Beefing up your email link tracking

Get more mileage out of your URLs with Google Analytics

We email marketers love open rates and click-through rates. They tell us the quantity of attention we've won and show us opportunities to win more, whether we're out to increase alumni engagement or to hawk Corvettes.

But what do your readers do beyond the click, when they leave your email campaign to visit your website?

Add web analytics software like Google Analytics to your email marketing campaigns, and you'll be able to see what your email subscribers end up doing on your website. It'll give you invaluable data about conversions and site traffic patterns, and it'll help you plan even better marketing campaigns. I'll walk you through it.

Getting started

If you don't have an Analytics account, set one up here. Google's installation guide explains how to place tracking code in the appropriate files on your site.

Why email + web analytics matters

With Google Analytics, your email campaigns and website exchange click-based crib
notes to score conversions, pageviews and other metrics. By adding specialized code to each URL — called "tagging" — you'll have a system that not only shows which links generate the most traffic but also ranks the effectiveness of email marketing alongside paid search, print and more.

How to do it

To incorporate Analytics in your next email campaign, start by using Google's URL Builder to turn your simple link into a tagged URL. Each Google parameter helps you categorize the source:

Set these parameters so they'll make sense in your analytics report. And don't feel like you have to fill in every blank; according to Google's tagging tips, don't bother unless you need to drill down to the nitty gritty.

Here's an example from May's Agency Insider, a newsletter series we send to creative firms who resell our email marketing service. In the bottom right section, you'll see an image of a stupendously fancy chair. It's linked to a blog post called "Building a slice and dice campaign." Here's how we defined the parameters for the fancy chair image:

  • Campaign Source: Agency-Insider
  • Campaign Medium: Emma-Email
  • Campaign Content: SliceDice-Blog-Image
  • Campaign Name: May-Edition

Here is the original URL: /2011/06/01/send-big-image

And here is the finished product: /2011/06/01/send-big-image/?utm_source=AgencyInsider&utm_medium=emmaemail&utm_content=SliceDice-Blog-image&utm_campaign=May-Edition

It's a whopper, I know. Do this for each link that goes back to your site, and then add the tagged links to your Emma campaign just as you would any other link. Send a test to check that every link from your inbox lands in the right place. When everything is ready, set that heat-seeker loose on your audience.

Understanding the results

After Emma records the opens, clicks and other inbox activity, she'll pass the baton to Google to follow the clicks to your site. Allow about 48 hours to get a clear picture of your results.

When the clicks roll to a stop in your Analytics account, you'll have a full road report of what each visitor did and saw on your landing page. To find the report in Google Analytics, log in and select "Traffic Sources" in the dashboard. You can choose to "View Full Report" or just display the "Top Traffic Sources."

Find the Campaign Source you tagged your links with in the URL Builder (in my earlier example, that's "Agency-Insider"). Google ranks the popularity of your links and shows you the average number of pageviews, how long people spent on each page, the percentage of new visitors and the bounce rate.

Knowing what's next

With Google Analytics riding shotgun on your Emma campaigns, you'll have a heat map to guide your marketing plan. You'll be able to learn what calls to action resonate most with each segment of your audience and how they arrive at the shopping cart. The various promotional channels that make up your marketing spend will be tuned to the same stat-o-matic Google frequency.

And along the way you're bound to develop stickier content that keeps visitors on your site longer and engages them in your service. Here's hoping there's heavy traffic ahead. Jersey Turnpike or bust!

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Want to learn more about becoming an Emma agency? Inquire here.

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