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Guide to URL Tracking In Google Analytics

What is URL Tracking?

URL tracking is the process of adding unique identifiers to your destination URLs. If you aren’t tagging your urls for tracking in either analytics or another third tier system you are losing out on a lot of helpful information.

When you manage pay-per-click campaigns in conjunction with other online marketing efforts, it is extremely important to keep your data neatly separated. In the case of Google Analytics, if you don’t take care to tag your destination URLs, the data you receive will be meaningless at best. For example, let’s say that you are running an SEO campaign that is performing well in Bing organic results AND you have Bing running full force with PPC traffic: If you don’t tag your adCenter destination URLs, all of those visitors – PPC and SEO – will be labeled as “organic” in Google Analytics.

Why Should I Tag URLs?

Reason #1 to tag your PPC destination URLs is clean data that allows you to successfully track PPC vs. SEO within Google Analytics. Reason #2, URL tagging allows you to gain a deeper knowledge of the overall performance of your PPC campaign. Each of the PPC search engines provides conversion tracking, and deep stats for impressions, clicks, click-through rate, etc. However, none of these stats explain what happens “post-click.”

When you have properly tagged your PPC destination URLs, you will be able to view stats like pageviews per visit, average time on site, % new visitors and bounce rate. These stats can help you to understand if your website and landing pages are resonating with your visitors and help you to make the right changes.

Types of Analytics URL Tagging

Auto-tagging

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 your AdWords URLs. Google Analytics will automatically track all of your AdWords campaigns. You’ll still need to tag all of your non-AdWords paid keyword links, though, as well as your banners and other ads. Auto-tagging is selected by default in all AdWords accounts.

To enable, or disable, auto-tagging go to My account > Preferences

AdWords Auto Tagging

Auto-tagging may not be appropriate for all websites and some destination URLs won’t accept additional URL parameters. To test if auto-tagging will work for your site, follow the steps below:

  1. Append ?gclid=test or &gclid=test to the end of your AdWords destination URL.
  2. Paste the modified URL into your browser’s address bar.
  3. Auto-tagging won’t generate an error if the resulting page displays the gclid=test parameter in the address bar.

Manual Tagging for Google Analytics

If you are manually tagging your URLs for Analytics, you’ll want to use the Google Analytics URL Builder to generate the proper tagging.

Analytics URL BuilderBelow is Google’s explanation of the different parameters:

Analytics Tracking ParametersCampaign Source is typically going to be the search engine (Google, Bing, Facebook, etc). Campaign Medium will define the type of advertising (PPC, email, etc). The Campaign Name will be the name of your campaign. These three are required, and you can use the remaining parameters to further identify your ads.

Below are examples of how the same ad would look being tracking in Google and Bing:

Google and Bing URL Tagging

It’s important to note that you need to make sure you always label your URLs in the same manner. If you’re using cpc for pay per click, don’t forget and use ppc in some tags or else they will be classified differently in Analytics.

To build your URLs, you can utilize the Analytics URL Builder or create a URL builder in excel which is much more efficient, especially for creating urls in bulk

Manual Tagging for Backend Systems

You’ll also want use manual tagging for your AdWords URLs use in backend systems. To do this, it’s best to use ValueTrack Parameters. When a person clicks your ad and visits your website, ValueTrack records certain details about the ad in the URL. These parameters are dynamic, which means the values will change based on the details of the ad that was clicked.

Here is a list of available ValueTrack parameters for PPC:
{matchtype} – the match type of the keyword that triggered your ad
{network} – whether the click came from Google Search, Search Partners, or the Display Network
{ifmobile:[value]} – if you ad is clicked from a mobile device, you’ll see whatever text you insert
{ifsearch:[value]} – if your ad is clicked from a site in the Google Search Network, you’ll see whatever text you insert
{ifcontent:[value]} - If your ad is clicked from a site in the Google Display Network, you’ll see whatever text you instert
{creative} – the unique ID for a creative ad
{keyword} – for Search the keyword that triggered your ad; for Display, the best-matching keyword
{placement} - for Display only, the domain name of the site where the ad was clicked
{target} – for Display only, a placement category
{random} – a random Google-generated number
{aceid} - the control ID or experiment ID from AdWords
{copy:[name]} - for Sitelinks and Product extentions; the URL will include the actual parameter name and the value you indicate from the corresponding headline URL
{adposition} – the position on the page that your ad appeared in
{param1} - if you’re using AdParamService, create parameter #1
{param2} – if you’re using AdParamService, create parameter #2

Possible Tracking Combinations

You can use each of the above URL tracking methods on their own or combine them together to fit the needs of you and your client. You might be in a situation where you client doesn’t have backend tracking, but you want to be able to optimize your account further, so auto-tagging would suffice for your AdWords campaigns and manual tracking for non-AdWords campaigns. If your client has backend tracking and regularly shares the reporting with you, ValueTrack may be enough.

Below are the different combinations of Analytics tracking:

  1. Auto tagging only
  2. Manual Analytics tagging
  3. Value Track manual tagging only
  4. Value Track manual tagging and auto tagging
  5. Value Track manual tagging and manual analytics tagging

 

Tracking Outside Data in Analytics

If are running PPC campaigns on platforms other that AdWords and haven’t properly tagged your URLs, Google Analytics will still record the source but all traffic will be classified as organic.

Bing Tracking in GoogleI’m going to go into more detail about tracking adCenter and Facebook data in analytics as it’s likely the most relevant to you, but you can follow these steps to track other platforms as well.

Tracking adCenter PPC Data in Analytics

If this is your first time applying tracking to URLs, you might find it easiest to use Analytics URL Builder. I’ve filled out the boxes below to generate a tag to us in adCenter.

Bing URL Tagging Google AnalyticsFor the Source you can use bing, adcenter, or whatever else makes sense to you. Just make sure you are consistent in your tagging, especially if there are multiple people working in an account. For medium enter cpc, or ppc just remember to be consistent. For campaign name enter in the campaign name in your account. In this example, I’ve also used the Content field for my ad group name.

This is the basic approach to tagging your adCenter data, but you can also use dynamic URLs, similar to ValueTrack, to pull even more information from each click. Initially, adCenter had a specific list of dynamic tracking inserts but now the technology allows you to track whatever you want.

Below is the list of previous supported dynamic inserts.

Reserved parameters:

  • {Keyword}
  • {MatchType}
  • {QueryString}
  • {OrderItemID}
  • {AdID}
  • {Param1}
  • {Param2}
  • {Param3}
  • {ifsearch}
  • {ifcontent}

Tracking Facebook PPC Data in Analytics

For smaller PPC platforms, like Facebook, that don’t have conversion code tracking tagging your URLs is of the utmost importance. Without it, you won’t be able to see conversions coming from those ads. Again, you’ll want to use Analytics URL builder.

Facebook URL BuilderYou’ll enter in facebook for the source, cpc for the medium, and the campaign name. Facebook doesn’t have ad groups, so to distinguish I like to make a note to distinguish the content of the ad. In the example above, this is the tag for my Spring Sale ad.

Again, follow this method to set up tracking for all PPC ads across all platforms so you can get the most information from each ad click.

Other Uses for URL Tagging & Additional Tactics

Being a PPC blog and all, it is our primary duty to inform you how to use URL tagging for PPC. But there are a myriad of other uses for tagging certain types of visitors for Google Analytics. Additionally, there are some additional tactics you can employ to build on the data you are collecting with your URL tagging and grow your PPC campaigns even further!

  1. Other Uses for URL Tagging: If the business you are utilizing PPC for practices any other type of online marketing, URL tagging is just as important for those other marketing activities. Online marketing should be a collaborative effort, and the back-end data you receive in Analytics should reflect that collaboration.
    1. Any type of banner advertising, email marketing, etc. can utilize URL tagging.
    2. When it comes time to create the utm_source= section of your URL, be specific. “Email Blast 03/04? or “Yahoo! Banner Ads” (or whatever display ad network you use) – the more specific you are, the easier your reporting will be in Analytics.
    3. When it comes time to create the utm_medium= section of your URL, choose a naming convention that you’re comfortable with – because you’ll need to stick with it. “Email” or “Display_Ads” are general names that you will need to repeat each time you launch a new campaign. This way you can look at reports for ALL email blasts or ALL display ad campaigns.
  2. Ad Groups or Ad Text Names?: When you create your PPC destination URLs, I’ve recommended that you insert the ad group name for the utm_content= section of the URL tag. I would like to plant a seed and suggest that you play around with inserting ad text names instead.
    1. By inserting the ad text name, you can view site activity in Analytics at yet another level of granularity. See how different ads with different calls-to-action result in user behavior on your website.
  3. Employ a Search Query Filter: Tagging PPC destination URLs is an absolute must for any advertiser using Google Analytics as a part of their strategy. But this tactic can only get you so far – and it doesn’t show you everything you’d like to see in Analytics. As such, I would recommend that you employ a search query filter in Analytics.
    1. I’m not going to roll through the step-by-step instructions for this tactic – instead I highly recommend you check out this post on setting up search query filters.
    2. This tactic has been touted as an AdWords-only solution. The truth is (*gasp*) that it works for Yahoo! and Microsoft campaigns as well! Once set up properly, you will see your keywords shown as this in Google Analytics reports: keyword, (search query)
    3. Why is this so important? Well, the Google AdWords Search Query Report is great, but it doesn’t show you ALL of the search queries. And neither Yahoo! or Microsoft have any sort of search query reporting available. So, when you combine the power of tagging your PPC destination URLs with this search query filter, you will have at your fingertips a very powerful set of data!
    4. The uses for knowing search queries are endless, but some of the highlights are: understanding user intent, finding new keywords to add into your accounts and most importantly – finding new negative keywords to weed out irrelevant traffic!

______________________________

As we all move forward and continue to use URL tagging for our PPC campaigns, you’ll find new, inventive ways to use this data to further improve our performance.You will be able to make smarter decisions regarding keyword level bounce rate and time on site. You can compare conversion data (with goal funnels) between all of your sources and mediums of site traffic. All in all, using URL tagging to track keyword data in Analytics will make your job as a search marketer that much easier!

  • Pingback: Guide to URL Tagging and Tracking in Google Analytics : How To Pay Per Click HQ

  • http://twitter.com/IMVermont IM Vermont

    Any thoughts on why adCenter URLs that are properly tagged for Google Analytics won’t show metrics in Analytics, other than Visits? Is it not possible to pass data like Impressions, CTR, Cost, etc?

    Thanks for the great overview! ~ Ben

  • http://www.marketylink.com/ MarketyLink

    This has got to be the most informative blog post about URL tracking. When you’re managing multiple campaigns for multiple clients, it gets hard to manage. I hope this isn’t spam but I developed a URL builder super application with a Marketing Director. Check it out by googling marketylink. Cheers

  • http://www.delivra.com/ Cody Sharp

    Thanks. Just used this as a quick refresher for the new Adcenter functions to set up our new Bing Ads campaign. Nice article.

  • http://www.buyosphere.com/ missrogue

    This may be a stupid question, but once you create the unique URL for the Facebook campaign, is it automatically added to your Google Analytics dashboard? Or should you enter it somewhere in your dashboard to do specific tracking? Thanks!

    • Tank

      The information shows up under Standard Reports > Traffic Sources > Sources> Campaigns. The report will break everything down automatically by Campaign Name.

  • Mark

    Hi, great post thanks for the info.. I know you touch on it in the section on combinations of tracking, but can I just double check. When picking up PPC traffic in GA, it should work fine if I use autotagging for my AdWords campaign, and then separately use manual tagging for other engines? thanks..

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      That sounds right to us. Thanks for reading!

  • Fuad Miah

    Excellent post. Being able to track URLs that we include in emails has helped our organization optimize conversion significantly. It allowed us to segment visitors and to understand customers better.

  • http://www.sufalamtech.com/ Web Development Company

    Thanks for sharing this technique. Actually, I am really finding great techniques in using Google Analytics. I want to experience more the benefits of this tracking tool aside from traffic tracking.

  • Chris

    Where in Analytics or Adwords does this information appear? What report can I run to see just Tagged campaigns?

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      Non-AdWords sources will appear in the Traffic Sources part of Analytics. If you’re autotagging AdWords URLs there’s an Advertising tab in Analytics that will give you what you’re looking for.

  • http://www.getdiscountcoupon.com/ Kathy J. Lowrey

    Hi,

    If one is using auto-tagging and also manual tagging (in url i.e utm_campaign, utm_content, utm_source…)

    Data in Google Analytics will be duplicated or not?

    And I want to make sure, if I use kw={keyword} either it will count as manual tagging or only utm_term=(keyword) will count as manual tagging?

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      Your information shouldn’t be duplicated. You lose a little bit of information (specific stuff on the keyword level) if you manually tag AdWords URLs, but the info won’t be duplicated.

      • Craig Schapiro

        So if you have utm paramaters and auto-tagging within one URL, which one does Analytics attribute the visit to if there’s is a discrepancy? For example if the campaign attribute in the manual tagging is different than the one in the auto-tag.

        Also how do you know that Analytics doesn’t double count the data? Can you reference a source or a test that has been performed that proves this?

        I have a suspicion that my revenue is being double-counted from my Google Shopping and Product Listing Ads because the link attribute has both manual and auto-tags, which I was forced to do because my feed wouldn’t upload with an AdWords Redirect attribute. If you have any insight into this it would be greatly appreciated.

        • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com/ Sean Quadlin

          Hey Craig,

          This is just one PPC Hero writer’s perspective, but I hope it’s helpful.

          I recently launched a new campaign that was using both auto and manual tagging. I mis-tagged them coming out of the gate, which was bad for me, but good for you. Analytics attributed the traffic to the correct campaign despite my incorrect tagging. I think the gclid probably overrides in cases where there’s a discrepancy.

          I wasn’t counting revenue for that account, so I can’t speak to that specific problem you’re having, but I can say that my traffic was not double counted. Aside from the slight mismatch that almost always occurs between Analytics and AdWords, my visits matched up with my clicks.

          Feeds can be a beast unto themselves, and I don’t want to give you any bad advice on that front. But my traffic was correctly affiliated with the gclid and I didn’t have any double counting.

          • http://www.facebook.com/craig.schapiro Craig Theshizz Schapiro

            Thanks Sean,

            I’ve been growing more confident in my numbers over the last few days, but it’s nice to hear that someone else has a similar experience.

    • Krish

      If you use kw=, it wouldn’t count as manual tagging

  • Sarah

    Is there a way to generate these URLs without manually inputting the information and integrating the URL generation into the back-end of a website?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Simpson/615643013 Josh Simpson

    Thanks for the article, it’s great to have all this info in one place.

    I have a question about pulling in Bing Ads AdGroup names via the utm_content param.

    You mention in passing that {ad group} is one of the supported “dynamic inserts” but I can’t find any info about this anywhere else.

    Can the name of the variable really have a space in it?

    Being able to dynamically populate utm_content with the AdGroup name is a very attractive solution when you’re dealing with hundreds of Bing AdGroups.

    Thanks again.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      Hey Josh,

      Thanks for the call out. There shouldn’t be a space in that param and we’ve fixed it above. Let us know if you have any problems with that param! Thanks for reading.

      • bogdanch

        I implemented the {adgroup} and {campaign} parameters, but they’re getting passed to GA “as is” not with the actual values… are you sure they work? like @facebook-615643013:disqus said, I couldn’t find any documentation about these 2 parameters anywhere else on the web…

        • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

          Hey Bogdanch,

          We generally use URL builders for all of our URLs, so we don’t have any recent experience with the parameters. We’ll take your word for it that they no longer work. It appears that our info above was out of date, so we’ve removed that content.

          Thanks for letting us know your experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sevnrock Ross Joo

    Can you override specific utm parameters with auto-tagging? For instance, say for Sitelinks we want to use a specific utm_content parameter (instead of traffic from Sitelinks being bundled into the ad group it generated the click from). Can we override this by just including a utm_content param into the sitelink and let gclid configure the rest?

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      We’ve tried work-arounds like this with no success (specifically by tagging sitelinks with a different parameter). We also have accounts where utm params are used in concert with auto-tagging and they work fine for the most part. As Google says in their help articles, you lose some clarity on the keyword level, but a lot of the info is still maintained. It can’t hurt to try gaming the system, but we haven’t been able to do it successfully just yet.

      If you have any success please let us know!

      • Eric Barnes

        Any Success on this yet? This would be extremely useful

  • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

    Hi Umee,

    You shouldn’t have any problems at all with the / in your URL. Our accounts have had either one in the past and data has gotten into Analytics without any problems.

    Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

    Hi Thanos,

    We think it’s best to go with what Google will allow in their system. Since all three of those fields don’t have a value track parameter you most likely won’t be able to use value track with them. We use the URL builder mentioned in the post for our campaigns, ad groups and mediums.

    If you find a way around this limitation, please let us know. For the time being, though, I think you may be out of luck.

    Thanks for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/upprclasstwit Stephen Barrante

    I’m trying to leverage this technique through the Google AdWords, Sitelinks Extensions. Each of the site links that appear under the Ad on google links to a different part of my site. I’ve appended these parameters (relevant to the link) in the interest of determining how useful those links are or do people simply click on the main Ad itself.

    ?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=sitelinks&utm_campaign=make_a_reservation

    When I go to Google Analytics, and view Traffic Sources > Sources > Campaigns, I see the first two parameters reflected in the results, “google / cpc”. What I don’t see are the values related to “utm_content” and “utm_campaign”. Which are really the key differentiators.

    Can you recommend a course of action to resolve this issue? Thanks!
    Stephen

    • Guest

      What you are doing is going through Analytics predefined pathway via the sidebar navigation. You can find the data you are looking for by clicking the second dimension button and searching for ad content or campaign and it will populate in the chart.
      Or you can create a custom report where you define the elements that you would like to see and can drill in to each variable with ease.

  • Maya Dunford

    Can anyone adivise on the correct way to tag a QR code with the URL builder please? Thanks :-)

  • Guest

    What you are doing is going through Analytics predefined pathway via the sidebar navigation. You can find the data you are looking for by clicking the second dimension button and searching for ad content or campaign and it will populate in the chart.
    Or you can create a custom report where you define the elements that you would like to see and can drill in to each variable with ease.

  • Gaurav Dewan

    Hey PPC Hero,

    I am trying to use GA to track referrals from Facebook Mobile Ads to Google Play Store (My Application). However, Facebook Mobile Ads do not use any URL to redirect traffic to the Google Play page, but instead use package name and class name for native linking. Now how should I track converts to the play store? TIA.

  • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

    Hi Andy,

    Congrats on the launch! Some people in the office are testing the tool out. If we have any feedback we may mention it in the future.

  • notageek4u

    So, I have a question that I hope someone can help me out with. I’m a project manager for a blog campaign. I have my allotment of bloggers, but is there a way to track their blog posts? Keep in mind that I will have over 300 bloggers active in this paid post campaign. I’m just trying to figure out if there is a way to record any kind of metrics. Help? :)

  • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

    Hi rtolmach,

    Glad you liked the article. Here is some guidance for you.

    1. Either one works based on our experience. You should defer to Google help, though, and use the slash. Those little touches should help put your mind at ease.

    2. There’s no existing field that tracks utm_inv, so you shouldn’t use that field for your tagging.

    3. Here’s a sample of something that we’d recommend you use: https://oursite.org/?utm_source=referralprogram&utm_medium=member&utm_campaign=12345

    You’ll be able to look at source/medium for the entire program, and then further drill down to see member by member.

    Hope that helps! Good luck!

    • rtolmach1

      Thank you very much!

  • Rajesh_magar

    My self is totally newbie with URL tagging and your post has taught me the whole picture. Thanks billion for such wonderful information and just need small clarification that, where I can access or see all these stats details in Google analytics?

    Thanks again!

  • seosrvc

    Append ?gclid=test or &gclid=test to the end of your AdWords destination URL … i am wondering with this. kindly explain with proper example how to add in which adwords url..

  • weesiej

    Hi! I have a question- I set up a test campaign using the URL builder and utilized this URL to access the site a few times one day just to see what data registers in Analytics. However, I am now seeing many more visits logged throughout the month to that campaign in Analytics when in fact I haven’t used that URL since I ran those initial tests. Any idea where those visits are coming from or why Analytics is logging that data?

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      Hi weesiej,

      Unfortunately, it’s difficult to answer this question without seeing the URL you’re using and the Analytics data. You may want to re-check the tag and make sure all the coding is correct and unique to the test campaign.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • weesiej

        Thanks! So the URL has to be completely unique to the campaign, it cannot be a common URL on the website with the tracking data attached? I used just any old URL to a page on our site to test- I imagine GA is probably picking up ALL traffic to that page.

        • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

          It is fine to use a common URL, what you should check to make sure is unique is that tag you added to the URL. If something is slightly off with the tag it could be the cause of the extra visits.

  • Thomas Steinrücken

    Hello, I also have a question =)

    I also used the method of the URL builder and added the parameter to the links for the sitelinks in AdWords. I have made a couple test clicks myself and there were definitely clicks on the sitelinks. However, the campaign does not show up in Analytics. What might be the cause apart from invalid code?

    Here is the code I used:
    ?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=CPC&utm_content=Product&utm_campaign=Sitelinks

    Thank you and greets,
    Thomas

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      Thanks for the great question, Thomas!

      It’s hard to determine the root of the problem without looking further into your account. If the code it set up correctly you should be able to view its stats in Analytics. In my experience, you may need to manually sift through your campaigns to find the one you are looking for. Sometimes if you type the campaign name into the search bar it will fail to show up.

      Otherwise, I would suggest reaching out to Google (1-866-246-6453) as they will be able to take a deeper look into your account.

  • Alan

    Hi! I have a question that hopefully you can help with…

    I have two affiliate networks pushing traffic through to my eCommerce site. So medium=affiliates and source=affiliatenetworkA. But how do I also dynamically capture the individual URLs of the different websites within each network – so I can track their performance?

    Thanks!
    A

  • Ankit Arya

    Wow what a great article, many thanks for the information. :)
    I have a mobile app installs ad running on facebook, but am unable to track it as facebook removes the tracking parameters from the play store link.Anyone found a workaround yet? Please do help me out here because i have scoured all over the internet without any luck!