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Track your email marketing campaigns with Google Analytics

Google Analytics website email trackingUsing email marketing analytics correctly is what separates regular email marketers from good email marketers.

Google Analytics is a powerful website tracking tool, which can be used for campaign tracking as well.

Why should you prefer GA over your Email Service Provider’s (ESP) built-in analytic tools?

First of all you don’t have to choose one analytics over another, they both work together for your benefit, but if you track your campaigns with Google Analytics and use it for tracking your main site, you can compare user behavior and traffic from various sources in a very convenient way and take advantage of the myriad features that Google’s software has.

However, GA won’t replace your ESP’s reports by itself. It’s impossible to track, for example, opened emails with Google Analytics. You can only track clickthroughs to your website and their activities on your website with Google Analytics, but it is very useful either way.

How to integrate Google Analytics with your email campaign?

For starters, create a Google Analytics account if you haven’t got one already. It’s obviously better if you track the site and the email campaign with the same tracking software; simply follow the site integration directions given on the site and continue with the article once you’ve set GA up and running on your website.

To start tracking links in your campaigns, you will have to format them accordingly if your ESP doesn’t support formatting links automatically (using Mailigen, provides simple option to set up tracking code in STEP 1 of campaign creation by entering referral campaign name). You have to format the links so the analytics software knows the source and campaign to which the link is ‘tied’ to.

You can use Google’s URL builder to format links easily.

1. Paste the URL you want to track into the Website URL field.

2. Specify the source of your visits in Campaign Source. Usually, the name of your ESP is added here.

3. Set the medium of your campaign in Campaign Medium – in most cases, you’ll want simply “email” here.

4. And in Campaign Name you should add the date you sent the campaign.

Although ‘Campaign Name’ implies that this field will house the name of the campaign, the date of sending will have more meaning in the long term. The prefix “nl” implies that this is a newsletter you’re sending — we’ll return to this one a bit later.

That was easy, right?
Click ‘Generate URL’ and the end result will be a formatted link:
http://www.mailigen.com/?utm_source=Mailigen&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nl03-20-11

Reading your data

Once you’ve sent your first campaign with GA tracking, log into your account and click ‘View report’ for the website you are tracking.

Then, in ‘Traffic sources’, click ‘Campaigns’ and you’ll be able to see which campaigns have generated the most visits.

Organizing your data over the long haul.

For your statistics to make sense in the long run, you must organize the actual acquisition of data very thoroughly.

Naming each campaign as the “subject” field of each email will help you recognize the campaign easier in short term. However, the actual date of the campaign will become a more meaningful statistic when you want to compare email metrics by month, year, et cetera.

Follow naming conventions, and you’ll end up with more organized email marketing reports over the years.

Using advanced segments to boost email campaign tracking

Remember, we named our campaign ‘nl03-20-11’?

The Advanced Segments feature in Google Analytics offers segmenting your data with conditions in order to acquire easy-to-use results that you can compare to other data in your metrics.

Take the chart below for an example:
Google Analytics Advanced Segments - Email marketing

If you have followed the naming convention (type-month-date-year), you’ll end up with newsletter metrics from March 2011. Convenient.

By using Advanced Segments, you will be able to filter results by years, months, and campaign type. For example, if you want to filter only data without the newsletters, you can create a segment with the condition ‘does not start with’ and the value ‘nl’.

If you add ‘nl’ prefix to newsletters and ‘pr’ for promotional emails, you’ll be able to compare the visits generated from promotional emails and regular newsletters.

Conclusion

Taking rigorous measures to organize your email marketing reports is to no avail if you don’t actually do anything useful with the data at the end.

Google Analytics is a very powerful tracking tool with myriad features like Goals and Alert Tracking; use them wisely, think over the long term, and good things will come.

We will be happy to help you with email campaign tracking integration if you get in to some trouble down the road.
Good luck!

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4 Comments
  • B. Moore August 17, 2012 09:29:53

    What can I do/say to my boss/owner who wants to start sending a 1 image only email that uses an image map for all the links.

    Since he wants to use an image map we can only track the open rate with our email marketing service and hope that Google Analytics tracks the click click-throughs to the site from the email. I am praying the customer/subsciber is not using any kind of do not track app/addon/extension/plugin/service.

    I am at a loss on what to do. Do you know of any whitepapers/case studies or anything that I can use to show him that this is a very bad idea.

    His motivation/philoshophy on doing this is it will save lots of time.

    I need help. please!

  • Mailigen expert August 17, 2012 09:29:53

    Great question and many times asked.

    1st – Image Blocking
    Most email clients block images by default. Consequently, there is a risk that the email recipient may not reed the content of this message, because visual part of the content will be blocked, in this case the recipient will see a blank email, unless you add more descriptive information in the alt attribute value. That provides some additional information to recipient, like click here to read more or unblock images to view this message.

    When sending emails with pictures, it would be advisable to use the alt attribute and indicate the size of the images, in cases where the images will be blocked, email recipient will see the alternate text and hopefully take desired action.

    A very useful article on this subject is Mark Brownlow Internet site http://www.email-marketing-reports.com .

    2nd – Image Maps in emails
    Image Map are supported in most common email programs. Only problem is the links to click, the images will be blocked at the beginning. Consequently, the reader will not be able to see your CTA (Call To Action) without seeing your content.

    Google Analytics tracking. It is not known whether there are any specific programs that do not trace the links that use UTM code, but to be sure you can use the link shorteners, such as http://bit.ly and as a result you will have UTM code included in the link, so the UTM code won’t be removed by any program.
    Also each of the Image Map links can have a unique UTM code tracker, so you can see which one is most effective.

    To summarize, the biggest problem will be with image blocking, so people won’t read the email and won’t be able to click your links. 2nd problem can be with spam filters that don’t like image only emails. 3rd argument would be that it’s fairly simple to convert any email design in an HTML text/image format with basic skills.

    p.s. By the way, using Mailigen email marketing platform all the links can be traced and the amount of clicks will appear Mailigen reports section.

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