You Did the Work, Get the Credit: Google Analytics Campaign Tagging

Nothing is less fun than doing tons of work only to see someone else steal the thunder. Having someone else take credit for your work is a feeling that most have experienced, yet nobody enjoys. In the online marketing world, properly tagging your efforts and ensuring that tracking is working as expected is the best way to make sure you don’t have to experience that sinking feeling in your gut any longer.

If you are already familiar with URL tagging and just want a great utility to make tagging easier you can skip the read and grab my tagging sheet @ If you are not familiar with tagging, please read on!

Elements of a Tagged URL

To understand how a tagged URL works, it is first important to know how to properly compile a tagged URL. There are a few elements of a tagged URL. Let’s break down a sample URL and examine the various components of a properly tagged URL.

Sample Tagged URL
Sample Tagged URL

The first component of the URL is the domain. With most websites, this will include everything before the question mark (?). However, it is important to note, some websites are using parers to trigger elements on a page, so always look at the URL and make sure that the domain does not already have a question mark in place before you add destination URL tagging. Having two question marks in a URL can cause the tracking to fail.

The question mark is the indicator to start looking for URL parers. When doing destination URL (Campaign) tagging, you are simply setting up parers for Google Analytics to read. The question mark is the signal for Google to start looking for these parers. With Google Analytics, there are three required parers; utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign.

Each parer is set up to be passed a value, in the example above, utm_source is being passed the value of Facebook (utm_source=facebook). Between each parer/value pair is an ampersand (&). The ampersand is telling Google that you are done passing the first parer/value pair and to keep looking as you have another pair coming up for Google to look at.

Valid Campaign Parers for Google Analytics

As mentioned above, there are three required parers to setup when tagging any link for Google Analytics. However, these are not the only accepted parers.  Below is a table of examples as provided by Google.

Campaign Source (utm_source) Required. Use utm_source to identify a search engine, newsletter name or other source.
Example: utm_source=google
Campaign Medium (utm_medium) Required. Use utm_medium to identify a medium such as email or cost-per- click.
Example: utm_medium=cpc
Campaign Name (utm_campaign) Used for keyword analysis. Use utm_campaign to identify a specific product promotion or strategic campaign.
Example: utm_campaign=spring_sale
Campaign Term (utm_term) Used for paid search. Use utm_term to note the keywords for this ad.
Example: utm_term=running+shoes
Campaign Content (utm_content) Used for A/B testing and content-targeted ads. Use utm_content to differentiate ads or links that point to the same URL.
Examples: utm_content=logolink orutm_content=textlink

Let’s take a look at a URL sample that has all of the available Google Analytics campaign parers:


Tools to Make Tagging Easier

Google has a URL builder utility ( which is great when you are building a single URL and want to confirm you have the tagging setup properly.

Google URL Builder

This utility allows you to enter your website URL and all of the values for each parer. With all of the inputs filled in, it will generate a tagged url for you.

When you want to build multiple urls, it is very helpful to have something like an excel spreadsheet that you can use to build lots of urls at once. The spreadsheet I have created and use is please note that you should always test your tagged URLs, the sheet is not perfect, but it does the job and is the best one out there (I may be bias, I made it) To use this link with the shortener functionality, you will need your username and API key.

Custom Bulk Campaign Tagging Spreadsheet

When to Use Campaign Tagging

Campaign tagging should be done anytime you have a link from a marketing effort that you want to track (take credit for). Specific examples often include email marketing, social media posts, display advertising, and paid search. It is important to note with Google AdWords, auto-tagging is often used, and when in place, you do not need to tag the campaign URLs manually. In the case of SEO, most links will NOT be tagged, as links that are occurring naturally are most likely not tagged links.

The End Result, Tag Your Links

Tagging your URLs will help you make better business decisions because you will be able to see evaluate the exact success of each marketing initiative. You also want to get the credit for the hard work you do to make a campaign successful (take credit where credit is due).

Remember, if you don’t tag your URLs properly, PPC traffic can be lumped in with organic traffic in Google Analytics(when auto-tagging is off, or you run PPC on non-Google properties), and the data you get will not be an accurate depiction of how the campaign performed. Thus, the SEO campaign can take the credit for the increase in organic traffic.

Even with social media, it is important to tag the URLs that you share. Analytics can show traffic from Facebook, but not necessarily from what was shared by you (vs. what other users shared). With most social media sites, the only way to properly identify the success of YOUR efforts in Google Analytics is by tagging the URL.

This data will help justify the expense of running a campaign and show what types of content return results. The successful marketer engages with users and is also able to be analytical and understand the ROI of their campaigns. While tagging URLs takes extra time and diligence at the beginning of a campaign, it is essential for getting accurate data and will assist in deciding how to spend your marketing budget in the future.

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