This tactic is not really new. In fact, it’s quite old by Internet and SEO standards (being a couple years now). Nevertheless, I see the problem of bad data flowing into Google analytics with enough regularity that I think this deserves some review.
Don't Blindly Trust your Data
Too often, webmasters and even Internet marketers put too much trust into the data that their Google Analytics accounts are reporting; especially if they see traffic increasing.
For example, I recently ran across an account that looked like it just exploded with additional visits and revenue from organic sources.
From every angle I was looking at, it simply looked like everything was working the way it should. Organic traffic was up, PPC was up, even direct traffic and referral traffic was looking great.
However, it was just too good to let it go without investigation. It wasn’t until I looked at the PPC accounts that I noticed anything was wrong. The PPC account was turned on the very same day that the traffic started to spike. In fact, the traffic graphs were pretty much identical, showing a strong correlation between the PPC being turned on and the traffic we saw coming in.
It was clear that something was off. WAY off. But was it Google’s fault? Not really. Turns out their PPC wasn’t being associated with their account, effectively skewing the organic results.
Now we get to the fun part, where I fixed the problem. In order to make sure that the traffic was pure coming into Google analytics, I changed all of the URLs in their PPC account to tracking URLs, using Google’s URL builder. Let's look at how we build these URL's.
Google Analytics and Tracking URLs
The good news is that this is a really automatic process, and only requires a few bits of information (once you get the hang of it, you may not even need to use the builder). You'll need to input the following information:
- Website URL - Input your desired landing page URL
- Campaign Source - Type in where your visits will be coming from. If it's going to be Yahoo's PPC, then type in Yahoo.
- Campaign Medium - Here you want to the medium that is sending the traffic to your site. If it's a banner ad, then type in "banner". If it's cost per click advertising with Bing or Yahoo (or even Google), then type in "cpc".
- Campaign Name - Type a name that will help you distinguish the traffic from other campaigns and stay organized.
The other two options, Campaign Term and Campaign Content will allow you to distinguish a keyword you want associated with the particular landing page and the content of the ad used.
Once I fixed the URLs and inputted them into the PPC campaign, the Analytics data seemed to return to normal. Note how the traffic drastically changed once the change was made:
Sometimes, when I share this awesome URL builder with others, they think it's just for PPC purposes. It's actaully robust enough to handle just about any marketing effort. Here are some common uses:
- Banner Ads
- Email Marketing
- PDF Files and Brochures
- Sponsored listings (not paid links!)
- Social Media campaigns (such as twitter tweets)
If you have any other ideas on how to use this nifty, sometimes underrated tool, leave a comment.