Okay, I’m back from my blogging hiatus. I took a few months off from all blogging (guest blogging as well as my site) to focus on training for myself. In that time I finally learned VBA for Excel and SQL to rock Google Spreadsheets’ awesome query functions.
During my time away several people asked me, after reading my post on how to trash your Google Analytics account with campaign tracking, how I find evidence that a profile is being trashed. Great question. I find evidence of homicidal campaign tags using a couple of my fave tools:
If you’re using Screaming Frog, enter your site’s URL into the field at the top of the screen and click the Start button. After the crawl is complete, click the Internal tab and filter by utm_ to see tagged URLs Screaming Frog has found. You should not see any URLs when you do this. If you do, you have pages on your site linking to tagged pages.
Again, read this post to see why tagging internal links wreaks havoc on your data.
To see the pages that are linking to each of your tagged pages, click on one of the URLs in the upper window, then select the In Links tab at the bottom of the window. The From column will show you all of your internal pages that link to the tagged URL. (The To column will just list the URL that you selected. It’s a bit repetitive.)
Take a look in your Campaigns report (Acquisition > Campaigns) for anything that seems internal-esqe. Don’t just keep the primary dimension set to Campaign. Change it to Source and then Medium — or any other options you get from the Other drop-down. You need to really poke around in here.
For example, under Source, look for things sources that don’t contain a TLD (e.g., .com, .net, etc.). Some I see a lot are blog, internal, top-nav, etc.
While you’re in Google Analytics, take a look to see if you have URLs you’re not tagging properly. If you’ve tagged properly, no utm_ parameters should show up in any Google Analytics content reports. They only show up if there’s a problem with the tags. When pages are tagged properly, Google lobs these parameters off before populating your content reports with them. So if you see tagged URLs in any content reports, it means you are not getting credit for these visits in your Campaigns report.
I look at a site’s landing pages in Google Analytics to see if there is traffic coming into tagged pages. To do this, go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. Then use the line-item filter to look for pages that contain campaign tags.
Thankfully, I haven’t borked any of my tags (though it’s happened).
You can do the same thing with all pages by selecting All Pages under Site Content. To see what pages are linking to an improperly tagged URL, select the URL in the Pages report, then Click the Navigation Summary tab above the timeline. The pages you see under Previous Page Path are the pages that are linking to your tagged URL.
Pro Tip: Any time you see the word “path” in a Google Analytis, think URI (which is just a URL that has been separated from its mommy, the domain). I hate to see good people get all tangled up in developer geek speak.
Check out this presentation I did for SearchLove last year (starting at slide 24) for some campaign tagging strategies and best practices. That page also has a Google Doc I created that will help you automate your campaign tagging a bit.
Note: I updated this post Feb 6, 2014 to clarify a couple points and add a link to my SearchLove preso.