How to achieve higher quality Google Analytics data

Full tracking visibility across your traffic sources is not something that comes straight out of the box. This is our quick guide to better Google Analytics data.

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful and (mostly) free piece of web analytics software that shows how users get to your website, and also shows their actions once they’re on your website. However, complete tracking visibility does not come straight out of the box.

The problem is that not all traffic has referral information attached to it, meaning it’s labelled ‘Direct’.

UTM Tracking (Urchin Tracking Module) was introduced to combat limitations in receiving the referral information that causes this. So, where are we likely to see Direct traffic coming from?

Direct traffic
Desktop email clients
Desktop Applications
Mobile Applications aka Apps
Secure website to a non-secure website (HTTPS to HTTP) unless allowed to be passed with the referral meta tag (but that’s another story)

Referral Traffic
Web based email clients
Some social media traffic

This is where UTM steps in.

By using UTM on links where you know the referral won’t be passed on or potentially mixed up, in an email for example, we can assign a source to it that is recorded in Google Analytics.

How UTM tracks URLs

With UTM we can explicitly state the referral: UTM is an extension of the URL stating the following information:

Medium: what channel this should be classified under (e.g. email)
Source: where the traffic is coming from (e.g. newsletter, a social media platform, etc.)
Name: an internal name for the traffic, such as the campaign name (e.g. Spring sale)

Here’s an example…

Imagine we are sending out an email detailing a new offer and want to track the individual links on an email to see what’s working and what isn’t. Using the logo as an example, we can add UTM parameters to show which traffic came from email, which email it was, and that it was the logo that was clicked. 

Here’s how we’d do that.

Source: e-shot offer (a defining name of the e-shot offer that makes sense for internal reporting)
Medium: email (this reflects one of the channels in Google Analytics)
Campaign: logo (the description of the link on the email would be put here)

Our new URL would be:

By using this URL, the source, medium and campaign are recorded in Google Analytics.

We can conclude that…

There are many ways to use UTM tracking to make sure you’re tracking everything from all channels, which in turn allows you to assess the performance of a range of traffic sources much more accurately. We’ve worked with several clients putting together the framework to set the URLs up, allowing reporting to be more specific.

Let us know how you’re using UTM, or if you have any questions on BLY Twitter.


Post by

Ollie Boyd