The Guide to URL Tracking In Google Analytics

URL tracking is the process of adding unique identifiers to your final URLs. 

If you’re not tagging your URLs in Google Analytics, or your analytics platform of choice, you could be losing out on valuable information that could supercharge your marketing.

In this guide we cover:

  1. Why You Should Tag URLs
  2. Types of Analytics URL Tagging
  3. Tracking Outside Data in Analytics
  4. What Next?

1) Why You Should Tag URLs

The number one reason to tag your final URLs is that it allows you to successfully track your digital marketing efforts in Google Analytics. This is particularly important when you’re running multiple types of marketing campaigns as it means you can segment the data to gain meaningful insights.

For example, let’s say that you have good click-through-rate in Microsoft’s organic results due to SEO considerations and you’re driving lots of site traffic with a Microsoft Advertising campaign. If you don’t tag your URLs, all visitors – PPC and SEO – will be labeled as “organic” in Analytics.

The second reason is that URL tagging allows you to gain a deeper knowledge of the overall performance of your campaigns. 

When it comes to PPC, search engines provide conversion tracking and deep stats like impressions, clicks and click-through rate. However, none of these metrics explain what happens “post-click.” When you properly tag your final URLs, you’ll be able to view stats like pageviews per visit, average time on site, % new visitors, and bounce rate. 

2) Types of Analytics URL Tagging


If your Google Analytics account is linked to an active Google Ads account and you have auto-tagging enabled, you don’t need to manually tag your Google Ads URLs as Google will do it for you. Auto-tagging is selected by default in all Google Ads accounts.

To enable or disable auto-tagging, go to “Account Settings > Preferences”.

Auto-tagging is not compatible with a small percentage of websites and some final URLs won’t accept additional URL parameters. To test if auto-tagging will work for your site, follow these steps:

  1. Click on a version of your ad with auto-tagging enabled.
  2. If the resulting page displays the gclid in the address bar and takes you to a working site, auto-tagging is working.
  3. If you do not see gclid in the address bar or if you see an error in the resulting page, turn off auto-tagging.

You can find more on checking to see if Google Ads auto-tagging works here.

Manual Tagging for Google Analytics

If you are manually tagging your URLs for Analytics, you’ll want to use the Google Analytics URL Builder to generate the tagging.

Google campaign URL builder

Below is Google’s explanation of the different parameters:

Google campaign parameters

Campaign Source, Campaign Medium and Campaign Name are required fields. Campaign Source is typically going to be the search engine (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc). Campaign Medium will define the type of advertising (PPC, email, etc). The Campaign Name will be the name of your campaign. The remaining parameters can be used optionally to further identify your ads.

Below are examples of how the same ad would look being tracked in Google and Microsoft:

URL tracking examples for Google and Bing

It’s important to note that you need to make sure you always label your URLs in the same manner. Google Analytics is case sensitive so watch out for capitalization differences like cpc vs. CPC.

To build your URLs, you can utilize the Analytics URL Builder or create a URL builder in excel which is much more efficient, especially for creating URLs in bulk.

Manual Tagging for Backend Systems

You’ll want to use manual tagging for Google Ads URLs using backend systems. To do this, it’s best to use ValueTrack Parameters. When a user clicks your ad and visits your website, ValueTrack records certain details about the ad in the URL by replacing dynamic parameters.

Here is a list of available ValueTrack parameters for PPC:

{matchtype} – the match type of the keyword that triggered your ad

{network} – whether the click came from Google Search, Search Partners, or the Display Network

{device} – tells you which device a user was on when clicking your ad

{ifsearch:[value]} – if your ad is clicked from a site in the Google Search Network, you’ll see whatever text you insert

{ifcontent:[value]} – If your ad is clicked from a site in the Google Display Network, you’ll see whatever text you insert

{creative} – the unique ID for a creative ad

{keyword} – for Search the keyword that triggered your ad; for Display, the best-matching keyword

{placement} – for Display only, the domain name of the site where the ad was clicked

{target} – for Display only, a placement category

{random} – a random Google-generated number

{aceid} – the control ID or experiment ID from Google Ads

{copy:[name]} – for Sitelinks extensions, the URL will include the actual parameter name and the value you indicate from the corresponding headline URL

{adposition} – the position on the page that your ad appeared in

{param1} – if you’re using AdParamService, create parameter #1

{param2} – if you’re using AdParamService, create parameter #2

Possible Tracking Combinations

You can use each of the above URL tracking methods on their own or combine them together to fit your needs. You might be in a situation where you don’t have backend tracking, but you want to be able to further optimize the account, so auto-tagging would suffice for your Google Ads campaigns and manual tracking for non-Google Ads campaigns. 

Below are the different combinations of Analytics tracking:

  1. Auto-tagging only
  2. Manual Analytics tagging
  3. ValueTrack manual-tagging only
  4. ValueTrack manual-tagging and auto-tagging
  5. ValueTrack manual-tagging and manual analytics tagging

3) Tracking Outside Data in Analytics

If you are running PPC campaigns on platforms other than Google Ads and haven’t properly tagged your URLs, Google Analytics will record the source but all traffic will be classified as organic.

Comparison with and without URL tagging

Tracking Microsoft Advertising PPC Data in Analytics

To automatically add UTM parameters to the end of your Microsoft ads URLs, follow these steps:

  1. Login to Microsoft Advertising and click Accounts & Billing under the gear icon.
  2. Choose the account in which you want to enable auto-tagging.
  3. Click the edit icon in the Accounts tab
  4. Next to Auto-tagging, select Add UTM tags to my destination URLs.
  5. Choose to either replace all existing tags or keep existing tags.

Choosing to replace all existing tags will remove any UTM tags you already have. Choosing to add any tags that are missing will simply add the new tags to your existing tags. These UTM tags are then automatically attached to your landing page URL when it loads.

If you choose to manually tag your Microsoft Advertising ads, you might find it easiest to use the Analytics URL Builder. We’ve filled out the boxes below to generate a tag to use in Microsoft Ads.

For the source, you should use “bing” for consistency. This is what Microsoft auto-tagging labels it. For medium, enter cpc or ppc, just remember to be consistent. For Campaign Name, enter the campaign name in your account. In this example, we’ve also used the Campaign Content field for the ad group name.

This is the basic approach to tagging your data, but you can also use dynamic URLs, like ValueTrack, to pull even more information from each click. Initially, Microsoft Advertising had a specific list of dynamic tracking inserts but now the technology allows you to track custom parameters.

Below is the list of previously supported dynamic inserts.

  • {Keyword}
  • {MatchType}
  • {QueryString}
  • {OrderItemID}
  • {AdID}
  • {Param1}
  • {Param2}
  • {Param3}
  • {ifsearch}
  • {ifcontent}

Tracking Facebook Ads Data in Analytics

It is just as important to track social platforms like Facebook. Tagging your Facebook URLs correctly will grant a deeper look into your customer’s unique behavior and journey. Again, you’ll want to use the Analytics URL builder as illustrated above for Microsoft Advertising data.

You’ll enter facebook for the source, cpc for the Campaign Medium, and the name for Campaign Name. To gain insights at the ad set level enter the ad set name in Campaign Term. To track performance on an individual ad level, enter the ad name in Campaign Content.

You can also use this same method for any other digital marketing campaigns you need to track.

4) What Next?

As you get to grips with using URL tagging for your PPC campaigns, you’ll find new, inventive ways to use this data to further improve performance. Like making smarter decisions regarding keyword-level bounce rate and time on-site or comparing conversion data between all your sources of site traffic. 

If you’re interested in more hands-on support with Analytics, get in touch.