Best Practices for Custom Campaign Tagging in Google Analytics

Natacha Kenol - July 29, 2015

When you’re running multiple online marketing campaigns across several different platforms, you want to be able to measure how well your campaigns are performing by watching for how many users they are bringing in, whether those users are purchasing or taking a desired action on your site, etc.

In order to do that, you need to tag all of your online marketing campaigns by adding custom parameters at the end of your advertising URLs (see chart below for more information). For example, you could set the parameter [utm_source] as “newsletter” to identify traffic that comes from a newsletter campaign. You could then combine it with the parameter [utm_campaign] set to “june” to identify that this was a campaign in the month of June. Lastly, you could add [utm_medium] as “email” to identify that this was an email campaign. While these parameters are primarily used for online marketing, they can also be utilized for your offline efforts – although this would require vanity URLs and redirects.

Best Practices for Campaign Tagging:

  1. Tag only what you need. There are certain links that you don’t need to tag. For example, if your Google Analytics account is linked to an active Google Adwords account and you have auto-tagging enabled, you don’t need to tag the Adwords destination URLs. In addition, you don’t need to tag referral sites as they are automatically detected and displayed in your reports. However, if you wanted to associate it with a particular campaign, you could then tag and set the campaign parameter to “winter_2015.”
  2. Create your links with the Google Analytics URL Tagging Tool. This way, you don’t need to worry about link syntax to generate your URLs.
  3. Use only the campaign variables you need. There is no limit to the number of values you can have, but we recommend you use transparent names and keep track of which campaign each value relates to. The only required fields are campaign source, campaign medium, and campaign name. Campaign term (the search term associated with this traffic) and campaign content (used to differentiate similar content) are optional fields.
    Campaign ParametersDescription
    Campaign Source (utm_source)*Required. Used to identify a search engine, newsletter, or other source.Example: utm_source=newsletter
    Campaign Medium (utm_medium)*Required. Used to identify a medium such as email or CPC.Example: utm_medium=email
    Campaign Term (utm_term)Optional. Used for paid search to note the keywords in the ads.Example: utm_term=analytics+seo
    Campaign Content (utm_content)Optional. Used for A/B testing and content-targeted ads.Examples: utm_content=logolink or utm_content=textlink
    Campaign Name (utm_campaign)*Required. Used to identify a specific product promotion or strategic campaign.Example: utm_campaign=spring2015_sale
  4. Consistency is key. We recommend that you use the same naming conventions (e.g. outdoor billboard campaigns are always tagged with the lowercase medium parameter [utm_medium=outdoor_billboard]) when building the URL links as this will directly affect what is displayed in your reports.
  5. Do not send personally identifiable information. Note that the Google Analytics terms of service prohibits sending personally identifiable information (PII) to Google Analytics, such as names, social security numbers, email addresses, or any similar data.
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