If you use Google Analytics with a 3rd party tracking software like Marketo, Salesforce, or a number of others, you’ve probably wondered how you can get data to your outside platform with utm tags without compromising your GA data. Before diving into how you should set up your tracking, let’s take a minute to talk about how Google Analytics gets its campaign data.
If you’re using AdWords, each click automatically appends a Google Click Identifier, or gclid, which stores the AdWords campaign, ad group, keyword & more. If your Analytics and AdWords accounts are linked and auto-tagging is enabled, then your campaign data will show up in GA because Google pulls the information that was stored along with the gclid parameter without the need for adding anything into your link. But what happens if you are using a 3rd party tracking tool and need to put utm_campaign=my-adwords-campaign in your tracking template?
To answer that, we need to cover one more thing. Google Analytics looks specifically for certain parameters and ignores all others. What are these parameters GA is looking for? They include utm_campaign, utm_medium, utm_source, and utm_term to name a few. Notice they all start with “utm_” which means “urchin tracking module”. This isn’t super important, but if you are sending url parameters like utm_campaign, Google Analytics IS going to notice. Traditionally, this would drop the gclid. Lucky for us, a recent update in GA gives you the freedom of flexibly overriding manual UTM parameters and keep all the data stored in the GCLID such as timestamps and device info.
This means that if you use Marketo & the only way to import your campaign data is to use utm_campaign, utm_term, etc., you can simply put that data into the tracking template and make sure that you uncheck the “Allow manual tagging (UTM values) to override auto-tagging (GCLID values)” box in Google Analytics > Admin > Property Settings > Advanced Settings. Then you can manually tag all the utm parameters you like and GA will completely ignore them (unless there is no data to begin with – your utm’s will then fill in the empty spaces). You will still get all the granular gclid data in the Acquisition > AdWords tab, and you can see your custom UTM parameters in the Acquisition > Campaigns tab!
Happy UTM Tagging!