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Tracking Emails in Google Analytics

Know which emails are working and which links are most effective.

Whether you send out marketing emails or occasional newsletters, you can use Google Analytics to track the effectiveness of your emails. You can also use it to determine how to format your emails and what types of information to include.

Tracking Visits from Emails

Tracking visitors that come from emails is simple enough if you use campaign tracking for each link. Without taking this step, visits from emails will be recorded inconsistently. Some will show up as a referral from a webmail address, like Others will be reported as direct traffic. Using campaign tracking, however, you will be able to analyze your email traffic in great detail.

All of the links in an email ought to be tagged with campaign variables, specifying the campaign, the source and which link was clicked.

What should each value be?

The trickiest part of tagging links in an email is coming up with a consistent naming convention for each variable. None of the data should be redundant. You need to categorize each link in each email so that the information reported is useful. Here are some guidelines:

Campaign Name
This field should contain some of the most specific information about what kind of email this is. It should give some feel for the content of the email. What is your main message or pitch or objective? Is the message seasonal? Will it be a similar message throughout several emails? Is this part of a broader campaign to talk about a new product? If so, you may use the same campaign name for some of your emails, cpc ads and banner ads so that you can get a sense of how well the overall campaign is performing.

A common mistake is to duplicate information in this field from other fields. For example, a bad campaign name would be "Winter 2009 email" because email is the medium, and it restricts your ability to reuse the same campaign name for other mediums.

Campaign Source
Campaign source for an email should not be "email". Email is the medium of this communication, not the source. Instead, think of source as a label identifying where the email came from or the kind of email it is. For example, if you send out weekly newsletters, this might be "newsletter". If you use a third-party for some of your emails, you might use that third-party's name. If you send announcement emails outside the normal flow of newsletters or ads, this might be labeled "announcement". This should not contain information already in the campaign name or medium fields.

In choosing a source, think in terms of broad categories so that you can do roll-up reports for each type of email. You may want to know how your announcement emails perform compared to your regular emails listing current specials. That would help you determine whether the announcement emails are worthwhile or perhaps whether the regular emails need to be reformatted.

Campaign Medium
Medium should be email. This field should be used to compare broad categories of marketing you do (or may do in the future), like emails, cpc ads, postcards, etc. You should not put information in this field that you have in other fields. For example, if your source is "newsletter", the medium should not be "email newsletter". That limits your ability to do roll-up and drill-down reporting.
Ad Content
The ad content field is where you can start to learn exactly how you should be formatting your emails. Tag each link in an email with a different ad content so that you can see which links get clicked on the most, and how traffic from each link compares once the visitors are on the site. Use this field to describe the type or location of the link. For example, label the company logo that shows up on each email as "logo", or the main picture in an email as "main picture". If you notice a difference in how links perform against each other, you may decide to change how your emails are laid out, or you may start to pay more attention to which pictures or phrases you use.
This field should never be used in an email campaign. It is reserved for campaigns using paid keywords. Any information in this field gets reported in the Keywords report under Traffic Sources, alongside all the search engine traffic.

Tagging your emails like this will give insight into how your emails compare to other types of marketing, how specific messages work across all mediums, which types of links work best in your emails, etc.

Tracking Opened Emails

Companies running email campaigns often want to be able to track how many times their emails were opened. Technically, Google Analytics code could be placed into the HTML of an email to try to track that data. Unfortunately, the data would be so inconsistent as to be unreliable. This is because an unknown percentage of your recipients read emails with a program that doesn't execute JavaScript or store cookies. For those who read their emails in a browser (like Yahoo Mail, Gmail, etc.), they would still need to have HTML turned on for it to work, and even then, the email client may restrict whether any scripts embedded in the email can execute.

Google Analytics is decidedly results-oriented. It is more focused on what happens once a visitor comes to your site.