When I am constructing Google Analytics reports and audits or working with a new client and really digging into their data one of the first things I notice is either an inconsistent tracking system or a lack of tracking at all.
This inevitably leads to my first recommendation.
And then my second recommendation…
Track all your links.
I mean it. Track all your links. Always.
But what if I don’t know how to track my links?
Well, I am going to show you how to do that — but before we get into how to track links to your site in Google Analytics…
Why should you track your links?
It is important to create tracking links anytime you are posting a link that directs back to your website. This way you will be able to identify which links are driving traffic to your site, what content is compelling your audience to click through, and what that audience is doing once they get to your site.
Tracking links are most often used on social media sites and paid ads, but they really can and should be used in many more circumstances.
When you look at your website’s Google Analytics data, you can find out which social media networks are driving traffic to your website and which pages those social networks are driving traffic. But what you can’t find out from standard Google Analytics reports is the specific link that drove the traffic to your website.
Was it a link in a Tweet or the link from your Twitter bio?
Was it a click from a link that you shared on your Facebook Page or was it from an ad?
Was it a click on a link shared in a LinkedIn Group or in someone else’s LinkedIn news feed?
You just don’t know unless you use tracking links.
What are tracking links?
Tracking links are just like normal links, but they have a few coded tags on the end of the link. Those tags are called UTM Parameters.
UTM parameters are not very complicated at all, and anyone can learn to create them. They are simply tags at add to the end of the URL tell Google Analytics more about a link that someone clicked to get to your website.
There are a total of five UTM parameters that you can add to your website links. These three are the required UTM parameters and generally the most important:
- Campaign Name
- Campaign Source
- Campaign Medium
The Campaign Name (utm_campaign) parameter tells Google Analytics how to group traffic from a specific campaign you are tracking. An example of a campaign name could be the title of a blog post that you posted about on Facebook.
The Campaign Source (utm_source) parameter tells Google Analytics where traffic originates from. A couple of examples of sources could be google, Facebook, Instagram, or MailChimp.
The Campaign Medium (utm_medium) parameter tells Google Analytics the type of traffic source traffic originates from. A couple of examples of mediums could be organic, social, email, or paid.
Note: Google Analytics uses standard sources and mediums for all traffic to your website, regardless of whether you specified a custom campaign.
The two optional UTM parameters are:
- Campaign Term
- Campaign Content
The Campaign Term (utm_term) parameter tells Google Analytics the keyword you use to target paid ads. This is mostly linked to Google AdWords campaigns, although you can use them for any custom campaign.
The Campaign Content (utm_content) parameter tells Google Analytics the type of ad that someone clicked upon. This is mostly linked to Google AdWords campaigns, although you can use them for any custom campaign.
I generally use the campaign content parameter more than the campaign term parameter. I would use that if I was linking to the same piece of content from the same source, say for example posting blog post links in multiple Facebook groups that you participate in. The campaign content parameter would be a good way to differentiate that traffic.
Now that you know the parts that make up a tracking link… We can learn how to create them.
How to create tracking links
There are two main options to create a tracking link. The first being using this tool from Google. It is an online tool where you can put in all the different tracking parameters and it produces a fancy tracked link.
The second option and my personal favorite is to have an Excel document with a formula to automatically create the links for you. I prefer this option because it allows you to keep a log of all your past links and what tracking parameters you used on them. This makes it much easier to find specific campaigns and posts in your historic Google Analytics data.
To make things easier you can download an Excel template here to create and keep track of your tracking links.
Put in your email address to download your Google Analytics campaign tracking Excel template.
Be sure to check the help tab in the downloaded template if you need instructions or examples of tracking links.
Here are a couple of examples of the tracking links:
http://yourwebsite.com/blog/new-blog-post/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=facebook+group&utm_campaign=new+blog+post http://yourwebsite.com/blog/new-blog-post/?utm_source=mailchimp&utm_medium=email&utm_content=header+link&utm_campaign=newsletter http://yourwebsite.com/?utm_source=gmail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=email+signature
I use bit.ly for all my link shortening needs. It is very easy to set up an account and it integrates easily with a bunch of other apps. They allow you to use your own branded short domain so you can keep everything under one cohesive brand.
Best situations to use tracking links:
- Social media posts
- Instagram bio & all social media bios for that matter
- Paid digital ads
- Print ads (use a link shortener to make it easier to type in)
- Email newsletters
- Email signature <– everyone forgets about the signatures
- Guest posts
- Sponsored posts
Where is the data in Google Analytics?
Everywhere! That’s where.
In all of the Google Analytics reports you can use the Secondary Dimension to segment the data in whichever report you choose.
So, for example, you want to see what campaigns people are visiting your site from either a desktop, tablet or mobile device.
Go to the device report: Audience > Mobile > Overview.
Click the secondary dimension drop-down, find the campaign dimension (I like to just type it into the search box as that is faster), and click on it. The report will refresh and now you have all that data to look at and evaluate.
This process can be recreated in any of the reports using any of the UTM Parameters as the Secondary Dimensions.
Another option is using the UTM Parameters as the primary dimension.
An example of that would be figuring out what campaigns are driving traffic from social media.
Go to the device report: Aquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Click “Social”.
In the Primary Dimension menu, click the Other drop-down, select the campaign dimension. Once the report refreshes, you can evaluate what campaigns are driving traffic from social. If you wanted to get even more granular you could click on an individual social network before changing the Primary Dimension.
The number of reports and data that Google Analytics collects can be overwhelming.
And now with this post, I am showing you how to collect even more data in Google Analytics.
Because the more complete your data is the better you can use it to make decisions to grow your business.
To keep from getting overwhelmed, I will leave you with one final tip.
Don’t just blindly stumble through the reports because you won’t gain any actionable insights and it is easy to spends hours in there.
By going in with a question you can focus your time and effort on just the reports and data that would answer that specific question.
As always, feel free to contact us with any questions regarding Google Analytics and how to make your data work for you!