Taking the pain out of campaign tracking

, Posted by Adrian Kingwell in Blog, Phil's posts, Web Analytics

Want to know exactly how someone has arrived at your site? Phil Craig of Mezzo Labs shares his insights on Google Analytics campaign tracking.

This is a very simple concept that is often neglected or executed incorrectly. I’ll be looking at Google Analytics campaign tracking, which is so easy you could do it with your eyes closed. I don’t recommend that however, or your campaign name might look at bit like this, ‘nweuibasdf’. Your colleagues may say ‘I see the nweuibasdf campaign banner is doing well’ and you’ll be the one to blame.

Campaign tracking is ideal if you want to know exactly how someone has arrived at your site. Of course if you don’t put the tracking code on a URL you will still know where they came from at a basic level, using the acquisition reporting area in GA. The great thing is that you can get down into the nitty gritty by adding these extra parameters to your URL. For example, if you had different banners on an affiliate site which led to the same page on your site, you can determine which banner provides more leads.

The Parameters

You’ll need to know what each parameter is intended to indicate as there is obviously a manual input to the process. Google have provided this handy guide:


The URL Builder

Now let’s get going. The basics behind campaign tracking are as follows.

  1. Take the URL you wish to track. e.g. http://www.mezzolabs.co.uk/
  2. Head on over to here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033867?hl=en-GB
  3. Have a cup of tea, because you’re probably exhausted and parched by now.
  4. Enter in your source, medium and campaign name (at bare minimum). Then click submit.
  5. The URL builder will create a URL. You can then send it to your ad agency, or whoever is responsible for the campaign.  They’ll do their bit of magic.
  6. Sit back and watch the people fly in.

So if you want to actually know about what just happened, then stick around for the fun part. If you don’t care……..oh we’ve lost them.

The Tracking Code

So, if you’ve done what I said above, you might have something that looks like this:


Everything after the question mark is the tracking code. If you don’t have that bit, then the URL will be treated as a continuous stream, and the tracking won’t work.

As you see, there are three parameters within our tracking code, source, medium and campaign. These will help determine where the users arrived from and what the campaign is.

The tracking will work instantly. So you don’t need to set up any custom reports, which is why it’s so easy to do for anyone. If you open up your Google Analytics account and go to Acquisition>Campaigns>All Campaigns, you’ll see your tracking code in action. Here you will see the campaigns broken down by campaign name, source and medium and any other parameters you’ve added to the tracking code. It really is that simple.


Campaign tagging infographic


Things to note (and top tips):

  • This only works for GA and not other reporting suites.
  • Make sure you are keeping a standard campaign naming convention for clean reporting. If everyone has a free for all, then things could get messy. For example. if someone calls the campaign ‘springtime_sale’ and the other calls it ‘spring_sale’ they will be treated as different campaigns in GA. It is also case sensitive. So ‘Spring_Sale’ and ‘spring_sale’ would show up as separate entries too.
  • When using a vanity URL, e.g. www.example.com/sale, which are visible around town on billboards and will be directly typed into the browser, you should redirect that vanity URL to your target URL.  The target URL should include some tracking parameters, so you can tell which visitors arrived at the page from seeing the billboards.
  • The ampersand splits the parameters, not the URL from the query string. Seen this been done a few times and can easily mess up reporting.