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The most common mistake in campaign tracking (and how to fix it)

So you’re ready to send your content on the “campaign trail.” You’ve just written an awesome piece, and it’s time to publish it for the world to see. No problem, right? Campaign tracking is super easy…to screw up. Even I did it. But I also figured out what I did wrong and learned how to fix it. 

As the Customer Support manager here at Parse.ly, I answer questions about our campaign tracking at least weekly (if not more often).  I consistently reference our step-by-step guide for campaign tracking, so that was my first stop when I promoted my recent blog post The Magic of Metadata. I went straight to our URL builder, but  failed to focus on the key point: what questions did I want to answer about traffic to this content?

The URLs I initially used for my blog post weren’t specific enough and in some cases, they had incorrect information. When my post went live I thought, ‘oh, I’m sharing this on social media right away.’ Our marketing department even offered a link for us to use. I took a quick glance and figured it looked like a good UTM structure for me to use:

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However,  a bit later on I realized that I had just used that same link on ALL my social media platforms, not just LinkedIn but Twitter and Facebook as well. I was so eager to promote my content on social media that I forgot to build a different URL for each platform so that I would know where the majority of my traffic originated. That type of information is invaluable because it helps to understand the best places to promote this type of content in the future.  

Mixing up the values in utm parameters is one of the most common mistakes that I see. And now I understand why! It’s so easy to copy and paste a url, and not think twice. Other common mistakes I see include misspelled campaign values and mixing up which values go with which campaign parameters.

Staying organized with Parse.ly’s campaign url builder will help alleviate any guesswork, misspellings, or other inconsistencies. But the good news is even if you do make a mistake, it’s a cinch to fix with campaign groups.

What do campaign groups do? Campaign groups organize several utm parameters into a single, user-friendly filter. In my case, I want to be sure we’re proactively sharing content to help customers over email, social media, and any integration guides that we create. Individual campaign parameters provide insight into the details, but a campaign group can help me understand how the whole team pitches in to help our customers.

I tried not to waste too much time crying over spilt milk and instead set out to fix my campaign parameters. I re-read our documentation and focused on the questions I wanted to answer:

    • utm_campaign: Why is traffic going here? (In my case, the answer was that traffic was going to read the post on Parse.ly’s blog)
    • utm_medium: How did traffic get here? (For me, that was via social or email)
    • utm_source: Where did traffic come from? (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, my email signature)
    • utm_content: What did people click on to get here? (My links: at Parse.ly, we use our first names; it’s fun and motivating to see who can drive the most traffic)
    • utm_term: What did people search for to get here? (In this case, I had no use for this parameter. Our customers use term to track search terms, or other custom values. Just remember to stay consistent!)

Thinking about each parameter as a question, and each value as the answer, allowed me to see so much more context about the traffic to my post. My initial campaign parameters, though flawed, were not a loss in the end. I was able to create a group of multiple campaign values that allowed me to properly attribute my mislabeled traffic sources.  Campaign groups also enabled me to see how much traffic I generated to my post vs. the rest of the Parse.ly team:

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It turns out that campaign tracking isn’t so tough after all. Well-crafted campaign parameters and a user-friendly analytics solution like Parse.ly’s dashboard will allow you to easily see the ROI of your marketing efforts.