Properly Attributing Email Campaigns in Analytics


All of our online marketing efforts are useless if we don’t act on and improve upon their results. Email marketing continues to be one of the more common marketing strategies.

There are many third-party choices for creating email campaigns and distributing them to lists of prospective customers. Each of them will measure successful deliveries and even click-throughs to your call to action. But is that all you need to measure success? Certainly not.

A Typical Campaign, Simplified

At its basic roots, a typical email campaign needs two basic items:

  1. An email message with compelling content and a good call to action.
  2. A corresponding landing page containing a form or other actionable link that is accessible only from the campaign distribution, yet still linking to other pages of your site.

This page should also contain goal tracking code for your analytics software.

So at its simplest form, a potential customer reads your email, clicks the link – which is counted by your email distributor – sees your landing page, completes the action and you collect the lead. Life is good, right?

But what happens if the visitor doesn’t want to complete the goal you specified. What if the visitor likes what they see but wants more info before filling out your form or clicking a buy link?

Are you measuring other actions the visitor could take? Does your landing page even give them the option to browse other aspects of your site like an about page or terms and conditions? How do you differentiate that visitor’s conversions?

The answer is, you need to tag your inbound links with tracking parameters.

Without tagging, you’re stuck creating a segment for people who started the browsing experience on your landing page. While that is certainly true, what if someone shares that landing page via social networking? What if they bookmark to come back later? What if they use Chrome To Phone and continue browsing via mobile? How do you know the conversions and clicks came from the campaign and not random locations?

Tracking Campaign Links – the Why

Links from your email to your landing page should be tagged to track inbound users. I am constantly asked the same question – why?

Simply put, an email distributor can tell you who clicked the link to your site. However, if that visitor lands on your site and does not complete the primary call to action on that page, but converts a different micro conversion goal, you can’t easily differentiate their actions from those of other visitors.


Email visitors who click a link take two forms. Clicking an email link from within Outlook or another email client opens a new browser window.

Therefore, more often, visitors from your email campaign appear to be a visitor who created a direct entry visit. Those who use web-based email services – like Gmail – appear to be a referral visitor.

Tracking Campaign Links – The How

Creating links you can track is relatively easy. Simply add tracking parameters to your landing page’s URL.

Depending on your analytics software, the parameters you add may be different. Google Analytics, for example, uses utm_campaign to track the campaign name. Omniture uses campaginName and Piwik uses pk_campaign.

Each system has other variables that can be used in tracking. For example, Google Analytics offers variables for referring source (site, affiliate, etc) and medium (email, cpc, referral, etc) and keywords used. Each also offers help and tools for tracking links.

Once you create the customized URL with the appropriate tracking parameters, use it as the link in your email’s call to action.

Campaigns and Actionable Micro Conversions

Similar to your overall site goals, just because a visitor doesn’t convert the ultimate goal of your campaign, doesn’t mean a little relationship building wasn’t done. You should always measure micro conversion goals to see how the visitor interacted with your site.

For an email campaign, these micro conversions could include:

  • Creating a new account (segment based on URL or event).
  • Viewing other product pages (segment based on # of product pages viewed).
  • Reading about your company, policies, terms and conditions (segment on page views).

Moreover, if your campaign’s primary goal was a purchase event, you can also track:

  • Adding to a wish list (segment on URL or event).
  • Adding to cart, but no sale (segment on URL or event).
  • Sharing the product (segment on event).

If you’re tagging your inbound campaign links, attributing the conversions to your campaign will be a snap.

Related reading

Five backlink analysis tools
Your new secret weapon for better and robust analytics
A summary of Google Data Studio Updates from April 2019
What defines high-quality links in 2019 and how to get them