Check, Verify, and Test your Destination URLs for Google Analytics!

- December 2, 2010

It’s always a good idea to check the destination URLs in your marketing efforts before launch to ensure that your Google Analytics account is collecting all of the great, wonderful, segmentable data that you live and die by.

Actually, it’s better than a “good” idea. It’s an excellent idea.

We routinely see many problems that can be avoided and even repaired, so that your Google Analytics account is able to do its job and show you important information about your marketing initiatives.

If appending query parameters at the end of your destination URLs is part of what you do, then you’ll most definitely want to read the following laundry list of items to check for before, during, and after your marketing campaigns launch.

– If you’re marketing with Google AdWords, you’ll want to ensure that your AdWords account is synced to your Google Analytics account – AND – an option called “Destination URL Auto-Tagging” is enabled in your AdWords account. Syncing the accounts and enabling Destination URL Auto-Tagging will allow AdWords to append a string of query parameters at the end of your destination URLs, which will allow Google Analytics to collect, process, and display AdWords data within your Google Analytics account.

Further Reading: Learn how to sync Google AdWords and Google Analytics together!

– If you’re marketing online using Microsoft AdCenter, ASK Sponsored Listings, or another pay-per-click (cost-per-click) platform, you’re going to need to manually tag your destination URLs with some Google Analytics query parameters. It’s a bit of work, but if you don’t do so, Google Analytics will count all of your Microsoft AdCenter and other cost-per-click traffic as either “organic” (if that referring website is also a search engine, like bing.com), or as “referral” (if you’re running on another cost-per-click platform, like, Facebook Advertising or LinkedIn Direct Ads).

More Information: Yes, Google Analytics can track that, too!
Even More Information: Should I care about my direct traffic?

– Speaking of Facebook and LinkedIn, if you’ve ever wondered why you’re not seeing any traffic for your social media efforts in your Google Analytics account, it’s probably because you did not “daisy-chain” your destination URLs with Google Analytics query parameters before you ran them through your link-shortening tool of choice. Link shorteners, like bit.ly and goo.gl, are essentially redirects, so you must tag your URLs for Google Analytics before you insert them into your next Tweet or Facebook post.

Recommended Reading: Tracking bit.ly (and other short URLs) in Google Analytics

– Redirects. One of the most evil words you can possibly say to a web analyst or online marketer. They can completely destroy your marketing tracking and strip out your URL query parameters, leaving you with buckets of data that you can’t use to evaluate your marketing efforts. Check that the destination URLs you’re using don’t redirect a user to another page (perform some test clicks on your tagged URLs before launching).

More Bad News: The Three Evils of Analytics Tracking: Images, JavaScript, and Cookies

– Another thing that you can check for is ensuring that your website’s host server accepts query parameters. Do this: type in the URL of your website, and add a query parameter to the end of your site’s URL (example: http://www.morevisibility.com/?12345abcdef). If the URL still works, and doesn’t result in an error page, then your server accepts query parameters. If it does generate an error, you’ll need to contact your IT person / department and work with them on a solution. No query parameters = no referral data in your visitor’s cookies.

Somewhat related article: From __utma to __utmz (Google Analytics Cookies).

– Finally, all of the destination URL tagging in the world won’t help you if your landing pages don’t have the Google Analytics Tracking Code! Please check with your in-house web analytics expert or your consultant(s) that your Google Analytics Tracking Code is present on all of your website pages, and is working properly.

A bit about the Google Analytics Tracking Code: Verify your website with the new “async” tracking code!

There you have it – much more work for you to do before your launch your marketing campaigns! But, trust me, it’s all completely worth it if you want to avoid the usual post-launch headaches and drama.

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