How to use Google Analytics for email campaign tracking
In this series of Smart Insights Best Practice Advice, Dave Chaffey of SmartInsights.com shares tips on best practice to get better results from digital marketing. This week, Dave provides a short how-to and example showing how to track your email marketing campaigns by tagging links in your email with Google Analytics.
I was prompted to write this how-to post since some email marketers I speak to during Email Marketing training courses, use Google Analytics, but weren’t aware it can be used for email tracking “beyond the click”. They were also unaware that once email is tagged, Advanced Segments can be used to isolate visitors referred from email to understand their preferences and behaviours. This really helps prove the value of email for your list members and to your company particularly if you have goals setup in Google Analytics.
You should also be aware when selecting an email broadcasting system that many email providers have added functionality to make it easy to track with Google Analytics or other web analytics systems such as Omniture. Check with your Email Service Provider to check whether they support automated link tracking. Here you setup the campaign tracking tags within the email system rather than having to manually add them to the links or write your own scripts as we do as described below.
About email campaign tracking ‘beyond the click’
“Beyond the Click tracking” is the tracking that occurs once the visitor has clicked through from your email to the website.
It is where your web analytics tracking tool can take over the tracking or your email system may be able to track if you have tracking code from your email system on your webpages to review interaction with different pages or outcomes such as leads or sales.
When selecting new email services it’s well worth checking what your email provider offers support for tracking website visitors and conversion points and automatically tagging email campaigns with analytics campaign tracking – it’s very tedious otherwise.
All sites will use a standard web analytics solution such as Google Analytics, Omniture, Coremetrics or Webtrends and if you have a standard coding for campaign tracking you will be able to track your email. Here we look at Google Analytics – if you setup email campaign tracking in this way or via your ESP I recommend you create a custom Advanced segmentwhere you isolate visitors from email (or different types of email) so you can understand how they behave and convert.
Recommended email campaign coding / tagging with Google Analytics
To learn about the principles of tracking campaigns, read this other post which introduces tracking campaigns in Google Analytics.
To setup email tracking, the links from your email to the landing pages should be tagged with standard campaign tracking parameters. These are up to 5 “name-value” pairs which are part of the query string for the URL (denoted by everything after the “?” in the web address as in the example below). FWIW, UTM refers to the “Urchin Tracking Module” on which Google Analytics is based.
Here is an example tagged URL (split across several lines):
For Email marketing the parameters I recommend are:
- utm_medium – medium used for marketing, i.e. email
- utm_campaign – campaign name, e.g. EnewsNovember
- utm_source – This is usually the media owner, but for email marketing can be used to specify the source of email list or type of email, e.g. HouseList, Welcome email, Abandoned-basket, etc
- * utm_term – In AdWords used to identify the keyword used to trigger the ad, can be used in email marketing to identify individual links (optional), e.g. Offer1, can be based on click text summary
- * utm_content – Used to track an individual or segments response (optional), this could be based on any field in database, e.g. user-id, user email, etc.
Note that term and content are optional.
If you want to try setting up Google Analytics, try the Google URL Builder that enables you to add the parameters for a destination page from your email campaign.
Once you know how this work it’s straightforward to create a spreadsheet for creating links, but it’s really laborious to copy and paste, so for an enewsletter it’s best to write a script that creates an HTML page with tagged links included – that’s what we do for our Enewsletter since our ESP doesn’t automatically support tagging.
Here is a guide from an email service provider giving an example of email tracking in Google analytics [PDF]
Staying within Google’s terms of service on privacy
Some commentators have recommended that you should use someone’s email address to in the &utm_content field. Aside from potential privacy concerns, this is personally identifiable info and a no-no according to GA’s terms of service (See #7). They also state that you can’t match any clickstream data to any individual user of your site. So issuing each person a unique id and passing that through utm_content is also prohibited.
Dr Dave Chaffey is CEO at Smart Insights (Marketing Intelligence) Limited, a digital marketing portal and consultancy who provide advice and software to help businesses succeed online. He is author of five bestselling books on Ecommerce including Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice and has been recognised as one of 50 marketing gurus worldwide who have shaped the future of marketing.