Definitive Guide to Campaign Tracking in Google Analytics (Download!)

I feel pretty confident in saying that campaign tagging is one of the most important functionalities in Google Analytics. Not only does this enable you to track where your traffic is coming from, but more importantly, it allows you to see the effectiveness of your campaigns. Are you reaching your target audience in your twitter feed? Have people clicked on your links when you post to Facebook groups?

I briefly touched on this in a previous post on successful GA implementation but I want to go into a bit more detail and share my approach to UTM tagging, and how it can be helpful in measuring the success of your campaigns.

I have also included a Campaign Tagging Tracker that you can use for your own links!

The Definitive Guide to Campaign Tracking in Google Analytics - Download 

How it works

In its broadest definition, campaign tracking refers to a method of identifying how users discover your site.

When a visitor comes to a site that has Google Analytics tracking installed, GA captures a bunch of information via cookies about that visitor: medium, source, device, name of ex-girlfriend (kidding!) etc. But did you know that you could overwrite that cookie data with your very own custom campaign tags?!

Mind. Blown.

The best part about this is that you don't need to fuss around within your analytics reporting to implement these campaigns.


Why you should create custom campaigns

Campaign tagging is meant for external links pointing back to your own site and is achieved through UTM parameters. UTMs are short text snippets added to the end of a URL, that tracks the success of your marketing efforts. You've probably noticed them when clicking on a link in an article.

Google Analytics requires 3 parameters: campaignsource, and medium (more on this in the next section).


Without campaign tagging, your social, email and other marketing traffic will show up as either referral or direct traffic. For example, if you are running a campaign on non-search or social sites, those links will be grouped in with the rest of your referral traffic.

Also, if you don't take the time to manually tag your campaigns, then referrals from social sites (FB, Twitter) will show up as either Social or Referral in GA. It's best to have some uniformity in your reporting.


If you send out an email and a user clicks on a link within that application, the data that gets passed to analytics would show up as (none) because no referrer data gets passed.

This will happen regardless of whether your users click on email links through webmail providers (like Gmail), or your if they view that email in an application (such as Mail or Outlook).

So if you've got a newsletter and you're promoting your products through your emails, that's tons of traffic not being reported in your analytics!

Setting up parameters

As I mentioned above, GA requires a minimum of 3 parameters. These three parameters basically answer 3 keep questions:

  1. Where is the traffic coming from?
  2. How is it coming to my site?
  3. Why is coming to my site?

I'm going to try to make myself useful by explaining what each of them are.


The source is the origin of your traffic (i.e. twitter or ).

For example: you've probably seen incoming traffic from the source '', which is Twitter's link wrapper. By adding a source parameter, you get to tell your analytics to identify the source as "twitter" instead, which is easier to identify and just plain makes sense.

It's all about CONTROL.

Without campaign tagging, you'll see your sources as either direct, referral, or organic.

These descriptions are straight from the ancient Google Analytics Blog:

  • (direct)[(none)] - Visitors who visited the site by typing the URL directly into their browser. 'Direct' can also refer to the visitors who clicked on the links from their bookmarks/favorites, untagged links within emails, or links from documents that don't include tracking variables (such as PDFs or Word documents).
  • [referral] - Visitors referred by links on other websites. (Links that have been tagged with campaign variables won't show up as [referral] unless they happen to have been tagged with utm_medium=referral. )
  • [organic] - Visitors referred by an unpaid search engine listing, e.g. a search.


It is important not to confuse the medium with the source.

The medium is the general category of the source of your traffic (organic, cpc, or referral) and tend to be broad:

  • email
  • social
  • affiliate
  • banner
  • etc, etc


Campaign name is -- wait for it -- the name of your campaign!

Easy peezy. However, the key to this parameter is consistency.

Your campaign names should be narrow-ish so that you can easily identify them months out. An example would be something like 'august+2016+newsletter' (the '+' signs translate into spaces in GA) instead of something ambiguous like 'email+newsletter'.

URL Builder

OMG look at how much Google loves you! They've got a URL link builder so that you don't have to worry about manually plugging stuff in (because we are lazy, lazy creatures), AND so that you don't screw up your links with typos which would render all your efforts useless.

It is very important to not that these UTM parameters are cAsE sEnSiTiVe!

Your link will look something like this:

utm_source=Twitter ≠ utm_source=twitter

Ya dig?

Stick to one of these naming conventions if you want to live your best life

  • This is upper PascalCase: SomeSymbol
  • This is lower camelCase: someSymbol
  • This is snake_case: some_symbol
  • This is whatever-case: whatever-i-like-using-dashes

Campaign Reports

Because Google loves you, GA packages all of this data up nicely for you under Acquisition > Campaigns


Under Primary Campaign click on Secondary Dimension and type in "source" and click on Source/Medium. 


You will see a list of hits your site has received as a result of your campaign efforts. This is super helpful in telling you which sources are the most effective in bringing you traffic. 

There is a lot you can learn from your campaigns. In my case, you can see that promoting my free SEO course drives the most traffic to my site, but that Facebook promotion is more effective than Instagram. 

Some other conclusions I could come to is that my video tutorial is still a consistent driver of traffic and perhaps I should consider creating more video tutorials.

You get the idea.


Mistakes to avoid

There is one place that you definitely do not want to include campaign tagging, and that is within your OWN site. That is literally the worst thing you can do.

Here's why: let's say a user navigates to your site from Twitter, and once on your site, clicks onto a banner link with an internal UTM code (utm_medium=navbar and utm_source=topbanner)...guess how that user will show up in your analytics?

Not as a social referral, but as YOU. Effectively ruining your data. Sad face.

A better way to track internal links would be through Events, a topic for which I will save for another post.

Your turn

If you haven't already, download my Campaign Tagging Tracker. Once you find yourself utilizing UTM codes, you're going to want to keep it organized.

Try implementing UTM codes to your social media profiles. If the long, ugly link scares you away, use

This was a fairly long post and I hope that I was able to give you a better understanding of UTM codes and how they help your reporting.

If you've got any questions or comments, please sound off in the comments.

The definitive guide to campaign tracking in Google Analytics. FREE Campaign Tagging Tracker Download included - Eleven + West The definitive guide to campaign tracking in Google Analytics. FREE Campaign Tagging Tracker Download included - Eleven + West