How to Tag Your Social Media Traffic for Google Analytics

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how to tag social media links for google analytics

When I wrote about measuring your social media success with Google Analytics I got a lot of feedback. One important point was that, there’s a little “but” with analyzing visitors from social media by referrers. A lot of visitors use external desktop or mobile clients. This social media traffic will register as direct traffic in Google Analytics.

In our website, we estimate that more than half of the visits from Twitter show up as direct traffic. As you can see from the image, when we had a peak in Twitter then direct traffic grew more than referrals, and we saw only 8 percent of visitors coming from Twitter. To find out more about this read Thomas Baekdal’s Don’t Trust Your Social Referral Data.

search referral direct social traffic

However there’s a way to register those visits as non-direct if you add special Google Analytics tags to the original link. Below is the link tagging template that lets you tag all the links you put into social channels. This ensures that you know where visitors are coming from. Here’s a simple guide how to tag your links for social media sites yourself. Take the address you want to use and attach a simple code to it. The final URL you use for your posts, ads, and email will look like this:

https://www.example.com/example-landing-page/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=spring_sale&utm_term=keyword&utm_content=different_ads

Just copy the address above and edit it by hand. You are done! Now when people click on the link you created it will not be logged as direct traffic even if they do it in the desktop client. (This can also be used for tagging links in ads, other websites, and email).

You can do it like a pro in any text editor or use Google Campaign URL Builder.

utm tags social media links google analytics

Short explanation what the fields mean

Media Channel (utm_source)
Required field. utm_source tag defines the channel where you put the link. Media channel can be various social networking sites, web portals, email, etc. You can see the results of this tag in Traffic Sources report. Example: utm_source=Facebook, utm_source=Twitter, utm_source=OurNewsletter

Media Type (utm_medium)
Required field. utm_medium tag lets you define in what form the link is presented. Media Type can be statusupdate, tweet, email, etc. The default media types in Google Analytics are organic and referral. Example: utm_medium=tweet, utm_medium=textad, utm_medium=email

Keyword (utm_term)
Not required. Use utm_term if you want to differentiate between links in searches for specific keywords (in non-Google search engines). Google Adwords does this automatically. You need this tag for search advertising where the search engine itself does not tag the links. Example: utm_term=product1, utm_term=service2

Content (utm_content)
Not required. Use utm_content for different links that are in the same media channel. If you tag links for Twitter, then the channel and type are always the same but the content changes. You can see what content generates the most clicks from Google Analytics Traffic Sources > Ad Versions report. Example: utm_content=GAtweet, utm_content=FBtweet

Campaign Name (utm_campaign)
Required field. Use utm_campaign tag for different campaigns to give you a better overview of what media channels and types are related to your different activities. A campaign can be Blogging, Newsletter001, FacebookPromo, etc. You can see how your campaigns are doing in Google Analytics Traffic Sources > Campaigns report. Example: utm_campaign=Spring11, utm_campaign=RegularBlogging, utm_campaign=Email01

The simplest link you can create for your site contains three elements:

https://www.example.com/example-landing-page/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=spring_sale

Where are UTM Tags Google Analytics?

There are two main reports where you can see how the tagged links are performing. The first and most informative is Sources/Medium report where you can compare tagged traffic to other channels:

Acquisition > All Traffic > Sources/Medium

google analytics acquisition all traffic sources medium

The second report combines all your tagged traffic in one view. You can find it here:

Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns

utm tags social media traffic

Tag all the links you use in your marketing

I suggest that you tag all the links you use in your marketing:

  • Social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc.
  • Links on you share buttons
  • All links you include in your marketing emails
  • Links in your CPC and display ads (Google Adwords does this automatically)

This way you will make sure that all traffic is measured correctly and you can analyze them easily in Google Analytics.

Important!

Don’t tag links on your website. Use Google Analytics events if you need to track internal links. When you tag your internal links with UTM tags, you will lose original referrer data. Every time a user clicks a tagged link, Google Analytics starts a new session. For example:

Regular links on the page
Session 1: google /organic > page 1 > page 2 > page 3 > page 4

When internal link is tagged
Session 1: google /organic > page 1 > page 2 (click on tagged link) Session 2: page 3 > page 4

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Priit Kallas

Priit is the founder and CEO of DreamGrow Digital, an internet marketing and social media company. With his 20+ years internet marketing experience he is Helping companies to understand and use the digital marketing to reach their target audiences. He has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences on different aspects of internet marketing. Priit is also the organizer of Digital Elite Camp, a leading traffic and conversion event.

22 Responses

  1. Freethinker says:

    What if I shrink the referral link above with URL shortener?
    Then analytics will track referral from URL shortener?

  2. M2Social | Social Media Firm Philippines says:

    Social media and Google analytics are two of the most effective and useful platforms. When used together, marketing will create better results. Thank you so much for raising some important points, Priit!

  3. Emma says:

    I have try really nice. Thanks

  4. Anand Singh says:

    The link is same what i notice when referring a website through social media in desktop browsers. Interesting share!!

  5. Mary says:

    It’s a really good way to measure social media success. Thank you for sharing it but I hope you will make a video about how to set up it, cause it seems like a bit confusing but I’ll try 🙂

  6. Tom says:

    Google Analytics is a tech oriented analytics suite. It measures technical things mostly.

    Systems such as KissMetrics and Kontagent will measure consumer-focused and business-oriented things, and is much more interesting to understand how your social business actually performs.

    What would be very useful would be a comparion of different free and non-free solutions out there for social/online services – where the focus is on understanding the performance of your serivice rather than “page-views” and referrals/traffic.

    Any good tips here?

  7. Digital Marketing Company says:

    Well idea really it’s great i tried i am getting good traffics..

  8. Peter says:

    Great information, short but helpful. Thanks for sharing Priit.

  9. Roisire says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for this, I’ve been using the URL builder for a while and it works great. But I have never used it for tweets. You say that tweets from desktop clients register as direct, I have recently switched from owl.ly to using bitly to monitor tweets, do you know if these bitly links also show up as direct?

    • Priit Kallas says:

      Roisire, we use tagged URLs and shorten them with bit.ly. The visits will apear under traffic sources > campaigns.

  10. Ellen says:

    great stuff. Love it when its all in one short article.

  11. Lea Philpott says:

    Hi Priit,
    This post used to contain a URL conversion tool but it seems to have disappeared. Will it be coming back??

    • Priit Kallas says:

      Sorry about that Lea and thank you for letting us know. The new site design has broken some stuff. We fix it ASAP.

      Thanks,
      Priit

  12. Daniel says:

    wow, interesting and disturbing – shows you can’t just assume the all powerful google analytics are telling the truth ALL the time

    • Priit Kallas says:

      Thanks Daniel! Google Analytics wasn’t designed for these devices. The information itself is correct but lacks granularity.

  13. Sherry Nouraini says:

    This is what I call a value-add post. Thank you, such great information.

  14. Priit Kallas says:

    Thanks, Stef!

  15. STEF says:

    Great article Priit! Very useful!

  1. March 21, 2012

    […] fare questo bisogna postare link adeguatamente taggati. Come farlo è spiegato in modo eccellente in questo post in cui è presente un tool per generare questo tipo di link. Consiglio di salvarlo e utilizzarlo […]

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