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The More You Know: how to track your online ad buys easily & effectively with Google Analytics

Tracking online ad buys on Google Analytics takes a little work with whomever you’re working with to purchase any online buys. But one you get the hang of it, you’ll be tracking your online ad buys on Google Analytics like a pro! Here is a quick little lesson on how to go about configuring a tracking URL so you can track any of your online ad buys with Google Analytics.

Normally, when you purchase an online ad buy, you have the link go to your homepage or a landing page of some sort. Well, in order to track your online buys, we need to make an adjustment on these URLs so Google Analytics can tell when someone visits your site from one of your online ad buy sources.

What Google Analytics wants us to do is “tag” these links with certain parameters so they can accurately report which ad buys are sending traffic. “Tagging” a URL basically means adding parameters to the end of a URL. Here’s an example: on the most basic level, these two links both go to our homepage:

http://www.amplify-interactive.com
http://www.amplify-interactive.com?source=amplifyinteractiveblog

The “tagged” part – all of the characters that happen after the question mark – do not influence the URL or where the visitor goes when they click the link but let our analytics package know that wherever we put this link, someone clicked on it… and with this certain parameter in place, seeing as how the only place we put this link was on this message, we would KNOW that ‘x’ visitors came from this link when Google Analytics shows us referring sources.

So what you’ll need to do is provide your ad buy contacts a new URL for them to put for your ads. You can definitely keep on sending them to whichever page you like your site… but you’ll be providing them a specific link with certain parameters so Google Analytics knows that someone came from that ad buy source. Here is a tool (straight from the source!) that gives you an easy way to “build” a tagged URL:

http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55578&hl=en

Let’s go through this form. I’ll give you an example. Say Amplify Interactive is purchasing an ad buy from Citysearch. It’s a cost-per-click ad buy. We have a specific campaign name of “beer” for this ad buy campaign from Citysearch. So, working through the form, you first want to enter in whichever landing page URL you want in the website form (for this example we’ll use our homepage – http://www.amplify-interactive.com/). The first line you’ll want to enter ‘citysearch’. The second line you’ll want to specify ‘cpc’ (cost per click). Campaign Term & Campaign Content you don’t need to worry about (these fields are to be used if you need to further define the source URL if you have multiple campaigns & campaign terms for your ad buy). Campaign Name is ‘beer’. Click on “Generate URL” and we get a URL that looks like this:

http://www.amplify-interactive.com/?utm_source=citysearch&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=beer

This URL goes to the page you specified (in this case, our homepage). Reading into it, you can see all of the parameters we specified – coming from citysearch, cpc medium & beer campaign.

From now on, you should work through this form and give each ad buy contact a specific URL for them to use. This will allow you to see specific ad-buy stats on Google Analytics in a snap.

About Christian Bullock