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).
– 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).
– 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: https://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.
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:
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.