Evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns: move beyond click-through rates

Actionable information comes from knowing what people did after they clicked your promotional offer.

Last week my friend Michael’s company sent an email blast with a special offer. I asked Michael how many people had made a purchased as a result of getting the email, or if anyone was any closer to making a buy because of his email blast.

He didn’t know. Nor could he tell me which of his web pages people had visited as a result of reading the email.

On the other hand, he was proud of the statistics his email campaign service provider gave him: a 44% open rate and a 31% click-through rate.

I asked him what actions he was planning to take because of those open and click-through rates. Michael gave me an inquisitive look then asked me what he should do.

Let’s play tag

I suggested he tag his marketing materials (email links, social media campaigns, etc.). He said he already did tag everything … he even showed me the tag in his email.

This kind of tag is from an email campaign service provider (e.g., MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.) and is only built to track clicks and click-through rates – data you can’t take action on.

Email tracking code provided by email or advertising suppliers will not provide send data to Google Analytics so you can track what happened after the click.

Example of email tracking code provided by email or advertising suppliers.

This tag does not send information to Google Analytics so you can know how many people purchased, or came closer to buying.

To learn about the buying actions triggered by your marketing materials you need to have your data-click information sent to Google Analytics. And that requires an additional tag that’s embedded into your email campaign service provider’s link.

This embedded tag is called a UTM (Urchin Tracking Monitor) tag. It contains the instructions Google Analytics needs to classify, store and track clicks. It’s the UTM tag that gives you the valuable and actionable data you need to know how much closer your marketing efforts are bringing people to buying your products or services.

Two tags work together

It’s important to understand that the two tags combine to work for you:

  1. Your email or advertising campaign service provider’s tag captures the click.
  2. The UTM tag that’s embedded in your email or advertising service provider’s tag sends the information to Google Analytics

 Here’s how tagging for Google Analytics works:

The UTM tag is instructions for Google Analytics on how you want your marketing campaign information stored so you can measure activity after the click.

The UTM and Service provider tags combine to make your link.

The UTM tag has three elements:

  • Source: a broad category of marketing activity such as email, social media, advertisements, etc.
  • Medium: a narrowing of the category focusing on something more specific, such as which email campaign, which social medium, or which advertiser.
  • Campaign: is a further narrowing of the source and campaign focusing on a specific sale, campaign date, or offer.

Here’s an example of a tag a business might use on a social media campaign:


The first part is the website address. The tag itself begins immediately after the .ca/

?utm_” identifies the start of the UTM code. This notifies Google Analytics to wake up and store the next bit of information under campaigns.

Source=banner” tells Google Analytics that we’re calling the source “banner”.

The “&utm_” says there’s more…

medium=twitter” tells Google Analytics that this is a Twitter campaign.

The next “&utm_” identifies that there’s more…

The “campaign=june” identifies that the campaign ran or will be run in the month of June.

In Google Analytics under Campaigns it would read like this:

  • Source: banner
  • Medium: twitter
  • Campaign: june

We can use the Source, Medium or Campaign to follow our marketing results with increasingly greater detail:

  • At a high level (Source) you can see how each of your advertising platforms is performing. Is email generating more leads than advertising campaigns?
  • At a lower level (Medium) you can see which email lists are performing best, or which advertisers are driving sales.
  • At a detail level (Campaign) you can see how specific email or advertising campaigns performed.

Put simply, tagging lets you know your marketing return on investment – the best places to spend your money, and best places to spend your time.

What’s in a name?

For most small businesses making tags isn’t the real challenge. The real challenge is coming up with source, medium and campaign names that will make sense when they’re later analyzing their marketing results in Google Analytics.

Make sure you use easily understood names. If the names cause confusion, you may end up making bad assumptions that lead to poor decisions.

A good naming convention requires consistency so you can keep track of each of your activities.

Once you’ve created a UTM tag, put it in your link shortener, your email blast supplier tag, etc. so Google Analytics will record all your click details.

What do you do with the data?

Google Analytics gathers your tag data and puts it in Acquisition > Campaigns. You can see all of your results there.

Or, you can use your campaign data as a secondary dimension to see which web pages your marketing campaigns are delivering traffic to and which goals they’re helping you achieve.

Tagging delivers results

Properly tagging your marketing campaigns with both your service provider tag and a UTM tag gives you an easy way to know how many people purchased or became sales leads as a result of each of your sources, mediums and campaigns. And that can help you develop and deliver more effective marketing campaigns that drive sales.

Leave me a comment if you have questions or want to know more about tagging.

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