Google's URL builder makes tracking marketing campaign traffic in Google Analytics easy. Learn how to measure your campaign’s effectiveness with this free tool.

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SEO Basics: How to Track Campaigns in Google Analytics with URL Builder

Fri May 16, 2014

Attempting to track your marketing campaigns in Google Analytics is a lot like the using Netflix. Although you have seemingly infinite options at your disposal, you rely on genres, ratings, and search to find what you might actually want to watch. As you watch and rate more movies and shows, you get increasingly improved recommendations based on that information. While Google collects and processes massive amounts of data about activity on your website, you can improve the quality of your measurement by improving the quality of your input.

Google’s URL builder allows you to append custom campaign information to your links to better track their effectiveness within Google Analytics. So far in our SEO Basics series we have covered writing better page titles and descriptions and writing optimized page content. This post will help you better measure the effectiveness of the content you distribute.

What Is a Campaign According to Google?

In the eyes of Google, a campaign is generally defined as an online marketing effort that drives traffic to your website through the action of  a user clicking a link. Using Google Analytics to track your website’s data allows you to view information about the users (formerly called visitors) who click your campaign’s link and their sessions (formerly called visits). Through Google Analytics, you can better measure the effectiveness of  a particular search ad, tweet, blog post, or other digital asset and can connect campaigns to specific goals.    

Where Do Campaigns Get Tracked in Google Analytics?

Campaigns are tracked in Google Analytics under the Acquisition menu, where you can view analytics for all your campaigns aggregated in a table, or drill down to the individual campaign level.

Tracking campaigns through Google Analytics allows you to see which social networks your recent blog post received referral traffic from, compare which of your webinars had the highest conversion rate, check whether you’re getting more traffic this month than before, and much more.

What Campaign Parameters Are Included?

Campaign parameters are the sections of your URL that you can manually set in order to feed Google Analytics specific data about a visitor who clicks on your campaign’s link. Using campaign parameters gives you a way to give each campaign a unique name, track variations among campaign versions, and associate multiple sources or items with one campaign.

If you’re a regular Google Analytics user, most of these terms should be familiar, but let’s review their meaning in this context.

Source (utm_source) – Identifies the original referrer to your main URL, such as a search engine, newsletter name, or website linking to you.

Medium (utm_medium) – This describes the type of campaign or marketing medium being used to deliver the click: cost per click, banner, email, etc.

Term (utm_term) – This item is optional, and allows you to identify paid keywords to associate with your campaign, if any.

Content (utm_content)– Also optional, this allows you to differentiate between the content of ads, emails, or anything you would like to A/B test with different variations while pointing to the same URL. 

Name (utm_campaign) – This is what you call your campaign to distinguish it from other campaigns – Could be your July newsletter, a promo code, and this is the name under which it will be listed in Google Analytics.

The Anatomy of a Campaign URL: Putting It All Together

To create custom campaign URLs, you can use Google’s URL Builder for free, entering values for each parameter. You will then get a more descriptive URL you can then use to share your content in a more trackable way.

Here’s an example of what a campaign URL can look like:

http://www.examplesite.com/?utm_source=directorysite&utm_medium=blogpost&utm_term=product&
amp;utm_content=description&utm_campaign=Guest%20Blog%20on%20Directory%20Site

Are Campaigns and Custom URLs Just for AdWords?

Campaign data isn’t useful just for AdWords. Whether you’re doing banner advertising, or featuring a guest blog on a partner website, you can use campaign parameters to deepen your understanding of what’s working in your digital marketing, and where your content performs best.

Is There Other Software to Track Campaigns?

Marketing automation and email software will help you track campaigns by integrating with your Google Analytics account and automatically appending campaign parameters based on your input.

If you are not using third-party marketing automation or social media management to distribute your content, URL builder gives you a way to make those links more trackable, informative, and most importantly, measurable.

Publishing great web content is only half the battle, and distribution is the secret sauce to making it an effective business driver. Campaign data is a great way to learn what’s working.

Karo Kilfeather, content marketing manager at Percussion Software
Karo Kilfeather
Content Marketing Manager | Percussion Software

Karo was born in Poland, and learned to speak English by watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns during her first summer in the U.S., which has left her unable to go through life without occasionally breaking the fourth wall. As Percussion's content marketing manager, she oversees and creates content that drives website traffic, engages followers, and helps fill the marketing and sales funnel. She writes about content management, content marketing, SEO, social media and web design, and how to make it all less complicated.