What if Google Analytics v4 (App+Web) was the best thing to happen to Google Analytics in the last 15 years? Will it finally give all the insights? Can I get free access to GA360? Will it cure cancer? Will it revive Steve Jobs?
All I know is that my data is going to be a lot tastier and scalable very soon – provided I add my credit card.
So you use Mailchimp and designed the ideal e-mail campaign? You felt great about the copy and the visuals and pressed SEND. Great! After your e-mail is sent, Mailchimp provides you with reports and who received the email, who opened it and who clicked it. It also has a section about those pesky unsubscribers. But now you’re thinking:
“That’s great but what if I could track the performance of my e-mail campaigns based on what my subscribers do once they reach my site?”
– every e-mail marketer ever
In this post, I will show you how to integrate Google Analytics tracking with Mailchimp and how to track e-mail performance, with the help of Google Tag Manager.
The year is 2019 and Google Analytics has been around for 13 years, give or take. Longer if you including its ancestor, Urchin. One would think that after all this time, digital marketers would know how to use Google Analytics campaign parameters to accurately track marketing initiatives.
The reality is far from ideal and nearly every client I audit has campaign tracking issues. Is it due to the agency handling campaigns? Is it a technical issue? A configuration issue? Politics? Actual bugs?
What I can tell you is that using Google Analytics campaign parameters is not rocket science and in this post I’ll show you techniques to efficiently measure your campaigns.
Reviewing the basics: UTM parameters
The basic mechanism by which Google Analytics campaign tracking works is by using specific parameters (key/value pairs) in the URL of your campaign’s landing page. These are called UTM parameters and are named UTM after Google Analytics’ ancestor, Urchin; UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module.
In order to properly track campaigns, you need to use three (3) or more Google Analytics campaign parameters in each URLs. Let’s review the parameters available to you:
Which site/company sent traffic
Which marketing method was used to access the site
Which marketing initiative was promoted
Which visual element was clicked
Which keyword was used for paid search
In the example column in the table above, you will notice encoded characters, for instance, %20 instead of spaces. If you are going to use special characters, make sure you encode these values first. When in doubt, use an encoder first.
As mentioned in the table above, you only need one parameter (in theory) but that is far from enough to run decent marketing campaign tracking. My recommendation (and Google’s) is to use at least three parameters:
This means a URL using Google Analytics campaign parameters could look something like this:
Now arguably the values you insert into utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign et al are fair game. As long as you stay away from reserved values as set by Google. Because Google Analytics uses source and medium to pre-build Channel Groupings, you want to stay away from certain keys in utm_medium, such as:
There are more but stay away from the ones above.
Not sure how to handle these URLs? You have 3 solutions:
Got the hang of writing URLs with Google Analytics campaign parameters? Good, let’s move on to seeing how why they can be a bad idea.
“Those UTMs don’t look so good in my URLs”
I have seen my fair share of clients claiming that newsletter recipients don’t click links “with lots of dodgy characters in them”. A fair point. So what can we do about it? We can minimize the amount of Google Analytics campaign parameters in the URL by using one of two methods:
Using a URL shortener
Using the Campaign ID
Let’s explore both methods.
Using a URL shortener
URL shorteners are great because they generate (surprise) a short link after you feed them long, confusing, scary URLs.
When picking a URL shortener, make sure they are going to retain your link long enough for your links to be tracked because they tend to expire.
Using the Campaign ID
The campaign ID is a little-known gem in Google Analytics inherited from the Urchin days, back when you could use lookup table and file imports. It is brilliant in theory and very actionable in practice.
Using the campaign ID relies on the Data Import feature linked to your Google Analytics property. Go to your admin panel in GA and locate Data Import at the bottom of the Property settings column:
Then you will see a list of your data imports for the property. You can have up to 5 imports per property on a free Google Analytics account, more with Google Marketing Platform (360); In my case I already have a few imports set up so you can see my Campaigns and redirects import.
Create a new import and select Campaign data as import type. Once you’ve done that, name the export and the select the views in which data will be affected by the import. Hit save and in the next step select the campaign dimensions you will be replacing based on the ID column. I selected Source, Medium and Campaign.
Next, you need to manage the data structure by getting a schema (template for the CSV you will be generating.
Below is a sample of my import:
Top Contributor EN
Top Contributor FR
Whenever i use a URL with utm_id=tcen in links in posts on the Advertiser Community, as soon as the Google Analytics hit for that URL is processed, Google will populate the values “google”, social” and “Top Contributor EN” in source, medium and campaign respectively. Note that I don’t need to encode 😉
OK so let’s say you hit a wall with someone who doesn’t want to use utm_ variables “because Google can be hacked” or something. Actually this is somethgin that can happen when you migrate from another analytics stack over to Google Analytics and you have to capture old campaign tracking parameters. Actually, what I described with Campaign ID has been a native feature of Adobe Analytics, Webtrends and others.
Anyway, assuming you want to use sid instead of source, mid for medium id and cid for campaign id, you can change your Google Analytics tracking code to look for alternative parameters.
In Google Tag Manager, this is easily achieved by frist creating a variable to capture URL query element sid then assinging that variable to “Fields to set” in a page view tag or – better – in a Google Analytics Settings variables.
Once you have your campaign URL, paste it in your links and wait for people to click.
If there is an unsung hero in Google Analytics, it is definitely something called content groups (or content grouping). Never heard of it? It is hiding in plain sight, in your Google Analytics view settings, and can be set up in a couple of clicks. Once content groupings are set up, you will always want to use them 🙂
Ready? Get some coffee, snacks, and let’s go build some content groups.
Nothing is more annoying than visiting a website and getting spammed by pop-ups, right? I’m pretty sure your users resent that too so if you’re a digital marketer, you are not always in control of how some partner tags get fired. What if you could set up engagement-based triggers to add another layer of control? What if you could control tags based on page count?
In today’s post we’ll be looking at how to set this up with Google Tag Manager by using a simple rule to store and increment the number of page views in a cookie. Then we’ll build a trigger that fires tags after a set number of pages have been viewed.
So your website is equipped with Google Tag Manager (good). But your webmaster/IT contact is AWOL/bankrupt/defunct (bad). On top of that, let’s assume that you’re trying to debug something complex such as an e-commerce transaction but you have no way to place test orders to perform basic debugging. Long story short: debugging Google Tag Manager can prove tricky! But fear not, here is one reliable method you can use!
You will be happy to learn that you can now embed DataStudio reports into your web pages.
If, like me, you are a Google Data Studio junkie/power user, you may have felt frustrated by the lack of report embedding and integration into websites such as intranets.