Google Analytics can automatically track your Google AdWords cost-per-click activity within its system by simply applying “Cost Data” and enabling “Destination URL Auto-Tagging” within your AdWords account. However, you will need to do a bit of extra work if you want to track your Yahoo Search Marketing, Microsoft AdCenter, Business.com listings, banner ads, email marketing campaigns, or any other links that you have out there on the internet.
By default, Google Analytics will treat any click to your website from, for example, the Yahoo Search Results page as “yahoo / organic”, regardless if the click actually occurred from a natural listing or a sponsored listing. In some situations, it can show as a referral from yahoo.com, and sometimes, as direct traffic. This, of course, isn’t going to work for just about everyone.
For Google Analytics to track your non-Google AdWords marketing efforts, you must append a query string to the end of each URL in any of your marketing initiatives that you want to track. This string of parameters tells Google Analytics what term or what ad a user clicked on, what campaign served up the ad or keyword, and from what source or medium someone originated from.
Example: In one of my Yahoo Search Marketing Ad Groups, I am using the following destination URL for every ad and / or keyword in the group:
Google Analytics will treat anyone that clicks my ad with this destination URL as coming from “yahoo / organic”, from a Campaign called “Not Set”.
Now, let’s slap on some Google Analytics URL coding on this URL:
Now, Google Analytics will be able to collect the keyword and the ad that a user searched for and clicked on, the name of my campaign, and most importantly, it will know to not lump clicks (visits) from this URL as “organic”.
Great! But…what does everything in the URL mean?
Let me break down each part of the end of the URL:
? – This starts off the Google Analytics URL Tracking. If a ? symbol already exists in a URL, this can be replaced with a & symbol (Two ? symbols in a URL will, in most cases, break a URL)
utm_source=yahoo – There are five separate dimensions to URL Tracking with Google Analytics. Each dimension in the URL starts off with “utm_”, followed by the name of the dimension. This first one is called Source, and Source is simply where someone originated from. This could say google, yahoo, msn, altavista, client-newsletter, july-email-campaign, and so on.
&utm_medium=cpc – The medium dimension tells you by what means did someone access your website? For our example, someone clicked on a sponsored ad, which Google Analytics classifies as “cpc”. However, this could also be “cpm”, for any site-targeted campaigns that charge per thousand impressions, “banner” to denote a banner advertisement, or “email” if it’s an email blast of some kind.
&utm_campaign=Yahoo+-+Branding+Campaign – The campaign dimension will track the name of the Campaign in your marketing interface, or the name of the Campaign that you are using internally. In this example, this destination URL is in our Yahoo Branding Campaign. Don’t worry about the + and the – symbols quite yet – I’ll explain in just a little bit.
&utm_term=analytics+blogs – Basically, the term dimension represents the keyword that is being assigned this particular destination URL.
&utm_content=Second+Ad+Copy – Basically, the content dimension represents the actual ad version that is being assigned this particular destination URL.
Important Notes about Google Analytics URL Coding:
- Did you notice how I used lowercase lettering for both the source and the medium dimensions? I strongly advise you to do the same. Google Analytics will not recognize anything coded with an uppercase CPC as a “cost-per-click” keyword, source, or term, and will think that an uppercase CPC is not the same as a lowercase cpc, causing the Keywords and Search Engines report to be highly innacurate.
- + and – signs – Each space in a name of any dimension must be represented by a + symbol. Well, it doesn’t HAVE to be, but your URLs may not work if there are blank spaces anywhere in the URL. So play it safe and use + signs to replace spaces (or, to identify spaces in names of things). – symbols are used to make line items in Google Analytics look neater. For example, I used “Yahoo+-+Branding+Campaign” in my Campaign dimension; this will look like “Yahoo – Branding Campaign” in the Google Analytics interface.
- Avoid Really Long Names – Names that are incredibly long will make your reports look very ugly, as you cannot expand or contract the columns in report tables. Try to keep names of things short and concise, but descriptive at the same time.
- Use the source name in your Campaign – Just like my “Yahoo – Branding Campaign” example, put the name of the source in the Campaign Name. This will help you see which campaign is doing what much faster, and you won’t have to segment a campaign by source. This also helps if you have an organized naming convention, where all of your campaigns across all marketing programs have the same names.
- Keep in mind that the destination URL must actually resolve to a page that has Google Analytics Tracking Code (urchin.js or GA.js) on it, otherwise, that visit’s information won’t be collected.
- In a few cases, your web server may not allow for query parameters at the end of your URLs. Please work with a member of your IT / Web Development team to get this issue resolved.
Please tell me that there is a tool out there that can help me put my URLs together!
The Google Analytics URL Builder is the best online resource for helping you build your URLs. Bookmark that page for future use – it will come in handy.