While many marketers focus on specific end goals when crafting their holiday plans, such as selling more widgets or acquiring more customers, it’s also a good time to evaluate your web analytics tracking. Do you have the tools to evaluate your different efforts/campaigns and determine what’s really working? Enter tagging.

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Tagging can be applicable to a variety of aspects of your marketing program, but these tips will focus on tagging for email campaigns. Since email service providers are so disparate, tagging is a necessary means to aggregate visitors to your website and evaluate performance: be it site traffic, email sign-ups, or the holy grail of holidays, conversions. Tagging lets marketers know which efforts are moving the needle. Add in third party data, such as email engagement and cost, and you can make smarter business decisions.

Most web analytics providers can accommodate several variables. For Google Analytics, these are relatively straight-forward. Without tagging, traffic from email would show up spread throughout the hundreds and thousands of email service providers, or even worse, could just show up as direct traffic. These variables are:

  • Source*: Often the name of your email service provider (ESP) or perhaps a major campaign type grouping (promo, newsletter, welcome, transactional, etc.)
  • Medium*: Email
  • Campaign*: The name of the campaign. Sounds simple, but there is opportunity to capture a lot of different information in this attribute, such as send date, recurring campaign theme, segment information, etc.)
  • Content: Often used to denote information about the campaign creative.
  • Term: Do not use for email marketing campaigns. This attribute is typically only used in ppc/search campaigns.

Getting the most out of your email tagging

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1. The first step in developing a sound email tagging strategy is to define your major campaign types and develop a naming convention that will help you evaluate results in the short and long-term. Do you want to use the source variable to distinguish between these major campaign types or can you accomplish the information in the campaign name?

2. With all variables, consistency is key. I repeat, consistency is key. If you are repeating a theme across multiple offers, use a consistent name to easily indicate that these are the same larger campaign.

  • For instance, if you are sending a 12 days of Christmas offer across 12 different days, you might name your campaigns as follows: 20141201_12days, 20141202_12days, 20141203_12days, 20141204_12days, etc.
  • However, what if on one of those days, you use “12-days” instead of “12days”? Google Analytics will report these as two separate campaigns. These are easy enough to identify as the same visually, but it causes extra steps when you want to aggregate results and compare to other campaigns.

3. All email names and web analytics tracking tags should include only lowercase alphanumeric characters.

  • By default, Google Analytics is case sensitive, so the lowercase will help you keep your data aggregated appropriately. For instance, Google Analytics would treat “Email” and “email” as two entirely separate email mediums.
  • If you are worried about casing, you can create simple profile filters in Google Analytics that will force lower or upper case for specific attributes. Learn more about that here.

4. Do not use any special characters, such as spaces, ampersands, question marks, dots, hashes (#), @, ^ or any type of slash (/ or ). Underscores or dashes are okay.

  • Special characters can break the analytics link and cause you to lose attribution.

5. When possible, try and create an exact 1:1 match between your email name and your revenue campaign name. This streamlines the matching process when merging data between different vendors, such as your email service provider (ESP) and your web analytics tool.

  • I once had a client who used a space delimiter in their email name and an underscore delimiter in the web analytics campaign tag. Once again, these are easy to visually match up, but cause extra work to combine the results.

6. Promotional campaigns should always have a date indicator in the email name, preferably at the beginning. Dates should all be formatted YYYYMMDD. The date component is not necessary for triggered or recurring campaigns, such as a daily Abandoned Cart Campaign.

  • Beginning with the year allows you to sort the data chronologically if looking at campaign effectiveness over time.
  • Make sure you use leading zeros for single digit days and months: “01” for January and the 1st of the month rather than “1”.

7. Talk to your ESP to see if you can dynamically append web analytics tracking parameters to all links in your email campaign.

  • If a dynamic solution is not possible, consider the following alternatives: use the free Google Analytics URL builder, or create a Link Generator grid in Excel. This can help you limit options to help maintain consistency.

Armed with these tips, you can make your email tagging work better for you this holiday. Happy tagging!

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