Campaign Tagging: How To Set Up & Tag Your URLs in 2024

Campaign Tagging: How To Set Up & Tag Your URLs in 2024

Creating a high volume of quality content for your website and social media channels can help you get more online traffic and leads. Because this process takes a lot of work, though, it’s often a good idea to track the URLs you post online and see which ones receive the most engagement. This way, you know exactly where to focus your efforts for the best return on investment. Campaign tagging is a straightforward and free way to do just this.

What is campaign tagging?

Campaign tagging is a way of tracking where your website visitors are coming from—right down to links on individual Facebook posts. These valuable content marketing metrics can help you improve your strategy and return on investment.

Google Analytics is one of the most popular choices for analyzing website data. By default, the Google Analytics code on your website implements a basic level of tracking, using cookies and other identifiers to determine:

  • Where a website visitor came from (Facebook, YouTube, etc)
  • Which pages they visit
  • How long they stayed on your website

This default is very top-level. While you may be able to see that you had 100 visitors arrive from YouTube, for instance, there’s not a good way to tell which video they came from. It’s the same with email campaigns. Google Analytics may show you that you saw 10% more traffic from your email marketing, but you won’t know exactly which messages—or which elements inside of them—prompted people to click.

If you’d like to dig deeper and understand exactly which content resonated best with your audience, you’ll need to implement campaign tags. These unique identifiers are easy to add to any URL you’d like to share online, and can differentiate between platforms, campaigns, content mediums, and more.

Why tagged URLs are important for campaigns

Without campaign URL tracking, you may spend time creating content that isn’t as effective as you thought. This can result in wasted time and revenue.

Let’s say you launch a new marketing campaign that involves guest blog posts, organic Facebook posts, paid Facebook ads, and YouTube videos. Every piece of media includes a link to a special landing page for your campaign. While you may still be able to gather some information about traffic volume and referrals from other websites, there will be a limited level of granularity to the data.

If you implement tagging for marketing campaigns, though, you'll be able to see more specific data about which pieces of content drove traffic. When done properly, campaign tagging can show you things like:

  • Which email newsletters resonated well with subscribers
  • Whether paid or organic video content has a better ROI for your brand
  • Which social media platforms generate the most engagement
  • How engaged your audience is with a particular campaign or funnel
  • If there is a benefit to seeking out guest post opportunities

URL tagging can even provide insights about offline content, such as the number of website visits due to a printed QR code.

If your campaigns aren’t set up correctly, however, you can wind up with a mess of inconclusive data that leaves you more confused than before.

Types of parameters for tagging

Tagged URLs use a series of parameters that provide information about the link’s placement and purpose. These parameters are known as Urchin tracking modules, or UTMs for short. You can identify a tagged URL by the presence of “?utm” directly after the body of a URL. Here’s an example of a tagged URL shared on Upwork’s Twitter page:

UTM Example

As you can see, we’re using three different tag parameters to identify this URL.

Medium

The first tag you’ll want to assign to every link is the utm_medium tag. This is the most broadly encompassing tag, and refers to the type of media on which the link is located. For example:

Link Type utm_medium tag
Facebook post social
Email blast email
Ebook ebook
QR code qr_code
Paid ad cpc

Because the medium tag groups all similar traffic together, you’ll be able to see, at a glance, whether social is outperforming QR codes and vice versa.

Google automatically recognizes some mediums and labels them in Analytics reports. These include:

  • Organic: traffic that arrived, for example, via an online search
  • (Direct): this label appears when someone directly types your URL into their browser
  • Referral: traffic from links on other websites, such as a guest blog post
  • (None): this label appears when Google can’t tell where the traffic originated

Google Ads users may also see “cpc” listed in their Google Analytics reports for traffic that arrived from a paid search ad. This type of auto-tagging only occurs when a paid ad campaign is enabled.

By applying custom medium tags to your URLs, you can reduce the amount of data labeled “(none)” and get more clarity around your website traffic.

Source

Next, you’ll want to assign a utm_source tag to each link. This is the first step in narrowing down the location and placement of a URL. For instance, any links that have “social” as their medium tag should have the name of an individual social media platform as the source.

By default, Google Analytics labels web traffic with the relevant URL as the source. This limited functionality won't work for every situation. Applying your own source tags gives you far more campaign tracking and reporting options.

Here’s what medium and source pairings might look like for the example we used above:

Link Type utm_medium tag utm_source tag
Facebook post social facebook
Email blast email marketing_offers
Ebook ebook kindle
QR code qr_code mailer
Paid ad cpc google

That’s not all, though. It’s important to go at least one step further with the use of a campaign tag.

Campaign

The utm_campaign tag is a way to identify which marketing and advertising efforts your links relate to. Let’s imagine that we’re going to launch a marketing campaign around Black Friday, the U.S. shopping holiday. Continuing our example from above, we could assign a Black Friday campaign tag to every link:

Link Type utm_medium tag utm_source tag utm_campaign
Facebook post social facebook black_friday
Email blast email marketing_offers black_friday
Ebook ebook kindle black_friday
QR code qr_code mailer black_friday
Paid ad cpc google black_friday

Now, when we look at our Google Analytics data, we can see:

  • How well the Black Friday campaign compared to other marketing efforts
  • Which website or link location drove the most engagement
  • Whether our online, print, or email efforts were most successful
  • How organic content compared to paid advertising

Google Analytics does not automatically apply any campaign utm tags—this type of tag must always be set by you.

Additional parameters

If you’d like to get even more specific with your link tagging, you can do so using the content and term tags.

Content

A utm_content tag can be useful when there is more than one clickable link in a given medium, source, and campaign.

For example, if you send an e-commerce marketing email to customers, it may contain more than one call to action (CTA), or include links in both images and text. You can use the content tag to see which type of link attracted the most customer clicks:

Link type utm_medium utm_source utm_campaign utm_content
Email blast email marketing_offers black_friday cta_1
Email blast email marketing_offers black_friday cta_2
Email blast email marketing_offers black_friday image_large
Email blast email marketing_offers black_friday image_header
Email blast email marketing_offers black_friday footer_banner

This data can be useful for improving user experience and creating content, emails, and pages that push your audience to action.

Campaign ID

The utm_id tag lets you associate a paid ad identifier with your ad. It’s not necessary to use this field for organic content. If we were to run paid search ads for our Black Friday example, it might look something like this:

Link type utm_medium utm_source utm_campaign utm_id
Paid ad cpc google black_friday 012345
Paid ad cpc bing black_friday 543210

Term

The utm_term tag is another way to identify and organize your paid ad campaign data. This parameter lets you include a search keyword associated with a particular link. This way, you can easily compare the performance of ads for each keyword across different advertising networks:

Link type utm_medium utm_source utm_campaign utm_id utm_term
Paid ad cpc google black_friday 012345 black-friday-sales-appliances
Paid ad cpc bing black_friday 543210 black-friday-sales-appliances

What tags should you use for your campaigns?

The type of tags you will use depends on where and how you run each campaign.

If you’re running one piece of campaign across multiple platforms, you will probably be able to get away with just using utm_medium, utm_source, and utm_campaign. When you begin running multiple campaigns and variations on content at the same time, it can be a good idea to use utm_content and utm_term tags for more clarity.

The example tags below are just a few potential options you may consider implementing for different mediums. The campaign tagging process is fully customizable—you choose and label tags in whatever way makes the most sense for you.

Search engine advertising

Search engine advertising typically involves paid ads that use a pay per click (PPC) model, also referred to as cost per click (CPC). If you’re running ads across multiple networks, it’s very important that you specify the source. This way, you can see which ad networks are delivering the best ROI.

Google Ads

Google’s advertising service is a way to place sponsored listings directly at the top of search engine results pages. When you run a Google Ad, you may want to use tags such as:

  • Medium: cpc
  • Source: google
  • Campaign: the name of your current campaign
  • Term: the search term your ad is targeting

Bing Ads

Bing Ads operate in a similar fashion to Google Ads. It’s important that you identify the source as Bing, as many of the other link tag parameters will be the same as those of a Google Ad campaign:

  • Medium: cpc
  • Source: bing
  • Campaign: the name of your current campaign
  • Term: the search term your ad is targeting

Social media

When it comes to social media tags, you may need to create a variety of tagging strategies based on any mix of:

  • Platforms
  • Organic posts
  • Paid ads
  • Affiliates and influencers

Keeping each set of links clearly tagged will help you sort and organize your data.

Facebook

Facebook business page users have several options for link placement, including in posts, CTA buttons, and page descriptions. As such, it can be useful to use the content tag across your Facebook links:

  • Medium: social
  • Source: facebook
  • Campaign: the name of your current campaign
  • Content: cta, video

Instagram

Instagram gives its users fewer options for using external links. Every Instagram business account includes space for one URL in the page description. Some accounts also utilize buttons that link directly to an event booking calendar or another form.

Many users opt for a “link in bio” approach, where their one available URL leads to a page with multiple additional links. If you use this strategy, it may be useful to use the content tag to identify which button people click:

  • Medium: social
  • Source: instagram
  • Campaign: the name of your current campaign
  • Content: button_about, cta_1, cta_2

Video platforms

Like social media networks, video-based platforms often offer several places to display tracked links. Depending on the service you use, you may be able to set up multiple CTA buttons and include links in video captions or descriptions. Tracking each of these links allows you to see:

  • How many clicks come from your profile pages
  • Which videos receive the most traffic
  • The type of content that tends to drive the most engagement

YouTube

YouTube allows its users to place links in video descriptions and on channel pages. Channel link options include icons that link directly to other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. A sample tag setup for YouTube content may look something like this:

  • Medium: video
  • Source: youtube
  • Campaign: the name of your current campaign
  • Content: channel, cta, instructional, marketing

TikTok

TikTok users can place a link in their profile page bio as well as in each video. The profile page link is often treated very similarly to Instagram, with the one link leading to a landing page with additional links. Broadly speaking, you might use these tags when adding links to a TikTok account:

  • Medium: video, social
  • Source: tiktok
  • Campaign: the name of your current campaign
  • Content: profile_link, duet, original_content, how+to, testimonial

How to build your tags for your campaign

The fastest and most efficient way to build tagged links is with the help of a URL builder. There are several options available, including:

Google also provides separate URL builders for Android Play Store and iOS App Store link tracking.

1. Select a URL builder tool

To start, choose the URL builder of your choice. If you prefer to create links manually, set up a spreadsheet with columns for each type of tag.

We’ll be using the Google Campaign URL Builder as an example.

2. Enter the URL to track

Every campaign tagging process begins by entering the URL you’d like to track.

Campaing tagging step 2

3. Input advertising identifiers

If you’ll be using the campaign URL builder to tag a paid ad, you can opt to enter the ad’s identification number. This can add another layer of transparency when you pull reports in the future.

Campaing tagging step 3

4. Enter a source tag

This is the spot where you’ll want to use the name of the link’s location, such as “facebook” or “youtube.”


Campaing tagging step 4

5. Define a medium

In the medium field, enter a term that encompasses the type of media or platform that will house the link. This could include terms like “social,” “email,” “qr code” or “ad.”

Campaing tagging step 5

6. Name the campaign

Assigning a campaign name to each set of URL parameters will help you keep your data organized in Google Analytics. Make the name something recognizable, so you or a member of your team can easily identify it when reviewing data reports.

Campaign tagging 6

7. Enter relevant keywords

When tagging a paid ad, it’s a good idea to include the keywords your ad targets. If we set up a PPC ad to run on search engine results pages for the term “freelance writing jobs,” for instance, we’d want to put that keyword in this field.

Campaign tagging 7

8. Label the type of content

This is an optional step. If your campaign includes multiple versions of each content format, it’s helpful to fill in this field. For example, if your campaign included testimonial videos, how-to videos, and sales videos, you’d want to note the type here.

Campaign tagging 8

9. Copy the campaign URL

After you finish entering all relevant information into the campaign builder, you can copy the resulting URL. This is the URL you will want to place online in the exact place indicated by the campaign parameters.

Campaign tagging 9

10. Place the link

After copying the link, you can place it in whatever location is indicated by the parameters. In the example above, we would want to use our link in the caption of a testimonial video on Facebook.

11. Record the URL in a spreadsheet

It’s important to note that Google and other URL builders typically do not save a history of your URLs. It’s a good idea to keep a list of all the URLs you create, so that you can refer back to it in the future if needed. Listing all of your URLs in a spreadsheet, with any relevant notes, is a simple way to do this.

Best practices when using tags

Maintaining consistency is essential for successful campaign tagging. If you mix up your tagging structure, campaign names, or overall approach to building URLs, you may encounter problems with your data sets.

These best practices will help you start and maintain a useful and accurate URL tagging structure for marketing campaigns of any size.

Separate campaigns

It’s a good idea to include a campaign name parameter in all of your tagged URLs. This is true even if you’re just starting out and have not yet had the chance to run multiple campaigns. By treating each batch of content as part of a campaign from the very start, you can experience better ease of use as you grow.

Remember, there’s no requirement as to how you must name your campaigns, so you can structure them in any way you like. Just make sure that you’re using separate campaign names for different clusters of content links. This could include splitting up seasonal promotional campaigns by quarter, or labeling holiday campaigns with the year.

Be consistent with naming conventions

As you begin to develop names for your mediums, sources, campaigns, and more, remain consistent. Keep a running list of the naming conventions you use, and create new names in the same format. This way, if you bring on someone to help with your marketing campaigns—or set up a campaign for a client—everyone is on the same page.

Utilize all necessary tracking parameters for measurement

Don’t hesitate to use any tracking parameters that are relevant to your link. It’s best to be as thorough as possible up front, so that you can pull detailed and useful reports later on. If you’re only using Facebook right now, for instance, it may not seem necessary to use medium and source. However, if you expand to use other social media networks in the future, you’ll probably appreciate having older data sources labeled.

Don’t over-tag and over complicate the tagging structure

At the same time, there’s no need to utilize tags that aren’t applicable to your links. For instance, if you are entering parameters for an organic social media post URL, there’s no need to make up a campaign ID or term. Adding necessary and irrelevant parameters can complicate your reporting.

Tag external links, not internal links

You do not need to tag internal links on your own site. It’s a good idea to restrict the use of campaign tagging to external links, like those on social media pages, in emails, and on other websites. Tagging internal links can complicate your data and make it harder to follow the user’s journey to your site.

Test your tags before launching the campaign

To test your tags, you’ll need to open up the “realtime” view in your Google Analytics account. This section of your Analytics account allows you to see how many users are currently visiting your site.

Once you have the realtime Analytics window open, copy and paste one of your newly tagged URLs into another browser window. When your site loads, you should see this interaction registered in the realtime report.

It’s important to note that if your Google Analytics account is set up to exclude your IP address—a feature typically used to improve data accuracy—your visit may not register. You’ll need to run the test from another IP address. If you use a Universal Analytics account, you can create another view that does not exclude the IP.

How to report on tags used in your campaign

The Google Analytics acquisition reports allow you to view your total web traffic, sessions, engagement rates, and more.

By default, acquisition reports group users and traffic by medium. You can change this view, called a dimension, to another tag such as source or term. You can also filter your report by more than one dimension.

At a minimum, you’ll want to be able to pull medium, source, and campaign reports using a mix of the following dimensions:

  • Medium
  • Source
  • Campaign
  • Medium, source, and campaign
  • Medium and source
  • Medium and campaign
  • Source and campaign

The more utm parameters you use on URLs, the more dimensions you’ll be able to see in your reports.

You can use these reports to answer a variety of questions that you or your client may have about the data, such as:

  • How many users did the site receive per medium or source?
  • How many total sessions did users start as a result of a specific campaign?
  • What is the total engagement rate of all users from a specific source?
  • Which paid ad campaign performed the best in terms of traffic acquisition?
  • How did this week’s engagement from social post traffic compare to last week’s?
  • Which social media platforms are driving the most user visits to the site?
  • What sites are currently sending referral traffic to us?
  • What is the average amount of time someone spends engaged with the site after arriving from an organic search?

If your reports can’t accurately answer questions like those above, then you may need to tweak your tagging strategy with the help of a Google Analytics consultant.

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Author Spotlight

Campaign Tagging: How To Set Up & Tag Your URLs in 2024
Emily Gertenbach
B2B SEO Content Writer & Consultant

Emily Gertenbach is a B2B writer who creates SEO content for humans, not just algorithms. As a former news correspondent, she loves digging into research and breaking down technical topics. She specializes in helping independent marketing professionals and martech SaaS companies connect with their ideal business clients through organic search.

Campaign Tagging: How To Set Up & Tag Your URLs in 2024
B2B SEO Content Writer & Consultant

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