Last week on Torque, we published an in-depth tutorial on Google Analytics. If you’re new to the world of analytics, this post will certainly get you aquatinted with the topic. Today I’d like to take it a step further, into the world of campaign tracking.
If you listen to the Apply Filters podcast you may have heard Pippin and Brad talking about campaign tracking recently in one of their episodes. They were chatting about how they use it when promoting various WordPress plugin products. I’m going to give you an introduction that explains what it is, why you’d want to use it, and how to get started.
Campaign Tracking 101
Since Google Analytics is the de facto standard for website tracking, this post is focused on tracking with that tool specifically.
As opposed to offline marketing efforts, online marketing allows you to very sophisticatedly track your marketing activities. Ask anyone who’s used software like InfusionSoft, and they’ll tell you just how serious it can get.
The basic idea is to track, in detail, where your visitors are coming from. From there you can review the data and begin to make marketing or budget decisions based on this data, targeting the sources where you get the best results — be that sales, leads, or perhaps content engagement. You may find that traffic from Facebook ads will result in more quality leads than traffic that comes in via another source.
Let’s start with the basics: How to setup campaign tracking for Google Analytics.
Google Tracking URLs
You might have seen these already, perhaps without knowing what they are. If you use services like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor chances are you’re already using them. These types of email systems add tracking variables to your emails when they’re sent.
Here’s what a tracking URL looks like:
There are a number of values that are stored in this URL. These values are set up by you and, in turn passed through to your Google Analytics account. In this example, the source is set to Twitter.com — so it’s a link that I would share on Twitter. The medium is set to social — a good value to use for all of your social media channels. Finally the campaign name is set to Sample.
To learn more about the values and how they should be used, you can refer to this amazing guide: The Definitive Guide to Campaign Tagging in Google Analytics.
Traffic that comes to your site from difference sources can have a unique set of values so you can easily determine where your visitors came from. When you place an add on Facebook you set up the URL specific to that scenario. If you share links on Twitter you’ll need a different set of values.
Here is the same tracking URL as above, but as if I was going to share it on Facebook instead:
These values will automatically show up in your Google Analytics account. If you’re using things like Goals or Conversions, you can then see where the user is coming from as they convert.
How To Create Campaign Tracking URLs
Google has a tool called Google URL Builder, which allows you to fill in your values and then it will autogenerate a tracking URL. If you like the idea of doing this inside WordPress, don’t worry “there’s an app for that” (and by app I mean plugin).
How To Store All Of Your URLs Values
You should set up a means to record your URL values so that when you’re looking at your analytics account you can remember the URL values that you’ve used and use it as a reference when creating new URLs in the future. This will help you maintain consistency — you’ll want to use the same reference for Twitter or your Google PPC ads, for example.
You’ll find that many marketing types keep a spreadsheet that records the values that they’re using so they can be consistent.
The Definitive Guide to Campaign Tagging in Google Analytics also talks about setting up a spreadsheet to keep up with what you’re doing. Look for the link in there that points to a sample spreadsheet on Google Docs — that will get you started.
What Else Can I Do With This Tracking Data?
Well, I’m glad you asked!
I have been interested in this topic for a while. In 2010, I was involved in the development of plugin released in the WordPress repository that did very basic campaign tracking, with a slant. I’ll get to the slant in a moment. Recently, we’ve re-written the entire plugin to make it compatible with Google Universal Analytics.
The data from your URLs with tracking variables is being sent to Google Analytics. Wouldn’t it be great if that same tracking data was available to WordPress, to your website’s forms?
Imagine this: When an enquiry comes through your website, the tracking data is displayed alongside the enquiry so you know exactly where that lead or sale is coming from. Well, that’s the slant or the feature that we’ve developed in our plugin Campaign Tracker for WordPress. Add to that the ability to create campaign tracking URLs from within WordPress and it’s a nice little plugin for anyone getting serious about tracking with their WordPress site.
Time To Start Tracking
Campaign tracking is a long game. You have to start by seeding URLs that point to your website with the tracking variables. Then, as more of your traffic comes from these sources, your Google Analytics account will start to unlock the secrets of your marketing efforts.
Best of luck!