One question I get asked quite a bit is how to track paid social media campaigns — e.g., Facebook ads, promoted posts, etc. — in Google Analytics.
In the video below I use a combination of campaign tagging and a custom channel to track them.
Spoiler alert: Don’t set your medium to cpc.
If you’re not familiar with campaign tagging, you’ll want to check out my campaign tagging guide. And if you’ve never customized a channel, you’re missing out on a serious opportunity to max out your super-amazing Channels report. But I gotchu with that too with my channels guide.
Problem with Google Analytics Channels
With that out of the way, Google Analytics really doesn’t give us a good option for a paid social channel. The most common medium I see used for social ads and promotions is cpc. This isn’t a good option, in my opinion. The reason is if you check out Google’s Default Channel Definitions resource, you’ll see that campaigns tagged with a medium of cpc get dropped into the Paid Search channel.
This is a great option for pay-per-click campaigns within search engines like Google (AdWords) or Bing (Bing Ads) but not a good choice for paid social since, you know, it’s no more a search engine than this guy here is a rabbit. (I hope he was declawed …)
Why Create Custom Channels
As a general rule, any marketing effort you invest significant resources into (whether they be time, man power, or money) and doesn’t already have a default channel deserves its own custom channel. A few custom channels I’ve created for myself are Google Docs (for my Google Doc references I’ve created for marketers, like my free Hundreds of Tools for Marketers doc), Template (for links inside my audit templates), and Affiliate (for my … well duh …). And in analytics audits I perform I’m always looking for custom channel opportunities, such as Partner, Press Release, Presentation, Ebook, PDF, etc.
So what I recommend is using a custom medium like paid+social (the plus translates into a space in Google Analytics reports) in conjunction with a custom channel that I recommend calling Paid Social. I demonstrate how to do that in the video and also explain when you want to customize your Default Channel Grouping and when you want to create a Custom Channel Grouping (as well as a trick to creating it faster than Google’s recommended steps to creating one).
Below a screenshot of what that would look like.
For whatever reason, I felt the compunction to create this video while in a coffee shop in Philly. So you’ll hear plates clanking. But the ever-amazing Tori Cushing did a fantastic job cleaning up the audio quite a bit!