Campaign Tracking: A Vital Analytics Tool for Marketers

A vital component in understanding the performance of any digital marketing campaign is having proper campaign tracking in place. Without it, it's very difficult – if not impossible – to collect accurate campaign data that will allow for analysis and optimization to occur.

What is Campaign Tracking?

measuring-campaign-effectivenessCampaign tracking are a series of parameters that are appended to a link that points to a given website. The parameters are then associated with each visitor who clicks the link. This allows the website to track the user behavior related to any combination of the parameters.

Unless the parameters are utilized correctly, the data that is collected by the web analytics tool may not provide the insights that were expected due to an inability to accurately analyze the data. For the purpose of understanding how parameters are applied, we'll use Google Analytics as an example.

Google Analytics has five parameters that can be used to form a campaign tracked URL. They are:

  • Source: The website or other referrer where the click is coming from.
  • Medium: The type of link that was clicked. (e.g. ppc, social, email, organic, etc.).
  • Term:  The keyword that the user searched for.
  • Content: The version of the ad that was clicked on. 
  • Campaign: The name of the campaign that is associated with the click.

Each of these parameters gives a bit of information about how the visitor got to the website. When the parameters are put together, a clear picture emerges. When the data is then aggregated across many visits, great insights can be gathered about how any combination of parameters impacts business objectives.

A full campaign URL would look something like this:

http://www.example.com/?utm_source=myfavoritesite&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=widget&utm_content=ad1&utm_campaign=buymyproduct

Why is Campaign Tracking Important?

Without campaign tracking, it’s nearly impossible to accurately track campaigns. If campaigns aren’t being accurately tracked, there is no way to know if a campaign is successful or if it is wasting money.

For example, if a company runs a Facebook ad campaign that drives visitors to their website, they would want to know the impact that the campaign had on their defined business objectives. To do this, the company needs to be able to segment the paid Facebook traffic that comes to their site via the campaign from all other Facebook referred traffic.

Similarly, the company may want to segment visitors from Facebook who were referred through links that they themselves posted on the wall of their companies Facebook page or even visitors who came to the site via a Facebook app that the company created.

Without campaign tracking, all visitors who are referred from Facebook get lumped into the same bucket. Only through the use of campaign tracking can the company truly understand the impact that each Facebook initiative has on the business.

Issues with Non Standardized Campaign Parameters

Beginning to use campaign tracking across the entire organization will provide significantly better data, but there is often a major problem with how campaign parameters are used throughout an organization.

The problem arises when different people use different variations of the same parameter. This can be illustrated using the same Facebook example. The person who is in charge of the Facebook ad campaign may use “Facebook” as the Source in the campaign tracking. The person who engages with fans on the company’s wall may use “facebook” as the Source and the person who added the links in the company’s Facebook app may have used “Facebook.com” as the Source.

The result is that each of the sources that were defined in the campaign tracking will now show up separately in the referral source report in Google Analytics. This makes for messy tracking and an inability to easily aggregate across all the Facebook initiatives.

How to Get Clean Campaign Data?

The solution is to standardize the parameters that are available for use in campaign tracked URLs. This, however, can be difficult unless you have a tool to manage the parameters that can be used in a campaign tracked URL.

You could attempt to create one using Excel or even through Google Docs, but that may not be a viable solution to use across an organization. There’s also a new free campaign URL tracking tool from Social Snap that allows companies to standardize URL parameters along with a number of other features to help improve the management of campaigns and the accuracy of the resulting data.

If you know of other tools that take the next step from just creating campaign URLs to storing them and managing the use of the campaign parameters, let me know in the comments section.

About the author

Nathan Linnell is the Director of Analytics at Social Snap, an integrated social media measurement and analytics product.  He has focused his career in the field of analytics, particularly in integrated analytics and applying metrics toward business solutions. Since Nathan became involved in digital marketing, he has incessantly focused on utilizing the vast amount of available data to make data driven decisions that help boost the performance of online marketing campaigns, PPC and SEO efforts, Web site performance, and social media programs.

Nathan’s expertise covers a wide spectrum of analytics including Google Analytics and other site metric system, social media metrics, PPC, and more. Nathan has helped a wide range of organizations to improve their business performance through analytics from small startups to large organizations spending millions of dollars per month on digital marketing.