Custom campaigns and why you should use them

Custom campaigns and why you should use themGoogle Analytics actually offers quite a lot of ways to customize your tracking. One of the ways to track things specifically to your liking is custom campaign tracking. In this post I’ll explain what custom campaigns are and how you can use them.

Some of this post will go into custom campaigns pretty deeply. The main reason for this is that I always like to understand what data I have, exactly. But apart from that there’s no real need to understand custom campaigns to the level that I’ll be explaining them, as there are tools that make it very easy for you.

Custom campaigns

Custom campaigns give you the power to specify where visitors of your website are coming from. When you’re creating a custom campaign, you’ll be able to personally set a referral source, marketing medium and name your campaign, among other things. In Google Analytics you’ll be able to see where people came from and even exactly what link or banner they’ve clicked to get there.

To give you an idea: we use custom campaigns to track how much traffic and sales are coming from our banners within our plugins, how much traffic and sales are coming from our newsletters and so on.

I’ll make it more clear by showing you one of our custom campaigns in the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin. The link structure always helps me understand custom campaigns as it, for me, acts as a kind of guide on which data I have. This then shows me what data I can filter and analyze for:

As you can see, this is a pretty long link. There are actually 4 different elements to this link:

  1. First of all, this link will simply go to our Website Review page, which is the first part of that link:
  2. Second, there’s the “#utm_medium=banner” part of the URL. The hashtag is there to notify Google Analytics that this is a link with custom campaign tracking. The “utm_medium=banner” part reveals that the medium the user clicked to get to that page was a banner. So now we already know someone entered our Website Review page by clicking one of our banners.
  3. The third part of the URL is “&utm_source=gawp-config”. The “utm_source=gawp-config” shows that the source the user clicked that banner was in gawp-config. In this case, that means the Google Analytics for WordPress config, in the backend of the user’s WordPress install. So now we know the user clicked a banner in the Google Analytics menu in the backend of WordPress to get to the Website Review page.
  4. The fourth and last part of the URL is “&utm_campaign=wpgaplugin”. This basically gives the entire campaign a name. We were already pretty specific in our source, so this doesn’t tell us anything more. However, these campaigns are obviously custom, so if you’d like, you could’ve just said “utm_source=config” and “utm_campaign=wpgaplugin”.

How do I get these URLs?

You don’t have to be afraid that you’ll have to memorize the setup of these URLs. Google has made a nifty little tool that lets you create custom campaigns like this with amazing ease. You can find that tool here. All you have to do is fill in a website URL, a medium, a source and a campaign name. After that you can click “Submit” and the tool will give you your custom campaign link!

However, if you generate your custom campaign links there, the links will start with a question mark instead of a hashtag. This might seem innocent, but in fact it’s not. A question mark has a meaning on the server side of things. This means it’s an actual permalink (URL) all of its own. And that creates issues of duplicate content, because there are now two (or more) different URLs with exactly the same content. If you instead use a hashtag, this won’t happen, since everything after the hashtag will be ignored by search engines.

So you’ll be glad to hear that we’re also working to incorporate a URL builder in the Google Analytics by Yoast Premium plugin. Until we’ve put that in though, you can just replace the question mark with a hashtag (as long as you have the “Allow Anchor” checkbox checked in our Google Analytics by Yoast plugin).

Custom campaigns in Google Analytics

When you’re logged in to Google Analytics, you’ll find the “Campaigns” menu item under “Acquisition”. When you click it, you’ll see all of your campaigns, sorted by the amount of traffic they generated.

Custom campaigns in Google Analytics

Here you can select any element of your custom campaign to be your primary dimension:

Custom campaigns in Google Analytics

This can already give you a lot of insight in which campaigns are generating the most traffic, or the most money if you also have ecommerce tracking set (for instance using our eCommerce Tracking plugin).

Custom campaigns as secondary dimension

Although viewing the custom campaigns as a primary dimension can give you really nice information, it’s still pretty general. And I always like to have my data as specific as possible. That’s why I mostly use my custom campaigns as a secondary dimension.

For instance, you can pick one of your pages (Behavior -> Site Content) and select “Source / Medium” as your secondary dimension:

source/medium secondary dimension custom campaigns google analytics

This will give you the traffic for that specific page sorted by source and medium. Let me show you an example of our WordPress SEO article page:

Google Analytics custom campaigns

As you can see, this shows us very specifically where traffic is coming from and how much of the page’s total traffic is attributable to which (custom) campaign. If you’ve enabled ecommerce tracking, this can also be done per product, obviously. This gives you a wealth of knowledge of where your traffic and sales are coming from. And, as I said, it also shows you how big of a part your custom campaigns play in the totality of a product’s sales or page’s traffic.

Take note

Before you enthusiastically start tagging all the links you can think of for custom campaigns, there’s one thing you need to know. The way custom campaigns are set up, means that you will lose all other referral data.

For instance, if you start using custom campaigns on social media, be aware that you specify the social medium in the campaign as well. Otherwise you simply won’t know whether people came from Facebook or Twitter, because that referral data will be overwritten by your own custom campaign.

Start customizing your tracking!

So now you know. You’re not completely dependent on what’s in the basic analytics of Google, you can pinpoint the exact data you want for yourself!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!