Web Analytics

Web Analytics Tips: Tag Your Campaigns To Correctly Measure Marketing Performance

Correctly tagging your marketing campaigns is the most important step you can take to measure marketing performance, after setting up a web analytics tool. Without good campaign tagging, marketers cannot know the real impact of their efforts.

If you want to understand how much traffic came to your website from your newsletters, promoted tweets, banner ads, print campaigns, etc., you must tag the links in these campaigns in a consistent and meaningful way.  To do this, you should understand what campaign tags are and how they should be used.

How Does Campaign Tagging Work?

Campaign tagging means adding extra information to the end of a link to your website.  Tagged URLs look like this:


This example shows you that tagged URLs have parameters (eg. utm_source) that are equal to something (eg. campaignmonitor). There are five different parameters that can go into the campaign tag.  Three of them are required:

  1. Campaign medium (utm_medium): Required. Medium identifies a campaign as a broadly-defined type of marketing effort. Some examples are:
  • social
  • email
  • cpc
  • print

The campaign medium determines in what channel the traffic will be reported in Google Analytics, so it is important to follow the standard medium types that Google Analytics understands, as much as possible.

  1. Campaign source (utm_source): Required. Source identifies the specific place (website or service) that users found your link.  For example:
  • twitter.com
  • mailchimp
  • bing
  • conference-flyer

Source should be specific enough to tell you that a campaign is on facebook.com or twitter.com, but not the specific post on Facebook or Twitter (you can use the parameters below to do that).

  1. Campaign name (utm_campaign): Required. The campaign name is a descriptive name that should make clear in which of your campaigns this link belongs.
  • brand+awareness
  • newsletter+2016+01
  • christmas+offer+2016
  • search+engine+conference+2016+02

The campaign name is your opportunity to be more specific about which newsletter or general marketing campaign a link comes from. For example, you could use the campaign name “brand+awareness” for all social media posts that are about gaining visibility for your brand, to distinguish these from more targeted campaigns.

  1. Campaign term (utm_term): Optional. The campaign term is a useful way to keep track of the search terms in search engine marketing campaigns. We recommend that you use the automatic tagging feature available in Google Ads and Bing to capture the search terms for your SEM campaigns.  Other search engines may require you to manually add search terms to your campaign URLs.
  2. Campaign content (utm_content): Optional. When you have many different variations of content (different ads) within a campaign, campaign content is a good way to record which version users clicked on. Again, auto-tagging in AdWords and Bing will automatically set campaign content for you. You could also use the campaign content parameter to record any other special details about the version, page placement, type or size of the link. For example, you can use it to differentiate between version A or version B of a newsletter that you are A/B testing.

You can use a tool like Google’s URL builder to easily create tagged URLs. An alternative way to do this, while also documenting your campaign tagging, is to set up a spreadsheet, like Annie Cushing’s Google Analytics Campaign Tagging Tool where you can enter your parameters in the spreadsheet columns to create tagged URLs.

Campaign Tagging Best Practices

  • Use tagged links consistently for every link to your website in all marketing campaigns: social media, display advertising, cpc ads, newsletters and email campaigns, print campaigns, and any other marketing efforts in which you provide a link to your website (exceptions below).
  • Do not tag the following types of links:
    • Guest blog posts
    • Links on partner sites
    • Links in directories
    • Internal links (on your own websites)

Why not?  Campaign tagging overwrites the important data that Google Analytics would normally record in these cases.  For example, links to your website from partner sites will already be reported as referrals, with data about the full referral path. Similarly, internal links already have sources like organic search or AdWords. If you tag those links, you will actually erase that data, and create errors in your acquisition reports.

  • Use only all-lowercase tags.  Campaign tags are case-sensitive, which means that “New+Year+Newsletter” is different from “new+year+newsletter”. Using only lowercase will help ensure your tags are consistent.
  • Use “-” or “+” or “%” to separate words.  Spaces between words are not allowed in URLs.  If you use “+” or “%”, those characters will be interpreted as spaces in your Google Analytics reports. For example, “promoted+tweet” will show up as “promoted tweet” in your reports.  Using a “-” produces a nice-looking URL. You can use whichever of these three options you prefer.
  • Do not include personally identifiable information in tags, like email addresses or user names. Google does not allow this.
  • Document your campaign tags and tagging conventions. Make sure your whole marketing team is consistent in using the same documentation and conventions.

Is your marketing team correctly measuring the performance of their efforts? If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email.