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How to Track an Email Marketing Campaign with Google Analytics

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  chco's Photo
Posted Aug 24 2010 01:02 PM

The following excerpt from Google Analytics shows you how to evaluate the success of an email marketing campaign.
Email, like all marketing activities, is a process. This process includes reaching out to an individual with an email message, hoping the recipient opens the message and responds by clicking on a link in the message. You can measure each step in this process. However, Google Analytics can only measure how much website traffic the email message generates. It cannot measure how many people received or opened the message.

You can use link tagging to track email with Google Analytics. As mentioned above, Google Analytics cannot measure what happens in the recipient’s inbox. It can only measure what visitors do on the website after clicking on a link in an email message.

Creating a link tagging strategy for tracking email depends on your email marketing strategy. Email marketers often segment their email lists many different ways depending on the type of marketing activity. For example, a company may target parents in a back-to-school campaign and send a parent-themed message to members on the email list who are parents. The Google Analytics measurement strategy should follow this overall marketing strategy and track how well or poorly the “parents” segment of email traffic performed.

When creating your link tagging strategy for email, remember you have four query-string parameters to track email. Try to stuff as much information as you can into these parameters to increase your ability to segment data in Google Analytics.

You can send email communications as part of a large marketing effort or independently. It depends on what the organization is using email messages for. This has a direct impact on the value of the campaign parameter. If the email message is sent out as part of a larger campaign, you can use the name of the main campaign. This will provide the ability to segment the main campaign by the different marketing mediums within the campaign. If the email message is sent as a standalone campaign, use something that clearly identifies the campaign.

This parameter is easy. I find the best value for utm_medium is email. That’s it, nice and simple.

The source parameter is useful for tracking the type of email and the segment receiving the email message.

You can use the content parameter to identify different variations of an email message. For example, parents of high-school-aged children receiving a back-to-school campaign message may get a different themed email message than parents with grade-school-aged children.

Note: Some organizations like to use the utm_term parameter when tracking email. This provides a fifth parameter to hold more information about the email campaign, I personally do not like this method, as it adds non-keyword data to keyword reports. If you choose to use utm_term to track email, be sure to add an include filter to any profiles that are used for search engine optimizations (SEOs) or CPC analysis.

With the rise in popularity of Google Analytics, many email vendors have integrated Google Analytics tracking. Most of the integrations include automatically adding the campaign tracking parameters to the links in your email message. The image below shows the integration of Mail Chimp with Google Analytics.

Some tools, like Mail Chimp, will automatically tag email links for you

Attached Image

By default, Mail Chimp will use the current date for the campaign name, the email list name for the source, and a value of “email” for the medium. It will not use a value for utm_content. While this can be enormously helpful and save you much time, make sure the default values used by your email provider jive with your overall link tagging strategy. Check with your email provider to determine if it integrates with Google Analytics.

Note: If you host and run your own email marketing tool, it may be worth your time to modify the tool to automatically tag the links with the link tagging parameters. If you use some type of email tool, check to see if there is a plug-in or extension that provides the functionality.

Email Messages to Complete Conversion Activities

Some website conversions, like signing up for an email newsletter, have an email confirmation component. In these cases, the visitor must complete the conversion process by clicking on a link in some type of confirmation email message. Many people wonder if this email message should be tracked with campaign tracking and what the optimal solution is for understanding the overall conversion process.

In this type of situation, it’s best to remember that you want to measure the visitor’s progression through a process. As such, we want to generate metrics at each step to better understand where there may be issues. In reality, this has very little to do with using campaign tracking for email tracking and more to do with goals.

Step one is to create a goal to track how many visitors submit the original email form. This goal will track when visitors submit their email address. After the visitor submits her email address, she usually gets some type of thank-you page. This thank-you page should be configured as a goal. The visitor also gets some type of confirmation email message, indicating she must click on a link to confirm her subscription.

The next step in tracking this process is to track when someone clicks a link in the confirmation email message. This message usually contains a link that will bring the visitor to a confirmation page on the website. We know that every time this page is viewed, the visitor came from a “confirm your signup” type of email message. What we want to do is connect this activity with the original activity that brought the visitor to the site. As mentioned above, we can’t track visitor actions in their inbox. But we can track what happens when they land on the site if we tag the links in the email message. To ensure we do not overwrite the original information that brought the visitor to the site, we can use a campaign tracking feature called no_override. This is a query-string parameter that you can add to destination URLs in email messages and other marketing materials. It’s very similar to the standard link tagging parameters. Here’s how a link in an email message might look with the no_override parameter:


You can also use a funnel to track a visitor’s progress through this process. However, the visitor may not immediately return to the site. There may be some interval of time between when the visitor submits his email address and when he confirms his subscription. If the visitor does not confirm his subscription within the visit timeout limit (30 minutes by default), Google Analytics will create a new visit. This will result in an abandonment from the funnel report. In reality, the visitor did not abandon the process; he just took his time.

Google Analytics

Learn more about this topic from Google Analytics.

Take advantage of Google Analytics' powerful and free tools to understand exactly how users behave when they visit your website or use your web application. This hands-on guide shows you how to probe general traffic, marketing, and ecommerce information with these tools, and teaches you how to supplement them with add-ons and external tools when you want to dig even deeper. You'll also learn how to create custom reports to analyze specific issues.

See what you'll learn

3 Replies

  ToBeJazz's Photo
Posted Feb 16 2011 02:45 AM

I wonder if one would be able to track number of email views with inserting the Google Analytics HTML tracking code in a HTML email?
I'm using a program called Direct Mail (for Mac) that can record email views - would probably be even better if I could use Google Analytics to track email views combined with everything else that GA does.
  DarkFlib's Photo
Posted Feb 19 2011 11:08 AM


Most email clients only display external images if the user has set it to (either by clicking the enable images button on the email, or changing the global configuration). External scripts are often completely disabled in many clients with no option to enable them.

While there are likely to be some that will work the way you want, I'd expect it would be less than 5% in practice.
Sysdom.com - Monitoring and Support Services (Launching Feb 2011)
  ojonsek's Photo
Posted Jan 28 2014 06:51 PM

@ToBeJazz - If you like to track opened emails in Google Analytics - use the tool www.pixelsite.info - it does not require any programming and is very intuitive. All data gets posted straight into your Google Analytics account and you don't have to share passwords and such.