Tagging URLs in Google Analytics

Tagging URLs in Google Analytics

Tracking your ad performance is important on a number of levels, and it should be a part of any strategic PPC plan. You need to figure out if the money you’re spending on ads is worth it, if your campaigns are as effective as they could be and tagging automatically or manually on your URLs supports more detailed reporting in Analytics and AdWords accounts. This post will show you how to enable and use this feature in AdWords and Analytics.

Options for tagging your URLs

When you set up tagging, you have the option to either enable auto-tagging or tag your URLs manually. There are pros and cons to both approaches.


  • Less work:  You won’t have to manually tag all the URLs you want to track
  • No errors
  • Discrepancies in data from using both auto-tagging and manual tagging
  • More detailed reporting in Analytics
  • This method provides many more data dimensions than manual tagging

Manual Tagging

  • Can be used on websites that do not allow for arbitrary URL parameters:  Some websites display an error page when the URL used to reach the page contains parameters that do not match the destination file
  • When you want to customize reports with specific data

In most cases, Google recommends to its users that they enable auto-tagging. This feature provides a wealth of data on your AdWords account activity and keywords in your Analytics reports. You’ll be able to see the match type, the ad group associated with the visit or conversion, the destination URL, the network the ad was on (whether search or display), as well as the placement domain if it was the display network.

Enabling Auto-Tagging in Google Analytics

Before you can enable auto-tagging on your ads, you must link your Google AdWords and Google Analytics accounts so that data can be shared. This also assumes that you have an Analytics property set up and collecting data on the website you are advertising.

  1. Log into your AdWords account
  2. Click the tools and analysis tab
  3. Click Google Analytics
  4. Click the Admin tab
  5. Select the Analytics account you want to link your AdWords account to.
  6. Click the Data Sources tab and then click the link accounts button.

Conversely, you do not have to log into your AdWords account to gain access to Analytics. You can simply visit google.com/analytics and follow steps 4-6 above.

Benefits of URL tagging

Auto-tagging your URLs allows data to be pulled into Analytics from your AdWords account. This opens up a wealth of information from your AdWords campaigns that can be viewed in your Analytics reports. You can also see what people did after they clicked on your ads and came to your website. Google does this using the gclid parameter appended to the end of the URL that is your landing page. For example, an appended URL might look something like this:




Naturally, the characters after gclid will be randomly generated, and this is the parameter that allows AdWords and Analytics to share information with each other.

Checking to See if Auto-Tagging Will Work on Your Site

There are some scenarios where auto-tagging will not work on a website. For instance, server-side redirects can cause parameters to be dropped resulting in missing visit and CPC data. You can test whether auto-tagging will work on your website before it is implemented.

A simple test on a URL that is redirected:

  • Take the destination URL from your AdWords campaign and paste it into a browser
  • Append a test parameter as follows to the end of the URL: ?gclid=123-abCD
  • Hit enter or click the browser’s go button for an address entry. If the parameter above disappears, it was lost due to the redirect
    • Note:  If you are using a landing page that is not redirected, you shouldn’t have to worry about this phenomenon. Also, if you already have parameters in your URL that begin with ?, you should use the & symbol instead of the ? after your initial parameter but before any manually applied URL tagging
    • You can troubleshoot redirect problems with auto-tagging here.

Viewing Your Data in Analytics Reports

Once you have some data accumulated, simply log into your Analytics account to look at it. You can find data related to AdWords reports under Audience -> Advertising -> Adwords. You can see overview progress for any campaigns you have running, keyword data related to your campaigns, and data related to your destination URLs among other metrics. One of the most powerful aspects of these reports is your ability to view keyword performance in relation to ad position in search engine results pages. From these reports you can determine whether some keywords are more effective at enticing users to click than others. You can also determine if users who clicked on your ads found your website content relevant by using metrics like time on site and the number of pages visited.

Importing AdWords data into Analytics is a great way to get deeper insight into how your campaigns are performing. Google can do this easily through auto-tagging on AdWords campaigns. Remember to test your URL parameters before setting things up so you can be sure that data is aggregating appropriately in your account.


How do you use auto-tagging to improve your ad performance? Do you know of any benefits to manually tagging your campaign URLs that aren’t offered with auto-tagging?


Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

Recent Posts