One of the most common questions I get is, “How do I measure the value of all this digital stuff?!?!?”
My go-to response? Google Analytics.
Whether you’re running a blog, setting up a Facebook ad campaign, or launching a weekly newsletter, the first thing you have to do is set up analytics.
That can sound a bit intimidating, but do not fear. Analytics aren’t scary, particularly if you get set up right the first time.
Google Analytics is arguably the most popular analytics platform so this guide will speak specifically to Google Analytics, but these principles can be applied to any other platform.
The first step to digital is always GA, be it running a blog, setting up a Facebook ads campaign, or launching that newsletter you’ve been thinking about.
In this article I’m going to show you:
- What you can do with Google Analytics
- How Google Analytics works
- How to use Google Analytics
- How to setup GA to provide the most value with the least amount of work
What You Can Do With Google Analtyics
The main purpose of Google Analytics is to track where people are coming to your site from and see how those folks behave once they’re on your site. But, if you’re sending traffic to another website you can leverage Google Analytics as a branding tool to let that site see the impact you’re having.
On Your Site: Knowing Your Audience on Your Site
Reaching the right audience is crucial, especially when you’re a growing business. Google Analytics is the best way to find that audience.
Facebook Insights can tell you which audience is most engaged with you on Facebook but that does not mean they are the ones most engaged with your site, making the most sales, or your biggest evangelist.
On Other Sites: Show Your Value
This isn’t as common, however, UTM tags are a great way to tell other people that you’re sending traffic to their site. When I tell people this they tend to not believe me,but I’ve seen it happen!
The great thing about GA is that it will work to automatically categorize site traffic, so you can work with the default Google Analytics structure to make it known that you’re driving traffic to their site.
I have a media company client (let’s call it Igloo Media) that makes a majority of their revenue through display ads and native advertising. To keep a healthy mix of content on its social media pages, Igloo shares content from other related pages, using its site name as the utm_campaign value.
After a month of doing this one of the sites Igloo was driving traffic to reached out because they saw how much traffic was being driven and wanted more of it.
That client is now Igloo’s biggest client.
Another publisher client is now using it as part of their sales process. If they’re in a sales conversation that isn’t moving as quickly as they’d like or the prospect is on the fence they’ll run a test campaign to show how much traffic they can drive.
HOW GOOGLE ANALYTICS WORKS
When someone visits your page Google Analytics parses the URL to assign that user to a bucket, and then tracks that user’s activity on your site. Other information such as browser, screen resolution, operating system, and more will also be captured.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter will attempt to automatically append tracking parameters to any URLs shared through their platform. I say ‘attempt’ because they don’t always get appended, or in Facebook’s case they are sometimes stripped away.
There are five dimensions which can be defined:
Based on the above dimensions, the visitor is placed into one of the following default buckets:
- Organic Search
- Paid Search
- Other Advertising
You can add additional buckets or custom the bucket definitions to meet your needs – but that is a topic for another article!
HOW UTM TAGS WORK
The UTM tag is added to any URL point to your site or others. Each dimension mentioned above is a key which must be paired with a value using the following structure:
Google has a URL builder tool here that can help.
utm_source: the source of traffic, either type (direct, monday-newsletter, etc.) or the source domain (facebook, twitter, plus.google.com)
utm_medium: (social, cpc, referral, banner, etc.)
utm_campaign: completely customizable option for labeling conentb
utm_term: typically used to differentiate between targeting keywords used for in a PPC campaign. Adsense will dynamically populate this field.
utm_content: This field is really designed to use when split testing different creative or ads that are in the same campaign or if you have the same link in multiple spots on the same page. For example, if have a link to your about page on the header and on the sidebar you may include utm_content=header and utm_content=sidebar to better understand which link is being clicked.
These are the available dimensions, and recommended terms. Below we’ll walk through example setups for common situations
HOW TO SETUP GOOGLE ANALYTICS
Google Analytics has default channels setup that we are going to use for these examples.
The first time setting up any tracking parameters I suggest you validate them using the ‘Real Time’ view in Google Analytics.
When setting up your Google Analytics tracking I suggest you think about how you want to analyze the data and where you want it to be partitioned.
We’ll walk through each required component and potential values, then I’ll show you some common tracking setups.
The first component is the utm_source. This is generally the site name/URL except in certain cases such as Google+ which is plus.google.com becuase of the + symbol.
- facebook or facebook.com
- twitter or twitter.com
- pinterest or pinterest.com
- jess (if you want to track what happens to a link you send someone)
The second component is utm_medium. This reflects the type of platform the link is being shared on – social media, banner, cpc, email, etc.
Some predefined values include:
The utm_campaign is the third necessary parameter. This value really depends on how you want to partition traffic within each source, so for Facebook you may want to separate traffic that you shared on your personal page from business page from a link shared in a group, etc.
Some common items you may partition on:
- Organic or Paid
- Content themes (tech tips tuesday, motivation monday)
- Page (personal, business page, group)
The utm_content key is not required, but can be a great tool to if you want to add another dimension to segment traffic from.
LET’S GET STARTED!
All of the above components can be mixed and matched to create a key unique to your tracking and content. I suggest using terms with which you can easily identify later on. Starting a spreadsheet is a great way to keep everything organized!
You’re sending traffic to another website from your own:
You wrote a guest post for another site that links back to your own website:
Email newsletter link
Facebook promoted article campaign (utm_content is the targeting group)
Split testing different ad copy/creative (utm_content is the ad name)
Link in Instagram Bio