Tips for tracking campaigns in Google Analytics

Most people are aware that almost anything that sends people to their website can be tracked in Google Analytics. Too few actually take advantage of that capability. Visitors from emails, adverts on other websites, even links from printed data sheets or magazine adverts – all can be tracked if you’re prepared to set things up.

The key is to ‘tag’ links to your website with ‘UTM codes’. I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of that here, as I’ve written about it many times, but effectively – for those links – you’re specifying what you want to appear in the ‘source’, ‘medium’ and ‘campaign’ columns of your Google Analytics reports. If you don’t set the links up, you just get the useless “(direct)” label.

What I want to remind you about here is to think carefully about how you set up the UTM codes. These can be anything you like, but you’ll want them consistent and grouped in your Google Analytics reports. For example, in the ‘medium’ report, you’ll find visitors from other websites are labelled by default as ‘referral’. If you’re creating a custom link for another site and set the ‘medium’ to be something other than ‘referral’ (such as ‘Referral’!), traffic from that link will be separated from other ‘referral’ traffic in the reports.

So my starting point on that one would be to look at what ‘medium’ labels have been appearing in your reports already (Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium then Primary Dimension = Medium), and if appropriate, set up your custom link to copy the relevant one of those precisely.

Similarly, you should keep the ‘source’ the same. Natural search traffic from Google has a source of ‘google’ and a medium of ‘organic’. Google Ads have a source of ‘google’ and a medium of ‘cpc’. Bing works much the same. This allows you to report on combined search and advert traffic from Google (source = ‘google’) or combined ad traffic from Bing and Google (medium = ‘cpc’). You get my drift. So if you’re already getting normal click-through traffic from Widget World with a source of ‘widgetworld.uk’ and you’re setting up UTM codes for an advert on that site, make sure the source is also ‘widgetworld.uk’, and the differentiator is the ‘medium’, which could be ‘banner ad’ or something you define that will be used consistently on any sites where you advertise.

I tend to use the ‘campaign’ tag a little differently – I don’t ever tend to have any grouping there. For that reason, it can provide some clarity to repeat some of the source or medium information. For example, while we might already have a source of ‘widgetworld.uk’ and a medium of ‘banner ad’, we might still set the campaign to be ‘widgetworld.uk Blue Widget banner ad February 2020’.

Finally, don’t forget that you can tag offline links too. In theory, you could see how many people click from a print advert in Widget World Magazine by displaying a link on the advert which is fully tagged, but of course nobody is going to type in a 200-character URL full of % and & symbols. The workaround is to set up a unique redirection to use on that advert which people will be happy to type in (e.g. “Find out more about our blue widgets at bluewidgetco.uk/blue”). Then set up the redirection so that ‘bluewidgetco.uk/blue’ redirects to the actual, fully tagged link. It’s not as hard as you think, and always remember that you can test it out beforehand and check what appears in Google Analytics.