In a prior post, we talked about the importance of using analytics to monitor the performance of your website. In this post we go a little farther to a more advanced aspect of data tracking — campaign tagging. In this discussion we again assume Google Analytics is the platform gathering the data.
If you have properly installed the tracking code on every page of your site, Google Analytics will automatically track all of the referrals and search queries that send traffic to your pages. Each time someone is referred to your site from Google search results, Analytics automatically captures the keyword, the source (in this case, Google), and the medium (organic for unpaid search, cpc for Google AdWords (pay per click advertising on the Google search network or display network)). If you use Google Adwords and you have enabled automatic tagging, the tags are created and the information is gathered automatically as well.
Here’s the important part. In addition to getting information from referrals and queries that are tracked automatically through Google products, you as the website owner or webmaster can manually customize any link to your site (any link that you have the ability to edit) and obtain the same valuable information from those links. Let’s say you run banner or text ads in select placements on the web. Unless you tag the links manually when you create the listing or advertisement, you won’t get the this important information from them. And since now some link shortening services (such as utm.to) are making tagging easy in social media such as Twitter and Google+, it’s getting easier to measure your ROI in social media.
You customize the links you create by “tagging” them with information about your campaign — adding tags to the end of a URL which contain campaign-identifying information. For example, if you were running banner ads on craigslist during the winter, you could add to the code of the link in the banner the tag utm_campaign=january to identify the January campaign, the tag utm_medium=banner to identify the type of ad, and the tag utm_source=craigslist to identify the source as craigslist. The actual link tags would look something like this:
If you get in the habit of manually tagging your ads and links, you can extract the exact campaign, source, keyword, etc. of the traffic from Google Analytics. This is crucial for people who test their marketing, constantly changing it to see what produces the best results. If we didn’t manually tag the link in the above example, we’d have no idea which craigslist ad produced the lead; we’d only know that craigslist was the referrer. But by tagging, we can know exactly which ad is responsible. Obviously campaign tagging is something we recommend you do (or hire someone to do it for you — nudge, nudge). By seeing which campaigns are producing valuable contacts and which are not, you’ll be able to fine tune your marketing even further.
Any questions or feedback about the basics of campaign tagging? Feel free to chime in below!