Mutually Exclusive Data in Tagging Parameters

or - How to Make URL Tagging Effective

So you know you need to tag your website URLs when placing ads digitally, but you aren't quite sure what to put in each placeholder. For example, Google Analytics can hold up to five tags for each website URL: campaign, medium, source, ad content, and keyword. The best way to use these placeholders is with high- and low-level data that can help optimize and report for both business and campaign objectives. In order to do THAT you MUST have completely separate data categories per tag. Or, in analyst speak, mutually exclusive data in tagging parameters.

In explaining tagging parameters (or placeholders), I will be walking through examples using Google Analytics URL tags. However, the concept holds for any other tagging system.

Step 1. Collect Business Requirements

First, we'll start by gathering business requirements from stakeholders to measure successful marketing campaigns. (Yes, that's where we start when tagging digital efforts!)

TennisCo makes tennis rackets that they sell to consumers via their own eCommerce site, as well as through larger distribution channels such as SportsRUs. They are currently running a campaign on their newest tennis racket (Model Tx) that was unveiled at last month's insider Sports Show in Las Vegas, NV. They have two objectives for their campaign:

  1. Get the larger channels to stock the tennis racket
  2. Give their loyal eNewsletter subscribers the option to buy online

This tennis racket is the first of three they will be unveiling during their fiscal year, and they want to measure the success of the Model Tx campaign to see what channels and ad creative work best for both distributors and consumers, being careful not to undermine the distribution channels.

As an analyst, it's your job to track and analyze the digital marketing efforts. That way in three months you can give a clear strategy on the best way to market the second tennis racket, Model TWx.

Step 2. Organize the Data

In order to track all of this, you will need at least five levels of data:

  • Product
  • Marketing Channel
  • Marketing Medium
  • Audience
  • Creative Version

Once you have the high- and low-level optimization categories defined, you can map each to it's correlated tag and can start adding options for each category. (I recommend giving a set list of tags to ensure minimal typos and mismatched values, for instance eNews vs. email.)

  • Product = Campaign
  • Marketing Channel = Source
  • Marketing Medium = Medium
  • Audience = Keyword
  • Creative Version = Ad Content

An excel spreadsheet is a very simple and effective tool for this purpose as it's easy to create drop-down lists and formulas to automatically tag URLs. (Download a sample spreadsheet.)

For example, in Column A the user would input the destination URL. Column B would be a drop-down list of the three potential products being marketed. Column C a drop-down of marketing channels used during the campaign. And so on.

Step 3. Learn the Marketing Strategy

After talking with the Marketing Team on the first round of tactics, you learn there will be digital messages being sent to both distributor and consumer via CMS email, digital ads on Facebook (separated by audience), distributor ads on, and a total of four creative versions of the ad that vary by message. This is the central data for your tags.

Step 4. Tag

Once all the marketing effort are accounted for, you can use the spreadsheet to properly tag all links that will point back to the website, regardless if it points to an internal distribution inventory section, or a front-facing online order form for consumers.

After three weeks, you can pull the data and be able to discern the varying message success by audience, by channel, and by medium. Now you have good insights to both optimize in the present, and begin planning the next campaign by which combination is working best for each audience.

What are the most important things to know when tagging?

The most important thing about tagging is to make sure two of your parameter sets are not the same data. For example, I've seen tags where "medium = digital ad" and "source = display." Since these two data points are pretty much the same value, one is rendered meaningless and you have lost a valuable optimization option. In analyst speak, you should not be able to map one data set onto another.

Another very valuable thing to know is you can use parameters any way you feel like using them. You don't have to use the keyword parameter as a keyword, especially if manually tagging digital elements. In general, the keyword parameter is auto-tagged for search engine results, which are hardly ever used in conjunction with campaign results. (Although they should be supplemental.) So do whatever you want with the parameters - As long as you keep it consistent.

If you have more than five categories you need to track, or if you don't want the user to see lengthy tagging, you can append a data source into Google Analytics. This will allow you to tag each URL with a unique identifier and have Google unfold the rest of the parameters into the reporting.

See more on this topic here:

Happy Analyzing!

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