Google AdWords advertisers have the option to allow Google to automatically append the URLs being used for their ads. In a nutshell, this means Google AdWords traffic will automatically be tracked as PPC traffic within your Google Analytics accounts – and all your Google products will play nicely with each other. However, I was reminded today that these URLs (or any URL with some kind of tracking parameter) need to only be used for their original purpose – otherwise your Google analytics data isn’t so well organized.
Take this example:
A third party media site wrote an article and wanted to include a link to a client’s site. We can assume that they performed a search on Google, found a branded PPC ad, clicked on it and then copied the URL into their article and published it. While the client received some worthy attention and traffic to the site – all of that traffic was being classified as PPC in their Google Analytics account because someone had inadvertantly used a URL that included the PPC tracking strings.
Sidenote: you can identify AdWords tracking strings because they begin with “gclid=”
Fortunately we were able to get the URL changed and restore order to their analytics universe. Here are few reminders about using tracking parameters in general.
- You’re using tracking parameters for a reason – be as specific with your descriptions as your tracking system will allow.
- Be careful not to use URLs with tracking parameters for the wrong marketing initiative. Skewing data through different traffic sources can artificially inflate or deflate performance and traffic of the campaigns you are tracking.
- Come up with a well organized system that works for you to track what all your parameters mean. Being specific with your tracking parameters doesn’t have to mean extra-long URLs – use abbreviations but keep track so you can look back 6 months from now and understand where all your traffic was coming from.