Using URL Tagging In PPC Campaigns

If you’re using web analytics to track the success of your pay per click accounts, you’re already way ahead of the game. But sometimes the default tracking just isn’t enough. You may need to find a way to track performance of a certain ad type, traffic source, or seasonal initiative. Once you need to do some advanced segmentation of your PPC traffic, the default tracking code might fail you. But don’t lose hope! By using URL tagging for your keyword or ad level destination URLs, you can customize your segments and improve your tracking.

If you’re not already familiar with URL tags, here’s how it works. You can append characters to any URL by placing a “?” after the URL. You can also add variables to the end by naming them (preceded by an ampersand), and defining their value with an “=” sign. There’s no limit to the number of variables you can put in there – just keep adding “&”, variable names, and values. Here’s an example. Click on this link:

www.ppcwithoutpity.com?source=url_tagging_post&domain=ppcwithoutpity

It takes you to the main page of PPC Without Pity. Notice that appending all that weird crap after the domain name didn’t affect where you went. That’s because I let the browser know I was starting a string of tags by using “?”. After that, I created two tags, “source” and “domain”. I gave “source” the value of “url_tagging_post” (remember – no spaces in those URLs) and gave the variable “domain” the value of “ppcwithoutpity”. Since I used more than one tag, I had to separate them by placing “&” before my second variable, “domain”.

On their own, tags don’t do anything. You can add tags using this formula to any old domain name, and it shouldn’t affect how that main URL is rendered. In order to get some real use out of them, you’ll need to parse the information through a web analytics program (like Google Analytics) or some other database application that pulls the variables out of the URLs. Google Analytics offers a URL builder tool that integrates with their application. They have some in-house tags like “utm_campaign” and “utm_source” that should be automatically parsed through their program. MSN AdCenter also supports certain tags within URLs, and populates them with data once their program reads the parameter values. For more information on what is supported, check out this forum entry on destination URL tracking parameters in MSN AdCenter.

To get inspiration, pay attention to the URL in your address bar, especially when you’re clicking on an ad or from an email campaign. Many times, this URL tagging information is visible to the end user, and you can see what kinds of variables big companies are using to track the success of their advertising. For example, here’s the URL of a Google Chrome ad I clicked on on BoingBoing.net:

http://www.google.com/chrome/?brand=CHIH&utm_campaign=en&utm_source=en-oa-na-us-N5295.FederatedMedia&utm_medium=oa

As you can see, there are a couple of variables after the http://www.google.com/chrome/ URL, some of which are Google Analytics tags. Here are the tags and their values:

URL Tag Value
brand CHIH
utm_campaign en
utm_source en-oa-na-us-N5295.FederatedMedia
utm_medium oa

It’s pretty easy to figure out once you know what you’re looking for. And since you can make up whatever variables you want, the possibilities for tracking are endless! Just get the right tool that can read your data, and you’re all set.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
This entry was posted in Analytics, Bing, Google AdWords, MSN AdCenter. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Using URL Tagging In PPC Campaigns

  1. Hi Shawn, enjoyed the post! Here is a link to my post on adding Google Analytics tracking to your MSN AdCenter campaigns (free Excel D/L and Video instructions). I hope your readers find it relevant and useful.

    http://www.chadsummerhill.com/google-analytics-url-tracking-parameters-msn-free-excel-download/

    Thanks,
    Chad