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Why UTM Tracking Is Stripped From A URL
Google Analytics has become the industry standard for organising and evaluating web traffic. Channel managers and agencies live and die by the stats displayed in this tool, so it's important to make sure your tracking is as accurate as possible.
I've personally been in the centre of a lot of tracking disputes, primarily from paid search and paid social marketers always wanting to make sure their attribution is correct.
Google does a great job of trafficking standard methods such as your organic search, direct, referrals and such but when it comes to paid media, you need to become a little more granulate and accurate about tagging campaign links.
In comes UTM tracking
To do this marketers make use of UTM tracking, which appends a URL with a long string of parameters that are then fed back into Google Analytics where data and performance can be attributed to the correct channel.
UTM tracking is a manual tagging system so it can be suspectable to human error or bugs in the way your site is setup. At times the UTM tracking can be stripped from your URLs, and this can cause havoc with your tracking.
Is UTM tracking being always stripped a bad thing?
Protip! You can try it by appending any UTM tracking to the end of our URLs and see the magic in action.
When UTM stripping is a problem
Reason 1: 301 Redirects
301 redirects can often strip your URL tracking, and categorise PPC traffic into organic or direct. This includes the gclid tracking code for AdWords and the &utm=source tracking parameter for other search engines. It is easy to find if this is your issue. To test the gclid, enter the destination URL into your browser with the UTM or gclid at the end. If the URL changes and strips away the tracking parameters in your URL bar, then you're losing your tracking.
If the original destination URL is a legacy URL, then all you need to do is update the destination URLs in your pay-per-click accounts. Adding your UTM tracking to the URL, they point directly to the final destination. Alternative solution: In a case where the URL redirects based on a user action, then you may need to ask your website developer to configure your server to pass the gclid and all other tracking parameters.
Reason 2: Tracking parameter order
Check the order of your tracking parameters. Your &utm URL tagging needs to come before any additional tracking parameters. If they are in the wrong order, then you are not going to track performance properly.
In the case of my client, I initially set up the URLs with the call tracking parameter first, and the URL tagging second.
Here is an example: http://www.example.com/?param=a¶m2=b&utm=source&utm=cpc&utm=content¶meter
Under this structure, the call tracking parameters were effectively stripping the &utm=source in Google Analytics. So similar to the case of 301 redirects, your PPC traffic would not be counted and attributed to organic or direct.
Reorder your tracking URLs, so the &utm=source tracking code comes before any additional tracking parameters. Your URL should follow this structure: http://www.example.com/?utm=source&utm=cpc&utm=content¶meter¶m=a¶m2=b
Reason 3: URL structure
If you are still having problems tracking 3rd party campaigns in Google Analytics, then your issue may lie with the &utm=source tracking parameter setup using any Google URL Builder. If you do not properly format this tag, then Google Analytics will not record traffic properly.
Take a closer look at your &utm=source parameters to confirm everything is correct.
Reason 4: Angular sites
If you're running UTM tracking for an angular site, it could strip out the UTM tracking because of the way the UI routing works.
You will need to request that your developer add the "utm_source" as a query parameter to the state being redirected to and the state being redirected from. To be safe, you could add it as a parameter to some common parent state.
Get back on the right tracking
3rd party URL tagging is a great resource for tracking pay-per-click campaign performance, but you have to be absolutely meticulous in your implementation to reap benefits.
These are all very common problems with URL tagging so don't beat yourself up about it and now that you know what they are the solutions are simple to implement.
If you are experiencing tracking problems and still don't have a clue where to start, feel free to reach out. We are always happy to help.
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If you enjoyed this post and have a little extra time to dive deeper down the rabbit hole, why not check out the following posts on Google Analytics.
- How To Track Social Sharing In Google Analytics
- Google Analytics Interaction Hit Vs Non-Interaction Hit
- Get Back Your Google Analytics Account With These Simple Steps
- How To Track Search and Zero Search Queries In Google Analytics
- How To Track Video Views With Google Analytics
- How To Track Email Open Rate With Google Analytics