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All About Google Analytics Custom Campaigns

ga-imageIt’s truly amazing how many tools Google offers to help businesses with every aspect of online marketing from search engine optimization and paid search to campaign management and analytics, and everything in between. In fact, one of the best Google tools on the market to help you easily track your website data is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a free tool that allows you to easily track all of the following information:

    – Traffic patterns and trends
    – Visitor engagement
    – Keyword data
    – Online ad success
    – Conversions
    – Referral traffic
    – Etc.

While Google Analytics offers all of this information to help online marketers learn which of their marketing efforts are working, and which are not, it doesn’t automatically track exactly which of your campaign links are driving the most traffic. For example, you may see that you got referral traffic to your website from Twitter, but it won’t tell you which of your Tweets led someone to click through to your website.

This information is not available, unless you go the extra mile and create a custom URL for each of your campaigns.

That’s right, Google has yet again wowed us with their forethought by providing a tool that will in fact tell you which of your Tweets, Facebook posts, banner campaigns, newsletters, paid search ads, Google+ posts, etc. led someone to click through to your website. It just requires a few more moments of your time in order to assign a custom URL to your campaign. You can do this by either using your own code savvy, or Google’s URL Builder.

How does a Custom URL work?

First things first, it’s important to talk about how a custom URL even works, and what tracking information is available in each custom URL. In order to capture more descriptive data about where your referral traffic is coming from, Google allows you to add a custom tag to any URL that you own. This custom tag includes a short description of the source, medium, campaign, term, and/or content (more about this below). Each of these descriptors give you specific insight about where your traffic is coming from in order to help you learn which of your campaign efforts are driving the most referral traffic.

Campaign Set-up and Parameters

In order to set up custom URL campaigns, Google allows you to add a series of 5 separate parameters to the end of your URL (some of them are required and some of them are not required). You can either set up these parameters manually, or use a tool provided by Google to do it for you.

If you opt to set-up the custom URL yourself, Google instructs you to follow these steps:
– Separate the parameters from the URL with a question mark
– Separate values and variables with an equals sign
– Separate each variable-value pair with an ampersand
– Keep in mind that analytics is case sensitive

When all is said and done, your custom URL will look something like this:

If you are not into creating custom URLs for each of your campaigns on your own, you can opt to have Google do it for you. This is a much easier option and will save you a lot of time, especially for novices.

To get your custom URL from Google, fill out the required information in Google’s URL Builder, and fill in the parameters with descriptions that make sense to you. Here is a quick breakdown of the 5 parameters Google requests.

1. Campaign Source (utm_source) – This is where you list the method of traffic coming to your website such as Google, Bing, blog, newsletter, online directory, etc.

2. Campaign Medium (utm_medium) – This describes how you plan on sharing your content. For example, are you sending out a Tweet, updating your Facebook account, sharing a Google+ post, sending out an e-mail, pinning your content on one of your Pinterest boards, etc.?

3. Campaign Term (utm_term) – Are you paying for any keyword terms? If so, this field is where you would identify specific keywords. Keep in mind, the campaign term category is not used for social media marketing or organic keywords, only paid search ads. Because of this, you will notice this is not a required field in Google’s URL Builder.

4. Campaign Content (utm_content) – This category is also optional, but is an excellent way to differentiate between similar content, and/or different links within the same advertisement or page of content. For example, if you are testing out two separate types of ad copy, and you want to see which ad gets a better response from your target audience, you can use the same link, but learn which ad is performing better by adding a utm_content tag with distinct titles.

5. Campaign Name – Campaign name can be any descriptor that will help you easily recognize and track your custom URL. Use whatever name appeals to you most, and helps you remember what campaign you are tracking.

Once you have filled out the form, simply click “submit” and Google will return your custom URL. Below is a picture of what Google’s URL Builder looks like.

Tips to get more out of your custom URL

While creating a custom URL is a great way to really understand exactly where your traffic is coming from, there are some additional tips that will help you get the most out of your campaigns—be they social media campaigns, e-mail marketing campaigns, AdWords campaigns, etc.

1. Link your Google Analytics and Google AdWords accounts – If you are running a paid search campaign through Google and want to track your data more easily, you can actually link your Google AdWords and Google Analytics accounts. Once you link your accounts, Google will automatically track your campaigns for you, saving you the trouble of manually tagging your AdWords destination URLs.

In order to enable auto-tagging in your Google Adwords Account, you simply have to sign in, click on the gear icon, select “Preferences” under the “Account Settings” tab, and then edit the “Tracking” section. From the tracking section, you can easily enable or disable your auto-tagging by clicking the “Destination URL auto-tagging” checkbox, and saving any changes.

While this saves you a ton of time, keep in mind that enabling auto-tagging only works for campaigns run through Google. This means if you are running a campaign through Bing, and independent blogging site, or other source, you will still need to manually tag your URL.

2. Shorten the link before posting it – Once you have received your custom URL, use an online link-shortening program like This helps keep your link looking sharp and also helps you save space on platforms where characters are counted like Twitter. Shortening the link will simply take the large and descriptive custom URL you have created and make it much easier on the eyes. It will also hide your data tracking information from the public eye.

3. Include a description when posting your link on social media sites– One of the best ways to get people to click on your custom URL is to quickly and succinctly tell them what your content is all about, instead of just posting the link. If you provide a quick and catchy description, you have a much higher chance of compelling your readers than if you simply post your link and hope people click on it.

4. Include an image when posting your link on social media sites – Another great way to draw attention to your custom URL is to add an image. It’s true that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so make sure to add an image to your post.

5. Only use parameter tags that you need – As mentioned previously, there are 5 different parameters Google requests, but you don’t need to use all of them in every instance. A great way to save time and to stay organized is to only tag what you need in order to glean the information that you need to run a better campaign. For example, if you are running a social media campaign, and plan to post a link to the same content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+, you can keep all of the information the same, and simply change the “Campaign Source” field. This will save you time, and yet still help you differentiate which social media platform is bringing you the most traffic from that particular post.

6. Use an online reporting dashboard – It’s important to remember the number 1 reason for creating and sharing a custom URL is to make your analytics reports easier to read and understand. Anytime you can cut down on the time it takes to break down your analytics and really understand your metrics, it can save you time, money, and help you refine your campaign.

Another way to cut down on your analytics time and access information about your custom URL is to use an online reporting dashboard. An online reporting dashboard will help keep your information organized and help you quickly access the information that you need to improve your campaigns.

For more information about creating and analyzing custom URLs, contact us at today.


Chris Sparks, iSpionage Director of Marketing
Chris Sparks, iSpionage Director of Marketing
Chris is an online marketing and content strategist here at iSpionage building awareness and engagement within our target markets. Connect with Chris or on Twitter.