Google Analytics Tagging Demystified
Ian Lurie Feb 22 2008
Google Analytics, Omniture, WebSideStory and other major analytics packages use tagging. They’re all worth spit if you don’t take advantage of it.
This week I’ve had three clients nearly pop blood vessels over improper tagging by their teams. I thought a practical tutorial might be in order.
Why? Without tagging, the software can’t accurately track performance of paid search ads, banners and other forms of online advertising.
Some of you are already warming up your keyboard to leave me a snippy comment about how clueless I am. Google Adwords, of course, now uses auto-tagging. It’s one exception, I know about it, and you’ll have to keep reading to find a mistake. Sorry.
What’s A Tag?
In the context of web analytics, a tag is something you add to a link. When you click that link and land on your website, the tag passes additional information.
Your web analytics software then uses that tag to match the click to all sorts of things: Where you came from, whether the click was from a paid or organic search result, which specific ad you clicked, etc..
From here on, I’ll use Google Analytics. You’ll need to read the documentation for whichever analytics package you use to learn their tagging system.
Google Analytics Tagging in Action
Take a Yahoo paid search ad:
Terrible PPC Advice
Learn What Not To Do
From the PPC Villain.
In that ad, the link points at www.ppcvillain.com. If I click that link and land on ppcvillain.com, all my analytics software knows is that I came from Yahoo! and searched for a keyword like ‘ppc’. It can’t determine which ad I came from, whether this was a paid or unpaid search, or whether this ad was part of a larger campaign.
Not very helpful.
If I add a tag, though:
Google Analytics can parse this tag and understand that: I came from Yahoo!; I came from a ppc ad, not an unpaid search result; the ad was part of the rotteneggs campaign.
That lets Analytics give me nice, detailed reports that include:
- Which keywords generate conversions;
- Which ads generate conversions;
- The value of a click from a specific ad and/or keyword; and
- The length of the average visit from that ad/keyword/campaign.
It’s Toooooo Haaarrrdddd
Now your eyes have glazed over. You’ve persuaded yourself that it’s OK to not know how your ads are performing, since the alternative involves learning some ridiculously complex tagging system, then being institutionalized for 10 years and writing ‘UTM_SRC’ with a crayon between your toes.
Fear not! Google has their own handy tag builder. It’s right here.
You can create the URL you want in a few easy steps:
- Determine your criteria. What are you tracking? Medium (PPC, banner, e-mail, etc.)? Source (Google, Yahoo, Conversation Marketing)? Ad version (big, small, 1, 2)?
- Create a matrix, assets across, tags down:
- Then tag each asset (fancy adspeak for ‘an ad’) into the URL Builder:
- Click ‘Generate URL’ and then cut-and-paste the resulting link.
That’s it. You’re on your way to tagging glory.
It’s Not Optional
Tags are your most powerful, flexible analytics tool. With them, your analytics software delivers statistics on every ad buy, keyword, ad version and campaign.
Without them, your analytics software is stuck in 1996.
Learn how to use tags. It’s worth it.
Leave questions below…
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Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More