Note: As a best practice, your Google AdWords account should be linked to your GA profile. As a result, you don’t need to add UTMs if you set up auto tagging.

What Are UTMs?

UTMs are campaign tracking parameters, or labels, that are placed in a URL. They stand for Urchin Tracking Module. Google acquired Urchin about five years ago and rebranded the platform as Google Analytics.

UTM Labels – Below Are The Different Types Of UTMs That Can Be Appended To The URL

*These three are required by Google to preserve your data in GA.

  • 1. Campaign UTM Source*Required
  • 2. Campaign UTM Medium *Required
  • 3. Campaign Term
  • 4. Campaign Content
  • 5. Campaign Name*Required

Definitions Of Each Parameter:

  • utm_source: Identifies the advertiser, site, publication, etc. that is sending traffic to your property (website), for example: facebook, twitter, mailchimp
  • utm_medium: Notes the advertising or marketing medium, such as cpc, banner, email newsletter, social.
  • utm_campaign: Defines the individual campaign name, slogan, promo code, etc. for a product.
  • utm_term: Identifies cpc search keywords. If you’re manually tagging cpc (paid) keyword campaigns, you should also use utm_term to specify the keyword.
  • utm_content: Differentiates similar content or links within the same ad. For example, if you have two call-to-action links within the same email message, you can use utm_content and set different values for each so you can tell which CTA is more effective.

Example URLs

      • http://www.example.com/?utm_campaign=spring&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=exampleblog
      • http://www.example.com/?utm_campaign=spring&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter1
      • http://www.example.com/?utm_campaign=spring&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter1&utm_content=toplink

Source: Google Support

3.Where Does The Data Go?

There are two places you can find your campaigns in GA; in the AdWords section or in the All Campaigns section. (We’ll detail how to find each of those sections below). For this exercise we are most concerned with the All Campaigns section.

How to find UTM parameter traffic in Google Analytics
To see the data under AdWords:
In GA go to Acquisition -> AdWords -> Campaigns

To see the data under All Campaigns:
In GA go to Acquisition -> Campaigns -> All Campaigns

In the All Campaigns section, the default primary dimension is the Campaign Name. However, you can change the dimension to see different views of your data. See below.

Default primary view:
Default Primay Channel Grouping in Google Analytics

If you set the custom primary dimension to source/medium you’ll have a new view which allows you to quickly see the source and medium. You can also look at the campaign as a primary dimension and find the source/medium under the secondary dimension.

Screen_Shot_2016-04-06_at_3.58.30_PM.png
Click on the Secondary Dimension drop down and type in source.
Screen_Shot_2016-04-06_at_4.01.53_PM.png

Once you add your secondary dimension, you’ll see your source and medium. Switching these around can be helpful depending on what you’re looking for.

Screen_Shot_2016-04-06_at_4.02.55_PM.png

4. How To Use UTMs

Creating UTMs is pretty simple with Google’s URL builder or you can use our very own Power Digital Marketing URL builder.

The most common mistake is incorrectly labeling the UTMs.  We’ll get into that later, but a couple rules to live by are as follows:

1. Do NOT under any circumstances use UTMs internally. This is a sure fire way to trash your analytics account. (This means don’t add a UTM to one of your blog pages or website pages – you would be double tagging a page in analytics.) Adding UTMs to main navigation URLs or anywhere internally can totally trash your Google Analytics account.

2. UTMs are case sensitive. It’s standard practice to always use lower case. If you start with uppercase, keep it upper case or relaunch the campaign with all lowercase. Using multiple variations can cause problems with the data in GA. Correctly naming mediums and sources. The medium is linked to your channel grouping and multi-funnel reports. If you are tracking a link from Facebook, make sure the source is set as Facebook and the medium is Social. This way your campaign tracking will show up in the Default Channel Grouping as social.

Here are some recommended mediums:

  • social
  • email
  • cpc
  • display
  • banner
  • affiliate
  • retargeting
  • feed
  • display
  • print
  • radio
  • TV
  • partner
  • billboard
  • presentation
  • pdf

3. Naming campaigns is fairly simple, but one common mistake is that the campaign name is too narrow. For example, if you are sending both a daily and a monthly email campaign, you’ll want to label them differently, such as “daily email deal” or “monthly email deal” vs. “email deal”.  That way you can easily see which email specifically, sent the most clicks to your site.  Also, make sure to stay consistent with your naming convention. Keep the campaign name the same even if you’re tagging for different mediums and sources.
Examples:

Campaign Name: Daily Deal
Source: Facebook
Medium: Social

Campaign Name: Daily Deal
Source: Mailchimp
Medium: Email

 

5. Common Campaign Tracking Pitfalls

The number one pitfall is mislabeling the source and medium UTM tags. Make sure you are labeling the source as “Facebook” and the medium as “Social.” Remember the medium UTM is the tag that maps to your default channel grouping.

Another common pitfall is having traffic show up as “(other)”. Make sure that your medium is inline with your Default Channel Grouping (as listed above). If you can’t see your paid traffic campaigns in your Paid Default Channel Grouping, you will need to configure that in the Admin panel of Google Analytics.

Note: If you are not using AdWord auto tagging and you haven’t defined your third party campaigns, they will be classified as “(other)”. Here is how to configure the data:

1. In GA go to the Admin panel and in the far right column you’ll see “Channel Settings.”
How to find custom channel grouping in Google Analytics for UTM

2. Set your Paid Channel to the the medium that is defined in your third party campaigns. In this particular example, the medium needed to be set to CPC for the traffic from this campaign to show up in the paid default channel grouping.
Screen_Shot_2016-04-06_at_4.21.13_PM.png

 

Conclusion

While campaign tagging isn’t as simple as you may think, following these steps and rules will ensure your data is correctly and accurately tagged. Who doesn’t want to know what‘s actually working and what’s not in your marketing campaign? Understanding how to properly use UTMs and why is essential to collecting and interpreting data. Make sure to follow all the golden rules and you will be a digital marketing UTM tagger in no time! Follow this Google Analytics campaign tracking guide to set yourself up for success.

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Nicole is a Senior SEO Strategist with experience in technical SEO, SEO keyword strategy, content strategy, and Local SEO. She has experience with enterprise level Local SEO initiatives that manages multiple business locations up to over 300 stores nationwide. Her Local SEO expertise is in managing Google My Business accounts and building local citations to create an authoritative local presence for business owners.