When URL Tracking Doesn’t Work

When I see a URL like this, shared on a blog or Facebook, I always wonder if the company realizes that their campaign statistics are likely going to be vastly skewed:

http://www.johnsonville.com/cooking/coupons.html?utm_source=foodNetwork&utm_medium=bannerAd&utm_content=RON_300x250&utm_campaign=behavioralTargeting

If you’re familiar with Google’s URL Builder, you know that you can use their tool to tag your links and then track the results in Google Analytics.  For instance, from the above URL I can deduce that they’re running a banner ad (medium=bannerAd), sized at 300×250 (content=RON_300x250), somewhere on a Food Network website (source=foodNetwork).  (And it’s some sort of behavioral targeting campaign.)

But, when I landed on that URL, it wasn’t from clicking a banner ad from Food Network – it was from a blog, who had likely clicked on the banner and wanted to share the page, so they copied and pasted the link as-is.  If a few other bloggers shared the same link and several thousand people clicked on it, that would be probably be more than enough to skew the statistics that Johnsonville or their marketing company is looking at in Google Analytics based on that campaign.

I also frequently see the same issue when I click over on a post title from a blog’s RSS feed if they’re using the Google Analytics tracking for their Feedburner (or other) feed.

To be clear, it’s not a problem on the part of the blogger who copied the link – it’s just a downfall of the way the URL tracking system works.

For now, Google’s URL builder seems to be the most accurate way to determine exactly where traffic is coming from, but as you can see, it can also be easily skewed.

For more on how to tag your links using Google’s URL Builder, read my post on Savvy Blogging.

And, if you would like to make sure that you aren’t messing up someone else’s campaign stats, you can simply delete everything following the question mark (?) in links like above.