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UTM tracking is the process of adding unique identifiers to your final URLs. If you do not use your URLs for tracking in Google Analytics or any other third party system, you will lose useful information. 

If you are managing PPC campaigns in conjunction with other marketing efforts, it is extremely important to keep your data properly separated. In the case of Google Analytics is that if you're not careful about tagging your final URLs, you're getting useless data at best. For example, let's say you have an SEO campaign that is performing well in Bing's organic results and Bing is running at full speed in terms of PPC traffic. If you don't tag your URLs, then all of these visitors - PPC and SEO - will be labeled as "organic" in Google Analytics. 

Why should I tag URLs?

The most important reason why you should tag your final URLs is that it allows you to have clean data to successfully track your PPC efforts in Google Analytics. The second reason is that URL tagging gives you the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the overall performance of your PPC campaign. Each of the PPC search engines offers conversion tracking as well as in-depth statistics for impressions, clicks, click-through rate, etc.  However, none of these metrics explain which post-click activities follow.

If you have properly tagged your final URLs, you will be able to view statistics such as page views per visit, average time spent on the website, % new visitors or bounce rate. The statistics can help you determine whether your website and landing pages are resonating with your visitors and optimize these aspects accordingly.  

Guide to UTM tracking in Google Analytics: Types of UTM tracking

1. auto-tagging 

If your Google Analytics account is connected to an active Google AdWords account and you have activated auto-tagging, then you do not have to tag your AdWords URLs manually. Google Analytics will automatically tag your AdWords campaigns track. However, you will still need to tag your paid ad links that do not belong to AdWords. Auto-tagging is enabled by default in all AdWords accounts.

To activate or deactivate auto-tagging, go to "Account settings > Preferences"

Auto-tagging is not compatible with a few websites and some final URLs will not accept additional URL parameters. To test if auto-tagging works for your site, follow the steps below:

  1. Click on a live version of your ad while auto-tagging is enabled.
  2. If the resulting page "gclid" in the address bar and you will be redirected to a working page, this is how auto-tagging works for your page.
  3. If you do not have a "gclid" in the address bar or if you notice an error in the resulting page, switch off the auto-tagging function. 

2. manual tagging for Google Analytics 

If you want to tag your URLs manually for Google Analytics, you should use the Google Analytics URL Builder to be able to create proper tagging.

Usually, the respective search engine is the source of the campaign (i.e. Google, Bing, Facebook, etc.). The medium of the campaign will determine the type of advertising (PPC, email, etc.). The campaign name will be the name of your campaign. These three areas are required. The remaining parameters can be used to further identify your ads.

It is important to note that you need to make sure that you always use the same name for your URLs. Google Analytics is case-sensitive, so make sure that there are no differences - as is the case with "ppc" and "Ppc", for example. 

To build your URLs, you can use the Analytics URL Builder or create a URL builder in Excel, which is more efficient, especially in terms of bulk URL creation.

Track third-party data in Google Analytics

If you run PPC campaigns on platforms other than AdWords and have not tagged your URLs properly, Google Analytics will still record the respective source, but all traffic will be labeled as organic.

I will mainly focus on Facebook data in Analytics, as this platform is probably the most relevant for you. Nevertheless, you can of course follow these steps to track other platforms as well.   

Track Facebook PPC data in Analytics

Tracking social platforms like Facebook is just as important. Tagging your Facebook URLs correctly will give you a deeper insight into the unique behavior and journey of your customers. The Analytics URL Builder should again be used according to the scheme already listed in the section above about tagging your Facebook data.

You need to use Facebook for the source, CPC for the medium and finally the campaign name follows. To gain insights at the ad set level, you need to enter the name of the ad group in the campaign content. To track performance at the individual ad level, you need to enter the name of the ad in the campaign content.

Follow these instructions to create tracking for all PPC ads across all platforms so that you can get as much information as possible from every single ad click.

Other uses for URL tagging & other tactics 

There are a myriad of other uses for tagging certain types of visitors for Google Analytics. Plus, there are additional tactics you can use to tie into the data you collect with your URL tagging and grow your PPC campaigns even more!

Other uses for URL tagging: If the company you are managing PPC for has other forms of online marketing, URL tagging should be considered just as important as the other channels. Online marketing should be a collaborative effort and the back-end data you receive in Google Analytics should reflect that collaboration.

  1. Any kind of banner advertising, e-mail marketing, etc. can make use of URL tagging.
  2. With regard to the preparation of the utm_source= section of your URL, you should be specific. "Email Blast 03/04? or "Yahoo!" (or any other display ad network you use) - the more specific you are, the easier your reporting in Google Analytics will be.
  3. With regard to the preparation of the utm_medium=section of your URL, you should choose a naming convention that you feel comfortable with - because you will need to keep the name. "Email" or "Display_Ads" are generic names that you will need to repeat every time you start a new campaign. So you can run reports for all your bulk emails or all display campaigns.

Names of the ad groups or ad texts: When you create your PPC final URLs, I advise you to use the name of the ad group for the utm_content= section of the URL tag.

By inserting the name of the ad text, you can get a finer view of page activity in Analytics and observe how different ads with different call-to-actions can lead to different user behavior. 

Conclusion on the instructions for URL tracking in Google Analytics:

Over time, URL tagging has become an important part of PPC marketing. New, inventive ways are constantly being added that allow you to use the data to further improve the performance of your PPC campaign. You will be able to make better decisions in terms of keyword level, bounce rate and dwell time on your site and compare the respective conversion data between all your website traffic sources and media. URL tagging is therefore an extremely useful way to track your keyword data in Google Analytics and simplifies your work as a search marketer.

Tobias Dziuba

My name is Tobias and I am the founder and managing director of the Amazon agency Adsmasters GmbH based in Düsseldorf.

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