Part 1 – How to tag internal campaigns with Google Analytics
Nearly all websites have some type of internal campaign or banner ad on their homepage or other key pages. Whether it is a homepage marquee or tout image boasting free shipping, 4th of July tent sale, free product demo, webcast signup, industry event, etc., all of these onsite banner ads or internal campaigns should be properly tagged, measured and analyzed to maximize the results and optimize your next promotion. If SwellPath decided to promote Free Web Analytics Consulting services, we would certainly want to measure the effectiveness of this campaign to determine how many visitors want our services for free and how much revenue we were losing with each conversion. After watching way too many episodes of Google Analytics TV with Avinash and Nick – you know you’re a nerd when… – I found that correctly tagging internal campaigns was a re-occurring topic and that lots of practitioners may be doing this incorrectly or are not sure of the best way to tag and track internal campaigns.
You may be thinking that you should use campaign tracking parameters to append your internal links and then you can view these in your campaign reports. DO NOT DO THIS. It is highly advised not to utilize this tracking method for internal campaigns. You can cause problems (mixing) with your “true” campaign data by doing this and it is really not the proper use of campaign tracking parameters. Here is an example of some bad advice in the Google Analytics help forum:
There are a few options for properly tagging your internal campaigns: event tracking, custom variables or utilizing internal site search.
Using internal site search for campaign tracking works in a similar way as external campaign tracking. The links would have to be appended with a query string (example: www.site-page.com/?itc=campaign-name&icd=campaign-details) and GA allows for 2 values to be passed through this method. If you choose this option, it is ideal to setup a new profile specifically to capture this data. This will help segment your actual site search data apart from this “fake” site search data. All in all, this method takes a little back end setup and is using a feature in a way that is not its intended use. Justin Cutroni has a good blog post on how to implement site search tracking if you want more details.
When tagging internal campaigns for our clients, we typically recommend event tracking, and in some cases, utilizing custom variables set at the visitor level. Event tracking allows you to capture all clicks on your internal campaigns and offers more flexibility in your naming conventions by making use of the category, action and label values. You can designate your internal campaigns with the category value, use the action value to differentiate banner location on the site and use the label for the creative details and in the example below, add in another positioning reference “R”. One last element that you can place within the tag itself is the launch date of the internal campaign. This is very helpful especially when you are making frequent changes. Annotations in Google Analytics is another place you can note these changes. Below is an example of an internal event tag for Free Web Analytics Consulting for SwellPath would be:
_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Internal Campaigns', 'Homepage Tout', 'R - Free Web Analytics Consulting – May 2019 - 300x250']);
Depending on your unique business case, combining your internal campaigns with a visitor level custom variable can take this tracking a step further. By relating a visitor to a specific campaign message and setting a custom variable at the visitor level, you can create a correlation with interest in your campaign to a purchase that may not occur within a single session. The custom variable will reference a persistent cookie and thus will maintain that the visitor clicked on your campaign if they come back in a subsequent visit and convert.
When it comes time to implement the custom tagging for your internal campaigns, make sure you have your developer build the tags in a way that will dynamically pull in the campaign details into the label. This will cut down on your development time and expenses if you have internal campaign placements that change frequently yet remain in consistent positions throughout your site.
Now that you have your internal campaigns tagged in the most ideal way, you can start collecting data and begin to analyze the effectiveness of your on-site marketing initiatives. You will be capturing data on site position, page position, messaging and creative details. What do you do with all this awesome data….? My next post will shed some light on how to analyze the data and optimize your internal campaigns.