How to track custom campaigns accurately in Google Analytics

track google analytics

If you’ve been tearing your hair out trying to figure out which social media channel works best for you, whether using a photo on Twitter vs a simple link attracts more traffic, where exactly on your sidebar a visitor clicked, which part of Facebook they are coming from or whose content strategy is sending most people to your site, then consider properly tracking your social media posts through Google Analytics. It’s very easy and doesn’t require you to be tech savvy.

In this post, I will help you test how tracking works for custom campaigns. I will use free tools provided by Google.

Before going ahead, make sure you are set up for Google Analytics and that you are tracking your traffic through there.

What we’re going to do

First we’re going to discuss the idea behind tracking.

Then we’ll create a unique link for the post you want to track, to make it stand out in Google Analytics. I will use an example from one of my recent posts. You’ll also see how to look at your statistics once visitors have started clicking through.

Let’s first get an understanding of why you need to improve how you track your campaign.

Why track your campaign links

Say you are holding a competition on your blog for readers to play to win a book and you post the link a few times to Facebook in this pattern:

  • Monday 10 February at 5am (a photo of the cover, plus link)
  • Monday 10 February at 12pm (a link and thumbnail, to remind of the competition)
  • Monday 10 February at 7pm (a status update about how many people have entered, plus the link)
  • Wednesday 12 February at 9am (a photo of the author, and the link)

On Friday 14 February you visit Google Analytics and you can see the number of visits to the post and you can even see that they came from Facebook.

You have no way of knowing whether you got more clicks on the original link posted at 5am, or from the links you reposted on Monday at 12pm,  7pm, or on Wednesday. If you don’t believe me, go and check.

Acquisitions > Campaigns or check even Acquisitions > All Referrals

You just know they came to your site from Facebook.

When you track your URL “properly”, you narrow things down. You create a new custom link for each instance that you place the link onto social media. So then you’ll know which link placement worked best.

You’d use Google’s Campaigns URL Builder for this. You’d create a new link for 5am, a new one for 12pm and so forth. You would give them unique identifiers to help Google Analytics separate their hits. Google Analytics will automatically pick up the links, and separate them for you.

Returning to the competition example, when a brand asks you how many people your Facebook page or Twitter sent to the competition, you’ll be able to tell right away.

When you want to know whether the photo of the cover and a link posted at 5am on Monday worked better than the photo of the author and link on Wednesday, you’ll know that as well.

What else to use this tracking for

  • Facebook, Twitter or Google+
  • A blog where you are placing your link to your post (e.g a giveaway linky tool)
  • A newsletter or blog carnival notice being distributed by someone else via email
  • Directories and marketplaces
  • Your QR code posted in various places (ebook, business card, flyer, newspaper advert, t-shirt).

So, with all the above in mind, let’s give it a go.

Step 1 / Find your URL and paste it in Google URL Builder

Go to your live blog post that you want to share. Copy the URL.

Go to Google’s Campaigns URL Builder and paste the URL of your blog post.

Step 2/ Type in the Campaign Source

Be as specific as possible so that 10 months from now you can still remember what you were tracking.

e.g. “Easter Sale Banner” or “Free ebook 12/02/14”

A campaign source could be a giveaway linky. So put the name of the blog hosting the linky.

Step 3/ Type in the Medium

With the Medium field, think of it like identifying the type of vehicle. Was it a car, plain or boat? And then you’ll stick with it for the life of your blog to help Google Analytics make sense when you try to categorise the vehicles. For example, you might later want to see all campaigns that used photos. So, was it a newsletter article, an advert, a free link, a photo, a banner or paid link?

For those hardcore advertisers, complete Term and Content fields. I’d do this only if selling advertisement space and needing to generate reports on your clicks and keywords for those. The more fields, the more you can explore and report on.

For bloggers not tracking adverts, you don’t need to complete Term and Content, but it’s up to you and what you’re reporting on.

Step 4/ Type in Campaign Name then Submit

Here you can give a name to describe your campaign or story.

Click on Submit.

In the end, when you look at your completed form, the words should sort of make up a phrase that describes your link. For example in the one below, I planned to post a link in the Facebook group Aussie Bloggers.

track google analytics

So, when I placed a link in Facebook Aussie Bloggers group, it was with a Photo and the campaign name for this link was Parallax.

If I wanted to use a different photo each time I reposted the link on Facebook, I could have added a description of this photo under Campaign Content, to differentiate which photo. If I wanted to track a different keyword each time, I could have put under Campaign Term.

At the bottom of the photo above, you can also see the code shows once generated. It includes the words you filled in. The code should be different each time you generate a new link, as long as you change the field contents.

Now we’ll use this new link, in Step 5.

Step 5/ Post your link to Facebook (or other place)

Do as usual, just post this new link to Facebook (or other social  media networks, emails or documents). Nothing will be different. It’s just when people click on your link, Google Analytics will tell you which post on Facebook they clicked on.

Step 6/ View your statistics in Google Analytics

After at least 24 hours has passed, as long as Google Analytics calendar has ticked over to the next day, and as long as at least one person has clicked on your link, you can go and check the statistics for the campaign. You would need to log into your Google Analytics to view the reports. (Note: you can set up reports to your email so that you don’t need to log in each time).

Once logged in, go to:

Acquisition > Campaigns

So mine appeared like this below.

If you click on each of the top links (Campaign, Source, Medium or Source/Medium) they should match with what you typed into the URL Builder.

parallax referral and options

All other custom links should also appear here but only recent ones might show. You’ll need to tell Google Analytics which time period you want to analyse. In 12 month’s time, you should be able to recognise your campaigns.

This article uses Google Analytics and Google’s Campaigns URL Builder as current on 19.02.14.

How did you go?

Reader Interactions


    • In that case you would only apply this to campaigns that you really want to track. For example giveaways, your buttons/banners. Especially if paying for space. I placed a QR code on the business card of one of my sites, and handed them out at a bloggers event in 2013 and various pubs for competitions. I looked at the stats last night and more than 30 people had visited my blog from scanning the QR code. I had totally forgotten about it, lol.

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