How to set up campaign tracking in Google Analytics using UTM query string tags

Traffic arrives to your website from multiple internet sources and marketing channels. Google Analytics does a really good job segmenting that traffic into specific traffic buckets or marketing channels. This classification is based on the source of that traffic and identifying characteristics of the ad or campaign. By default, Google Analytics groups all of your traffic and campaigns into nine "Channels." Channels are a helpful way to get a clearer picture of how people get to your website and identify your most effective marketing campaigns. 

Google Analytics: Default Channel Grouping
  • Direct: Visitors who typed in your website directly or bookmarked your website.
  • Organic Search: Visitors who used a search engine and clicked on an organic result (as opposed to a paid ad).
  • Paid Search: Visitors who used a search engine and clicked on a paid search result ad.
  • Display: Visitors that clicked on a display, banner, or content ad. 
  • Social: Visitors who came from a site that Google identifies as social media, or  from a campaign that has been tagged as social media through your campaign tracking.
  • Email: Visitors that come from a link that you identify as belonging to an email campaign.
  • Affiliates: Visitors that come from a link that you identify as belonging to an affiliate campaign.
  • Referral: Visitors that come from a website other than a search engine, display ad, social, email or affiliate. Common examples of these would be a blogger writing a review of your product and including a link, or coverage by a news outlet. 
  • Other: Other advertising are campaigns Google does not identify as belonging to the other categories. This could be because they are special types of advertising campaigns like Cost per View, or more commonly, because campaign tracking was set up incorrectly. 
You can see the specific rules Google uses for Default Channels in their support section here.


Sometimes when known marketing campaigns come through predefined channel types or sources, Google Analytics will inappropriately group them under the predefined Default Channel Groupings. As an internet marketer or web analyst you need to instruct Google Analytics how to classify this traffic. This is very easily achieved through the use of URL Query String Tags!


Google Analytics provides a great, simple and functional tool to track all of your marketing campaigns by the appropriate channel. Tracking is achieved through appending URL query string tags to all marketing links back to your site (typically the homepage or landing pages) that you provide to off-site marketers or marketing channels.

Your website URL (web address) is made up of several sections. Google Analytics has special additional data in the form of query strings that do not affect your website performance but DO PASS DATA into Google Analytics to properly classify incoming traffic based on the type of campaign, source, and ad details.

All the parameters following the question mark ( ? )  in the above example are telling Google how to classify this ad and campaign.

  • UTM Source: Where is the traffic coming from. Examples:
    • Yahoo
    • Bing
    • CommissionJunction
    • AdRoll 
  • UTM Medium: The marketing channel or strategy. A note that it is important as an organization to be consistent with these values and not use multiple names for the same strategy. Examples: 
    • Paid Search
    • Email
    • Paid Social Domain Ad
    • Paid Social Boosted Post
    • Affiliate
    • Banner
    • Retargeting
  • UTM Campaign: The name of the specific marketing campaign. As you cannot have spaces in these names, we recommend being consistent and using "-" to replace spaces. Examples:
    • Fall-Newsletter
    • Winter-Sale
    • Top-Product-Banner-Ads
    • Cart-Abandon-Retargeting
    • Branded-Keyword-Search
  • UTM Content: Specific links, ad, or creatives within a campaign
    • Multiple-Product-Banner-Ad
    • Single-Product-Banner-Ad
    • Email-Navigation-Link
    • Email-Call-to-Action-Link
    • Specific-Product-Link
    • Keyword-Ad-Group
You should use this formatting and tracking tool to track and Group all your incoming link traffic. This should be used for sources such as:
  • Display banner ads
  • Email marketing links
  • Affiliate marketing links
  • Paid Search on non-Google search engines such as Bing or Yahoo
  • Paid Social Media and sponsored posts on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Re-targeting campaigns like AdRoll, PerfectAudience or SteelHouse
  • Vanity URLs like the ones used on billboards, magazine print ads or real estate listings
  • Promotional codes listed off-site on partner sites
  • Any marketing link you need to track as a campaign through a specified channel

Google has created a tool to help you better tag campaigns by filling in fields and letting Google generate the URL. When your URL has been generated, we still recommend checking for the following:
  • Only use one ? (question mark)
  • Separate all query string parameters with an & (ampersand)
  • Within each query string parameter make sure there is an = (equal sign) after the UTM Tag
  • Make sure there are no spaces between words, use - (dashes) for spacing
  • Use consistent values for data you will want to be able to group, like UTM Medium (spelling and case matter)
Click Here: To Access the Google Analytics Tracking Tool

It's that simple to get all your in-bound link traffic properly tracked!

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