Learn How to Track Your MSN adCenter PPC Keyword Data in Analytics

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Last week I explained how to use custom URL tags to track keyword level data from your Yahoo! Search Marketing campaigns. In that post I promised to share the instructions for tracking that same data for MSN’s adCenter. Before I dig into the nitty-gritty, I must give a huge hat-tip to Alex Cohen for his original post on this subject. So without further ado, let me explain how to use tagging URLs to track keyword level data for adCenter in your Google Analytics reports.

Much like your Yahoo! PPC traffic, if left untagged, your adCenter traffic will appear in Analytics as organic visits from MSN. And what’s worse – you won’t have visibility into keywords because they’ll be listed in the (not set) category! Because you’re a smart search marketer, you know that you need more detailed information than that.

Following a path similar to last week, go ahead on over to the Google Analytics URL Builder. This is where you will be able to create custom tags for your adCenter destination URLs. You will need to complete the same information:

  1. Campaign Source (msn)
  2. Campaign Medium (cpc)
  3. Campaign Term (keywords!!!)
  4. Campaign Content (ad variation)
  5. Campaign Name (campaign or ad group name)

In a basic example, you would have to create a new destination URL for every keyword in your adCenter account. Since that is a time-sucking, tedious process, there are some effective work-arounds. Your adCenter account automatically sends information when searchers click your ads and they don’t require that you turn this function on or off (unlike Google and Yahoo!). What do they provide?

  1. Query String – this is the raw search query from MSN.com or Live.com. This is as close as you’ll come to automating the process of bringing your adCenter keywords into your Analytics reports.
  2. Match Type – this is a basic code that will tell you if the triggered keyword was broad, phrase or exact matched.
  3. OrderItemID – this is your ad group id.
  4. AdID – this is the id for your ad text variations.

If you’re sophisticated enough to use server logs to track your site’s visitors, you can simply append these variables to your destination URLs to record the data in your logs. But for the purpose of using Google Analytics, you’ll have to insert these variables into your custom URL tag. Here’s an example:

  • Basic Tracking URL: http://www.example.com/tracking?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=cpc &utm_term=ppc%2Bhero&utm_content=best%2Bblog%2Bad%2B1 &utm_campaign=tracking%2Burls
  • New Variables: Term is {QueryString}, content is {AdID} and campaign is {OrderItemID}.
  • New Tracking URL: http://www.example.com/tracking?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=cpc &utm_term={QueryString}&utm_content={AdID}&utm_campaign={OrderItemID}

Now you know how to track detailed keyword and account information from MSN adCenter in your Google Analytics account. When you combine this tactic with URL tagging in Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing, you have at your disposal very powerful information. 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!

***UPDATE: We’ve written an updated post on URL tagging for Microsoft adCenter campaigns. Check it out to make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information!***

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17 thoughts on “Learn How to Track Your MSN adCenter PPC Keyword Data in Analytics

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  2. Alex

    Hey John,

    I’m glad you found my article useful!

    Just to clarify 2 things:

    1.) You will not be able to see funnels by referring source. That requires proper use of profiles.

    2.) You may want to check whether OrderItemID and AdID give you the data you require. I believe it may return numerical identifiers useless to anyone except MSN’s own system. If you find otherwise, please correct me.

    There are a few options in my post about link tagging with Google Analytics that might work:


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  6. Danny

    This is great, thank you!

    I was wondering if you have found any methodology for accomplishing this task in Ask Sponsored Listings.

  7. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Danny,

    You could still use the basic principles and build out URL tags that would work with Ask.com. Here’s an example:


    To track specific keywords, you can always go the manual route and enter &utm_term=keyword1 However, I’m certain you can use the following to pull in the keyword: &utm_term={keyword}

  8. Andrew

    Some suggestions on this from anyone:

    I’ve inserted tracking into MSN and Yahoo PPC campaigns/keywords before and they have worked wonderfully in Google Analytics. Now this occurred….I set up campaigns in Yahoo & MSN for one website over this past month (Dec.). Yahoo tracking is working fine in Google Analytics, but for some reason MSN is not showing up as cpc. Only MSN Organic is appearing in Analytics. I’ve checked the tracking codes for MSN keywords and they are exactly how they should be.

    Any suggestions as to why MSN is not appearing in Analytics?


  9. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Andrew,

    I would suggest that you carefully review your tracking parameters in your destination URLs. Double check that you’ve listed Source and Medium correctly (those are the parameters that will tell Analytics that this traffic is PPC).

    One other thing you should take a look at is whether or not your MSN destination URLs are hitting a 301 redirect. If they are – the 301 “kills” the tracking parameters completely – thus the traffic showing up as Organic (or possibly as Direct).

  10. Andrew

    Hi John,

    I know the URLs are entered correctly as I have tested/checked them. The problem lies in the fact that when the ad displays on MSN search results and it is clicked, the URL takes you to just the normal website URL rather than the long tracking URL that should appear.

    How would I find out if there is a 301 redirect messing things up too?


  11. Andrew

    Hi Everyone,

    Is anyone else having trouble with MSN keyword tracking in Google Analytics recently?

    Last week I wrote how a newly created campaign was not tracking correctly with a method that had been proven to track in some of my other clients’ MSN campaigns. Today I discovered that one of my clients MSN accounts which had been tracking for a few months is also not tracking properly. Instead of seeing the keyword with the exact search query in parentheses in Analytics, it is now displaying the exact search query as the actual keyword too. In the meantime, none of the keywords or tracking code has been messed with in the account itself.

    Is this happening to anyone else?

  12. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Andrew,

    As for 301s, you can quickly check to see if a URL is being redirected by using a tool like this one: http://bit.ly/OrXI

    Just insert your landing page URL, and it will tell you if there is an active 301 redirect in place.

    I’ve always just pulled in the search query data into Analytics. It sounds like to me that you’ve got some sort of filter set up to display both the search query and the actual keyword from MSN – and something’s gone wrong. I’m not sure how to fix that one… I’ll do some searches and see if I can’t figure something out.

  13. PPCSPy

    Thanks for the good information about tarcking for MSN on Google Analytical tool. By the way would it be easier by using a keyword tracking tool (free or paid tools) than typing in all these tracking codes in our destination URLs?


    PPC Spy

  14. Campaignsync

    Nice post. Don’t forget that you now must also set the destination URL of your adCenter ads to {param1} in order to get them to use the destination keyword applied to the keyword.

    Our tool, Campaignsync, does all of this for you instantly and its’ free. Try it out and let us know what you think.


  15. Kra Yonatan

    Is is possible to track the bids themselves?
    So I’ll be able to know, for instance, that someone who registered for a website or subscribed to a newsletter cost me something?


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