GA for Startups, Part 2: Making the Most of Marketing

Paul Koch, Former Data & Analytics Director

Article Categories: #Strategy, #Data & Analytics

Posted on

One of my favorite features of GA is its ability to help you choose the best advertising channels.  Are PPC ads, banner ads, and your social media posts actually sending you traffic?  Is that traffic engaged?  Is it converting?

If you’re a startup, GA can help you figure out where to allocate your limited marketing budget.  Out-of-the-box GA setup, however, has a few limitations:

  • Traffic from Twitter is likely under-reported because third-party applications such as TweetDeck are reported as Direct traffic rather than as a Referral from Twitter. (The same problem applies to tracking email campaigns when visitors use Microsoft Outlook).
  • Even though Facebook reports traffic accurately, you can’t drill down to see how individual posts perform. 
  • It can be hard to keep everything straight.  Say you have two different promotions, each with multiple banner ad sizes that run on lots of sites.  It can be tough to identify, for example, if particular banner sizes perform better across all promotions and sites.

Enter the Google URL Builder Tool!  Simply input the URL where you want to send visitors and specify the Source and Medium of the ad or post. The Term and Content fields are optional.  Then label your campaign with a clear name that you will easily understand when it appears in your GA report. When you click “Generate URL,” Google will create a URL tagged with parameters that GA can read.  

For example, say we post identical content on Facebook and Twitter with a link to our description of our monthly reporting services.  For our Facebook post, we might specify Website URL:  Source: Facebook  Medium: Referral  Term: (blank)  Content: Nov-30-Post  Name: Reporting-Ads.  The URL builder tool then provides the following URL:  If a user clicks on this, he still goes to—only now GA knows exactly where he came from.

If posting on Twitter, you’d simply change the Source, leaving everything else constant.  Even if you paste the URL into a shortener such as, the campaign parameters will stay intact.  For example, gives us this link:  Click on it, and you’ll see it still contains all the info from the URL builder tool.  

To identify what advertising works best, view your Campaigns report within the Traffic Sources section.  Look at your site usage and goal completion metrics.  Does anything stand out as particularly high or low?  (Roll over to enlarge)

In this example, it DC Metro is doing great—a high number of pages per visit and time on site.  In contrast, banner ads are tanking.  This is great to know when you’re trying to allocate dollars to get your startup going.  Click the Campaign dropdown and change it to Ad Content for another set of insights.  

You can even track offline marketing, such as print ads, with Google Analytics.  (No, seriously.)  Take a look at this awesome post from E-Nor, another Google Analytics Certified Partner, for the details.  Please share your URL builder questions (or triumph stories) in the comments!


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