Want Better Google Analytics Data? Learn To Tag Your Campaigns!

One of the most important hurdles to tackle before analyzing data is collecting clean and correct data. There are many ways to make your data more accurate; tagging is one of them.

Although the correct tagging of your campaigns seems something basic, I still see a lot of companies and websites that aren’t tagging at all or do it in a wrong way. In this article, I will explain the major tagging issues and how to tag correctly.

Campaign Tagging Problems

The most important issue with tagging your campaigns is the involvement of many different colleagues and partners.

With the implementation of a Google Analytics code or the configuration of goals, you are most of the time depending on one or two people.

With the tagging of your campaigns, often multiple people are involved because the search marketer, affiliate marketer, email marketer, display marketer, social marketer, external banner, display partners, etc., all have to tag their campaigns. More people involved means a bigger chance for errors. Even if all of your colleagues are tagging, it is unlikely that they all use the same notation.

For example, email marketing can be described as e-mail, email, Email, E-mail or mail. If not everyone is using the same notation, Google Analytics will report multiple notations for the medium email marketing. This makes a correct way of analyzing the data more difficult.

The use of capitals can be solved by configuring lowercase filters on the different parameters. These parameters will make sure that the mediums email and Email will return in Google Analytics as email.

More on the use of lowercase filters can be found here: http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55593.

To solve the different notations of the word email, a tagging plan is required. (Although this could also be done by the search and replace filter, I would recommend using a clear tagging plan.)

Create A Tagging Plan

Most of the people who read Search Engine Land understand what campaign tagging is and why it is important; however, some people who have to use campaign tagging don’t. This is exactly why it is necessary to start with an explanation of what campaign tagging is and why it is important.

The next step is to identify all colleagues involved in the campaign tagging process and to make a clear structure of how to tag campaigns.

Before starting with an example, it is important to know that there are five campaign tracking parameters of which three are required (utm_medium, utm_source and utm_campaign):

    • utm_medium: identifies the channel of a campaign (i.e. email, affiliate, display)
    • utm_source: identifies the source within a channel (i.e. name of an affiliate network)
    • utm_campaign: identifies a campaign within one or more sources / channels (i.e. Newsletter April)
    • utm_content: extra parameter for some extra information regarding content (i.e. banner1, textlink2, bottom link)
    • utm_term: is specific for non-AdWords paid search and gives you the possibility to identify the keyword

In the following example, the traffic comes from email marketing, affiliate marketing, display marketing, social media and external partnerships. I will only use the required parameters, but for even deeper analysis you could also make use of the other parameter(s).

Email Marketing


For email marketing, you might use the following tag for your campaigns:


Within Google Analytics, you can then find the collected data for this under All Traffic Source as “newsletter / email”.

Normally the Email Marketing Software that you use can place the tag that you want automatically after all URLs you use for your email marketing campaigns.

Variable parameters

  • utm_campaign is variable

For each newsletter that you send, change the week or month number, so you can identify which newsletter it is. When you analyze the data, click to Campaigns and you can see the results of the different newsletters.

Affiliate Marketing


For affiliate marketing, use the following tag:


Within Google Analytics, you can then find the collected data under All Traffic Source as “commission-junction / affiliate”

Normally, the Affiliate Network you work with can place the tag you want automatically after all Affiliate URLs. They also can make sure the affiliateID is tagged.

Variable parameters

  • utm_source is variable — fill in the name of the Affiliate network you work with.
  • utm_campaign is variable — this will be the affiliateID.

Some examples:

  • utm_source=commission-junction
  • utm_source=clickbank



For partnerships, you might use the following tag:


Within Google Analytics, you can then find the collected data under All Traffic Source as “startpagina / partnerships”.

If you make special deals with a company to promote your product, you of course want to know the results of your investments. You can tag these partners and analyze the results.

Variable parameters: 

  • utm_source is variable. Fill in the name of the partner you work with.
  • utm_campaign is variable. Fill in a specific product promotion or strategic campaign.

Display Marketing


For Display Marketing, you might use the following tag:


This way in Google Analytics, you can then find the collected data under All Traffic Source as “sanoma / display”.

If you make a deal with a Display Network to promote your product, you of course want to know the result of your investment. You can tag these Display Networks and analyze the results.

Variable parameters

  • utm_source is variable. Fill in the name of the Display Network you work with.
  • utm_campaign is variable. Fill in a specific product promotion or strategic campaign.

Social Media

For Social Media, you might use the following tag:


Within Google Analytics, you can then find the collected data All Traffic Source as follows “twitter / social”.

You can track the tweets you send out by adding a tag like above to your URL’s on Twitter. It is also possible for other social media such as Facebook.

Variable parameters

  • utm_source is variable. Fill in the name of the Social Network.
  • utm_campaign is variable. Fill in the name of the tweet.

Please note that this is just a guideline and that you may have to adjust it to get the best results for your marketing campaigns.

When you have finished the tagging plan, send and explain it to everyone involved and keep checking the data. Don’t forget to mention the Google URL Builder for an easy way to create the URL’s.

Please let me know what your suggestions are regarding the tagging of campaigns.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Beginner | Channel: Analytics | How To | How To: Analytics | Search & Analytics


About The Author: is a passionate all-round online marketer and currently works at the internet marketing agency Yonego. Klaas has a specialty in web analytics, conversion optimization and search engine advertising.

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  • http://www.antezeta.com/blog/ Sean Carlos

    Excellent article. I’d just add that there are two more options which might be of interest.

    The first is utm_nooverride=1 which says to credit the first campaign which brought a user to the site for any subsequent conversion.

    The second option is to use a # (URL fragment) instead of a ? to specify the beginning of Google Analytics campaign tracking parameters. This solution is helpful to avoid SEO duplicate content issues but does require extra GA configuration, namely the “_setAllowAnchor” option.

    I’ve created an advanced campaign tracking configurator to facilitate quick setting of campaign parameters, including these options.

  • peter_oneill

    Hi Klaas,

    A couple of other channels to keep in mind with GA campaign tagging are offline marketing (via QR codes or vanity URLs) and the links generated when visitors click on social sharing buttons on your content (different from the link you share yourself).

    I created Excel based tools to help easily generate URLs incorporating GA campaign parameters across all channels (specific ones for social media and paid search) which are freely available at http://bit.ly/pAbI5v. The tools offer the benefits of standardising names used to avoid one of the major campaign tagging issues you describe and you can record all URLs generated too.



  • http://andrescholten.net André Scholten

    A good tip is to take the Google URL builder and rebuild it with some predefined values. Than you have an URL Builder specific for your company. And if people want new sources or campaigns they can ask you to add it.

  • http://searchengineland.com Klaas Knook

    Hi Sean, Peter and Andre! Thanks for the comments, these suggestions will definitely help people with the tagging of their campaigns!

  • http://www.foretaster.com Peter Fabor

    There are many tools better than URL Builder by Google. I like for example this one by Performable: http://super.hubspot.com/url-builder

    I also did my own (with some inspiration by André) – Simple Tag: http://www.foretaster.com/simpletag

    (attention: it’s very very simple :-))


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