Constructing trackable links to your website

Sometimes we create 'offline' content that links to our website, such as eDMs and flyers. In order that we can track the effectiveness of these communications in Google Analytics, the links need to be ‘tagged’ with information beyond just the URL.

Link Tracking 101

A basic (untagged) link to this website looks like this:

When people click on this link in a flyer or email (i.e. an "offline" source), they arrive at the site homepage and are identified in Google Analytics as being sourced ‘direct’. I.e. they came directly to the site, not via a search engine, paid advertisement, etc. This would be the equivalent of them just typing in the site address in their browser (which is why they’re sometimes called ‘type-ins’).

Adding extra text to this link provides more detail in Google Analytics when we analyse our clickstream data, like this (in blue):

Google Analytics identifies visitors that use that link as:

  • Being sourced from the weekly digest (‘utm_source=weeklydigest’),
  • that was distributed via email (‘utm_medium=email’), and
  • labelled ‘2016-10-17-1’ (‘utm_campaign=2016-10-17-1’).

These values can be adjusted to your own needs, of course. The only value that is required is utm_source (nothing else will work without this).

The values used in the link will be associated with visitors who use it to access the site. If they make a purchase or perform some other action, we'll be able to attribute some credit to the link, campaign, flyer or email that incorporated it. This is why it's important to ensure you make each link different, if possible.

Being consistent, e.g. by using the same source value ("weeklydigest") across all related campaigns, will make it easier for you to compare performance over time.

More Detail

More link parameters are available for use when we have more than one link in each campaign.

The 'utm_term' parameter is used to identify the specific keyword (or image) the link was applied to. And the 'utm_content' parameter can be used to identify the position of the link in the campaign. This is particularly useful when there is more than one link pointing to the same destination.

These parameters are added to the link above as follows:

TIP: the base link (everything up to the ?) should always be to the most relevant page for the search term. In this case, we're linking to a specific article, not just to the homepage

This link would be added to the weekly digest email sent on 17th October 2016 and applied to the first occurrence of the term 'duplicate content'. Can you identify all of the parameters in the link?

By adding this level of detail, we move beyond basic campaign-level tracking to be able to demonstrate exactly which links and terms within the campaign were appealing, and how its design might be improved next time (e.g. because no-one ever clicks links in the bottom-left).


The biggest problem when implementing trackable links with all this detail is making sure you type the long URLs correctly! Fortunately, Google provides a handy Campaign URL Builder tool to help.

Adding the above parameters to your links is fine when they're embedded in clickable content like emails and PDFs.

If you want your link to be typable or written down, they're not so easy. However, Google also provides the URL shortening tool that reduces the above link to something much smaller. Using the tool reduced the full-length URL above to:

This is much easier to type and write down, so your trackable links can now be included on printed material, too but please remember that these links are case-sensitive.

Need help tracking your campaigns? Get in touch!.

Paul Middleton

Read more posts by this author.

Illawarra, NSW
comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to Funnel Vision

Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox.

* indicates required