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Keeping Your Google Analytics Clean, Part 1: Campaign Tracking

Published: August 16, 2017

Author: Jack Pace

With digital analytics, catching problems early is key. If problems continue, important data points can run amok and leave you unable to properly attribute a sale to the appropriate channel. I am starting a series of blog posts revolving around the common issues we see with Google Analytics implementations.
In this post, we will focus on one of the most important portions of Google Analytics: Campaign Tracking! With the techniques illustrated in this series, you will be able to have more confidence when interpreting your analytics data. Stay tuned for other topics such as Initial Implementation, Migration, Ongoing Administration, Ecommerce, and more!

Campaign Tracking

This is one of the most important parts of Google Analytics and where you should spend some time making sure you are all set from a campaign tracking perspective. Most of Google Analytics tracking is out of the box and works from the moment you implement the tracking script. There are a few things that need to be done to ensure that your campaign tracking is clean and consistent. In this blog post, we will discuss UTM tracking as well as other common pain points we see mucking up campaign tracking!

UTM Parameters

Or Urchin Tracking Module Parameters (Google it 🙂 – you’re in for an interesting history lesson) are crucial to tracking your marketing activities in Google Analytics. Below are a list of the common UTM parameters and their values description:

  • Utm_source: the referrer (ex. Google, Yahoo, Bronto, Facebook)
  • Utm_medium: marketing medium (ex. cpc, email, social)
  • Utm_campaign: campaign name (ex. fall_2017_campaign)
  • Utm_content: ad copy used to differentiate ads (ex. ad_3, ad_4)
  • Utm_term: Keyword – this is especially used in Paid Search campaigns

It is important for all links pointing to your site to be tagged with UTM parameters so that site performance can be measured properly in Google Analytics and visits and conversions get attributed to the right channel. For Google AdWords, there is the Auto-Tagging option, which is a very useful tool so you don’t have to worry about URL parameters. But make sure your AdWords is linked to each view you plan on doing your analysis in.
Internal site links should not be tagged with UTM parameters because they will steal credit!  Instead, make use of the following URL parameters:

  • Int_source: the referrer (ex. Blog, Help, Support)
  • Int_medium: marketing medium (ex. banner, article)
  • Int_campaign: campaign name (ex. blog_article_123)
Example Scenario:

Your marketing team is driving paid traffic to a blog post that you are hoping will drive people to the shop with an intention of purchasing a product. On that blog, you have a link taking people directly to the product page:
When someone clicks on that link, or any link containing an int_ parameter, fire a Google Analytics event tag and pump those int_ parameters into the event category, action and label.

  • Event Category: int_source=blog
  • Event Action: int_medium=banner
  • Event Label: int_campaign=blog_123

Internal Referrers

Internal referrers can often be the cause of attribution stealing. For instance, if you have a login page or a signup page that (for some reason) is not allowed to have Google Analytics tracking code on it, it can lead to credit being stolen if the Domain of that “middle man site.” A common example of this is with PayPal in the checkout process. If the checkout flow has the option to use PayPal as a checkout platform, and traffic is being diverted to paypal.com for checkout then back to the main site for order confirmation, the credit for that order would go to paypal.com/referrer. 

In order to fix internal referrers, update your Referral Exclusion list with a list of domains you would like excluded. Adding a domain “example.com” will remove all subdomains. Please note that this is not retroactive.


Redirects can be secret killers to campaign tracking. Teams will often implement redirects to append a trailing ‘/’ to the end of urls, move from http to https, or move a landing page entirely. If the URL parameters are not persistent over to the new landing page, the credit for the visit will not be allocated correctly. In order to fix this, make sure to persist all URL parameters when implementing a redirect on a landing page.
Stay tuned for more helpful tips and tricks for keeping your Google Analytics clean in the following blog posts in the series. Some upcoming topics:

  • Enhanced Ecommerce
  • GA via GTM Best Practices
  • Event Structure

If you have a topic that you would like covered, comment below!

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