Tagging URLs for Google Analytics – what’s a Campaign Name vs a Campaign Source?

When you want to know where your website traffic is coming from, as far as links that you are promoting from emails, web ads, paper mail, etc, Google Analytics provides a lovely tool that makes it easy to create URLs that include that particular source info.

The results are that instead of seeing 10 variations on ‘xxx.yahoo.net’ in your Referrer reports, you can see that the traffic actually came from the third text link in the second paragraph of the email that you sent to your advocacy sub-group on March 3.¬† I’m disregarding why on earth you would have three links in a single paragraph when you’re emailing your advocacy sub-group…

But this post is about how to use the tool better.

The tool lives here:


Unfortunately, GA’s audience is pretty broad and so their advice about how you should use the four different fields is a little sparse and high-level.

My main takeaway after two years of using this tool is that it’s extremely helpful to establish consistency around how you use those fields, which I achieved by creating the following cheatsheet.

General Notes:

  • Use dashes instead of spaces because spaces turn into + signs in the reporting screens, and dashes are a more clear visual separator.
  • Capitals can help legibility
  • Put year/month at the end instead of beginning so that World AIDS Day 2011 will come right before World AIDS Day 2012 in an alpha listing.
  • Review the below to get naming as consistent as possible with other links. Doing this will make it much easier over the long-term to see patterns and pull reports that show the effectiveness of one channel over another.

Campaign Source
This corresponds to the referring website for the visit, so use it to describe the ‘channel’ the traffic came from. Comparable to values like ‘google’ or ‘yahoo’ or ‘bing’ for cpc traffic. There should be relatively few of these, and they should not change much month-to-month. There would be a distinct value for each publication, or website, or email list.

  • Status
  • General-Communications-Email-List
  • our-foundation-internal-newsletter
  • HIV-Advocacy-Network-Email-List
  • ebar¬† (this is the Bay Area Reporter online)
  • url-redirect
  • unknown-redirect
  • MalWarwick


Campaign Medium
What’s the medium? There should be relatively few of these; we would rarely create new ones. You can use email-text to distinguish the text version of an email from the HTML version if you want to evaluate whether or not folks are seeing/clicking on the text version.

  • paper-mail
  • url-redirect
  • email
  • banner
  • email-text
  • qr-code


Campaign Term
This is for paid keywords; you can mostly ignore it in human-created links.

Campaign Content
Use this to distinguish one link from another. Include redundant info for the campaign source to simplify understanding in GA report screens. For newsletters, distinguishing the position of the link in the email along with the link text can help to identify patterns over time (article 1, footer, para1-text, para2-image, etc)

  • status-article-1-readmore
  • status-article-2-headline
  • year-end-2011-msg1-lawrence-button
  • year-end-2011-msg1-kim-video-thumbnail
  • gala-post-event-thanks-2012-support-our-work

Campaign Name
Make this the most human-readable and most unique. This is the main bucket GA will show when reporting by Source. Imagine that each campaign were going to have promotions/ads in print, email, web banners, etc. Use dashes because spaces will get replaced with + signs. Put the year/month at the end instead of beginning to more easily compare year-over-year

  • status-2012-06-june
  • BETA-2012-Q1
  • Year-End-2011
  • Neil-Thank-You-2011-Dec
  • World-AIDS-Day-2011
  • Appeal-2012-Q1
  • Tax-Info-Email-2012
  • MWA-11RA
  • SFAF-org-redirect

Comments Off on Tagging URLs for Google Analytics – what’s a Campaign Name vs a Campaign Source?

Filed under non-profit technology

Comments are closed.