The profound rantings of the one like Tom Atkinson… and now art gallery and shop.

Analytics URL Tagging How To

Sometimes its not possible to easily figure out where you're traffic is coming from in Analytics - the referrer is a great feature of browsers and tells Google Analytics what page you were on when you clicked, but sometimes this doesn't work as you'd expect, or give as much separation / joining of the data as you might like for larger linking sites, networks and channels.

Examples for using URL tagging:

Email Marketing

If you don't like seeing loads of single line, single user visits from load-balanced webmail domains like the ones below, you should think about using URL Tagging in your email marketing links:

This is because people are reading their email in a webmail client... which is seen as a referring website in GA when they arrive... so you see why these come up as referrers, but its not exactly helpful. For the initial click on that email, with URL Tagging, you will see all the clicks in one place under "Campaigns".

The Anatomy Of a URL Tag

If you have not seen it already, get yourself over to Google's "URL Builder Tool" here:

This will help you build an Analytics URL Tag using just the destination URL and some keywords you choose. Initially it can be confusing understanding which element/parameter goes where in GA reports. This article is designed to help you understand this.

Campaign Source:(referrer: google, citysearch, newsletter4)

This term can potentially wind up in your Traffic Sources --> Referrers report, and literally replace the referring domain name with your keyword. If you wish for the domain to be included you will have to actually put the domain name here. However, it will only appear here if the medium is set to referral. If you set this to say "email", or spell referral wrongly, then you will have to go looking for it in your Traffic Sources --> All Traffic Sources report. I've been using a Twitter tracking service that adds "micro-blog" as my medium but considering changing this back to referral so I can see it blend into all Twitter referrals.

Campaign Medium:marketing medium: cpc, banner, email)

Check your Traffic Sources --> All Traffic Sources report to get a feel for what this does. The default possibilities are as follows: organic, cpc, (none), referral. This keyword can be seen just after the slash next to the source, so examples for this website are: google / organic, (direct)/(none), yahoo / organic, / referral (this is traffic from my Google profile page which is a direct link, hence the tag referral from Google when you would normally expect a "organic" or "cpc" for paid), / referral (this is my mate Greg's site which has a link to me), twitter / micro-blog (this is me testing out my new Tweet tracking Firefox plugin called "Snip-n-tag" that ties into the URL shortener service - pretty neat and saves a lot of time if you Tweet a lot and want to track it), and finally AMU / email which is clicks coming from my Auckland Music Update newsletter.

Campaign Term: (identify the paid keywords)

Personally, I don't use this feature often, but the idea here is that the term or keyword chosen will also appear in your Traffic Sources --> Keywords report. The reason I don't use it is: a) GA has built-in intelligence to know how to pull the users search term from organic traffic for a great range of search engines including Yahoo, Bing, Yandex etc. b) Paid search traffic from Google already automatically pulls in the matched keyword in the Adwords account. It doesn't pull the users actual query however, but I have found a way to get this using an advanced filter (will do a post on this at some stage). c) INSERT MORE LATER ####

Campaign Content:(use to differentiate ads)

This one is best used like they say: to denote variations in creative, or if there are many links on a page, to differential which link is which.

Campaign Name: (product, promo code, or slogan)

Something time related; I usually vary this occasionally, but try to keep my "source" very consistent over time.

Multi Site Links

Lets say you have a large network of sites, with a navigation bar at the top interlinking them, plus some other deep links spread across the content of various pages. You can see referral traffic in your referral report in Analytics, and you can also see which page is sending the traffic, but you want to segment the traffic further to see if its coming from the site-wide top navbar on every page, or from the sporadic body-copy links that sometimes appear in articles or blog posts.

This can be acheived in two ways, both using URL tagging. One way will remove traffic from referrals report, and the other won't. The idea is to be careful which method you use so as not to disadvantage yourself. Basically, if you set utm_medium to something other than "referral", this will cause the traffic to vanish from your main referral report; whereas leaving it not set (or set to utm_medium=referral) should allow the traffic to be seen in the main "Referring Sites" report.

Method that also appears as Referring Sites report

Use the "ad content" parameter (utm_content) to denote the link in question you are interested in, for example, in the URL below the content tag is set as "content":

If you were to click this link, I could tell a) its from using the plain old Referring Sites report (nothing new here), then cilck the domain to see b) what sub-page on the site sent the traffic. But since the sub page (this blog post) also contains non-tagged links, I wouldn't be sure if it was from navbar or content. By pulling down the "Segment by" drop-down menu:

Once you pop open the menu (by clicking "Referral Path") you can select "Ad Content":

This will then show me, assuming every link is tagged, exactly which link was clicked. This could be handy if you are doing multi-variate testing of which button or ad creative version is most attractive to users for example.

Method that makes it disappear from Referring Sites report

Basically, using anything other than utm_medium=referral will remove your traffic from this global report. This may or may not be what you want. For example, my blog is used as the source material for the emails that I send out in my Auckland Music Update email newsletter. I've been looking into tagging these links to see who and how many clicks I'm getting. Trouble is, this same tag is still live in the historic blog posts, and looks like this:

This works great for emails - with "email" set as the medium allows you to see all your email traffic in one view, so you could round up the whole years traffic and take a look; by changing the campaign for each email send out, but leaving source the same allows further segmentation, and also to pull out the "AMU" emails from any other emails that I might have been sending but also using medium=email for.

To summarise, you need "some things the consistent, some things uniqe" for the best of both worlds in segmentation.

Paid Campaigns Spread Across A Lot Of Sites

Normally, you'd want to track each website separately, but if you have a really really large network (lets say a network of 10,000 sites where 25% are sports, 25% music, and 50% business), and you want to be able to conglomerate and segment it somewhat, URL tagging might be able to come to the rescue.

Having said that, its ideal to also continue to be able to drill right down to the separate site (the one out of 10,000 in network), so be sure to be careful how this is done.

Use utm_source as the domain name of the site (in my example I've used fake sites like to illustrate the point - but this site doesn't exist), medium as referral still, I've used a consistent content value of "AnalyticsURLTaggingHowTo", but I've then invented 3 unique campaign names:

So the idea is that utm_campaign=URLTagNetworkExample-Sports would appear on 25% of sites, URLTagNetworkExample-Music on the music sites, and URLTagNetworkExample-Business on the remaining 5,000 business sites.

With this setup you could then compare the performance, side by side, of each network (sports, music or business), and make some decisions on what your next move will be. This is a bit easier than trying to come up with a regular expression to group your sites together, or just to try and deal with a large list of referrers based on their domain name.

Some sites aren't obvious what its about just from reading the domain name, and some sites might carry both sports and business news... so you could tag these differently, something which wouldn't work with just a normally pair of creatives both going to the same landing page.

Remove developer or staff hits to site

This one relates to the way staff members, webmasters, and developers access the site. Most people will navigate using one of the following methods:

In the first two instances, this traffic will be "direct". From Intranet might show some unroutable referrer like http://widgetsco-intranet/ which is clearly a fake domain; from email sig might show either :::Outlook Blocked::: or say, neither of which is very useful.

By somehow forcing all your staff to use utm_source=StaffMemberBookmarks in their bookmarks enables you to segment these hits out, even if you have a roaming workforce that accesses the site from many different IP address. Naturally, if everyone uses it from one IP address or range, you should be using an Advanced Filter to tag them by IP address, but this method gets around that.
For your intranet, you can just tag the links to your homepage accordingly, for example:

Will let me know that someone must have somehow gotten all the way to the bottom of this post and clicked. Whether you use "source" or "content" is upto you. I'd say content is probably more sensible.

Google URL Builder Tool

Finally, you'll be wanting to checkout this tool from Google, which makes building the URLs a lot easier:

Posted by tomachi on December 13th, 2009 filed in Google Analytics, Online Marketing