Monday, January 21, 2008

Google Analytics Tagging Best Practices

It's not as easy as it may first seem to get Google Analytics tags right. The decisions you make when assigning names to the various available tags in a campaign have consequences in the reports you are able to make. Getting the tags right allows you to make maximum use of the GA system. Getting them wrong may leave you frustrated when later you cannot get the answers you hoped to get. Trust me, I know this from experience.

Here are a few things that I have learned that have helped me:

1) No Cross Tabs
True cross tabulation is not available (A cross tab is a matrix of values with a one tag on the horizontal and the other on the vertical axis). You can build your own cross tab reports by exporting the data, but that's a time consuming pain-in-the-ass that you probably don't have time for.

Since you can't do a true cross tab, you'll want to plan in advance exactly what reports you want to see.

2) Tag your links the way the system was designed (and use a system yourself)
If you just guess and use whatever tags are seem appropriate at the moment, you'll find that you either end up with inconsistent data later, or the reports don't work the way you hoped.

There are two tags that must be used every time, and one that is highly recommended:

  1. Medium (required)
  2. Source (required)
  3. Campaign (recommended)
Medium: This is used to define HOW the message was delivered; the mechanism or channel type. This is the one value you should NOT make up. GA prefills this in many areas to make out of the box reports work. Wherever possible, you should fill this field with an appropriate existing Google values so that your reports are consistent throughout the interface.

Existing values for medium are:
  • referral - it was a click (paid or not) from a site that was not on a cost per click basis
  • organic - it was a click from an organic search result
  • cpc - it was a paid click, paid on a cost per click basis
There may be others, but these are the most important.

Source: This is should almost always be the name of the site that sent the traffic. The only exceptions are when the traffic did not come from a site (for example, email) or when you have partnered with a site that shows your content on many different sites (for example, an ad network, in which case you would use the name of the ad network.)

Source and Medium are the only two tags that Google lists as required. Another parameter that should ALWAYS be used is campaign:

Campaign: This one should be your internal name for your campaign. I have found two different uses for it, both are valid:
  1. Tracking the results of many different "sources" as one single campaign. For example, say you are running a banner on 5 different web sites. You would tag all of them with their unique source (the web site name), but give them all the same campaign tag. This way you can see all of the sources of traffic within that single campaign to compare the effectiveness of each site.
  2. Tracking results of multiple "campaigns" within a single source. For example, say you are running ads in 5 different categories of a major web portal. You can tag each category as a unique campaign, but leave the source the same in each. This way you can see which category performs best by running a report on the source, and showing the campaign segments.
Other parameters include:

Term: Used for tracking keywords
Content: Should be used for tracking versions of creative

Google has provided a URL builder to assist in creating the actual URLs.

EpikOne has a great Google Anlytics Blog. A good post is their top 5 Google Analytics resolutions for 2007

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