Zach Mandelblatt
By Zach Mandelblatt | SEM | February 26, 2014

Using the URL Builder to Distinguish Traffic Sources

Regular readers of our blogs have probably noticed frequent reference to the Google URL builder in my many blogs about setting up conversion tracking & goals in Google Analytics. As more and more search engines/social media sites have begun to offer paid advertising, the Google URL builder has turned into an important tool for businesses looking to advertise on platforms other than Google while still tracking their ROI in Google Analytics.  Here’s the simplified version of what the URL builder does: it tells GA exactly where a website visit is coming from.  In order to discern between organic and paid traffic from alternative traffic sources like Bing & Facebook, one must use the URL builder to tag the destination URLs on their ads.

Using the URL builder isn’t necessary in Google AdWords to separate paid Google traffic from organic traffic, as Adwords automatically tags destination URLs so GA knows the website visits are coming from AdWords.

Auto Tagging In AdWords

Standard Settings in Google AdWords tag your links for you

Unfortunately, for non-Google traffic sources, GA cannot discern the traffic source without help from the URL builder, which will skew the results of your carefully configured conversion tracking.   Let’s take a look at the URL builder and how to use it to tag various traffic sources.

The Google URL Builder

Above is a screenshot of the URL builder.  Notice there are 4 required fields: your full website URL, Campaign Source, Campaign Medium, & Campaign Name.  You’ll have to enter values for each of these fields.  You can specify pretty much whatever you want in these campaigns and it will show up in Google Analytics as the Source/Medium specified in the URL builder tagging process.  For example, if we were sending out an email newsletter designed to drive traffic to our home page I would fill out the URL builder as seen in the image below:

Google URL Builder

I’ve specified the Campaign Source as Newsletter, Campaign Medium as Email, and the Campaign Name as DigitalReach.  Below the submit button, you’ll see that AdWords has spit out the URL we’ll use to hyperlink our newsletter back to our website so that the Traffic Source/Medium to shows up as Newsletter/Email in Google Analytics.  This will allow us to see how many people reach our website via the newsletter and how likely they are to convert whatever goals we have set up, be it a phone call, purchase, or anything else.

Bing Ads has developed a unique method that makes it easy for you to tag all of your ads however you want when importing campaigns from AdWords.  During the import options stage of the import process, you can choose to add text to the end of each ad:

Adding Bing URL Tags

We built this URL strand to be added to each of the ads imported using the URL builder, and it allows us to see our Bing Ads traffic in Google Analytics as the traffic source Bing/CPC.  Without tagging our ad links like this, all that traffic would show up as Bing/Organic or Yahoo/Organic.  That’s not good if you are trying to analyze the data!

One last trick Google URL builder trick is to differentiate different ads or campaigns in GA.  For example, let’s pretend you are running two very different Facebook ads and you are interested in seeing how each of them perform. If you specify the “Campaign Medium” for one as “AdA” and the other as “AdB”, making the URLS:


The different ads will show up as Facebook/AdA & Facebook/AdB traffic sources in GA, allowing you to look at their stats/goal conversion rates and determine a winner.

If you use Google Analytics for most of your website analysis and you’re trying new advertising sources, email drips, or anything else you want to track, make sure to use the URL Builder to tag those links!

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