Digital Marketing Trends for 2017

Essential Digital Marketing megatrends that will give you the edge in the new year


Email campaign tracking with Google Analytics

A short how-to and example showing how to track your email marketing campaigns by tagging links in your email with Google Analytics

I was prompted to write this how-to post since some email marketers I speak to during Email Marketing training courses, use Google Analytics, but weren't aware it can be used for email tracking "beyond the click". They were also unaware that once email is tagged with 'campaign tracking parameters', Google Analytics segments can be used to isolate visitors referred from email to understand their preferences and behaviours. This really helps prove the value of email for your list members and to your company particularly if you have goals set up in Google Analytics.

You should also be aware when selecting an email broadcasting system that many email providers have added functionality to make it easy to track with Google Analytics or other web analytics systems such as Adobe Analytics. Check with your Email Service Provider to check whether they support automated link tracking. This is a huge time saver since  you can set up the campaign tracking tags within the email system rather than having to manually add them to the links or write your own scripts as we do as described below.

About email campaign tracking 'beyond the click'

"Beyond the Click tracking" is the tracking that occurs once the visitor has clicked through from your email to the website.

It is where your web analytics tracking tool can take over the tracking or your email system may be able to track if you have tracking code from your email system on your webpages to review interaction with different pages or outcomes such as leads or sales.

When selecting new email services it's well worth checking what your email provider offers support for tracking website visitors and conversion points and automatically tagging email campaigns with analytics campaign tracking - it's very tedious otherwise.

All sites will use a standard web analytics solution such as Google Analytics, Omniture, Coremetrics or Webtrends and if you have a standard coding for campaign tracking you will be able to track your email. Here we look at Google Analytics.

Setting up an Advanced segment in Google Analytics to report just on your email traffic

If you setup email campaign tracking in this way or via your ESP I recommend you create a custom Advanced segment where you isolate visitors from email (or different types of email) so you can understand how they behave and convert.

Update: To add an advanced segment for Email marketing in Google Analytics, you should select the advanced segment option using the down arrow at the top left above the reports in Google Analytics, then choose “Create New Segment” and set the medium to “Email”.


The Advanced segment should be based on all visits to the site with a medium of ‘email’ set, provided that this is how you have labelled your links by tagging them. The next section shows you how to tag your links using the campaign tracking in Google Analytics.

Recommended email campaign coding / tagging with Google Analytics

To learn about the principles of tracking campaigns, read this other post which introduces tracking campaigns in Google Analytics.

To setup email tracking, the links from your email to the landing pages should be tagged with standard campaign tracking parameters. These are up to 5 "name-value" pairs which are part of the query string for the URL (denoted by everything after the "?" in the web address as in the example below). FWIW, UTM refers to the "Urchin Tracking Module" on which Google Analytics is based.

Here is an example tagged URL (split across several lines):

For Email marketing the parameters I recommend are:

  • utm_medium -  medium used for marketing, i.e. email
  • utm_campaign - campaign name, e.g. EnewsNovember
  • utm_source -  This is usually the media owner, but for email marketing can be used to specify the source of email list or type of email, e.g. HouseList, Welcome email, Abandoned-basket, etc
  • * utm_term - In AdWords used to identify the keyword used to trigger the ad, can be used in email marketing to identify individual links (optional), e.g. Offer1, can be based on click text summary
  • * utm_content - Used to track an individual or segments response (optional), this could be based on any field in database, e.g. user-id, user email, etc.

Note that term and content are optional.

If you want to try setting up Google Analytics, try the Google URL Builder that enables you to add the parameters for a destination page from your email campaign as follows:

Once you know how this work it's straightforward to create a spreadsheet for creating links, but it's really laborious to copy and paste, so for an enewsletter it's best to write a script that creates an HTML page with tagged links included - that's what we do for our Enewsletter since our ESP doesn't automatically support tagging.

Here is a guide from an email service provider giving an example of email tracking in Google analytics [PDF]

Making sure you staying within Google's terms of service on Privacy

Some commentators have recommended that you should use someone's email address to in the &utm_content field. Aside from potential privacy concerns, this is personally identifiable info and so not possible without breaking Google Analytics's terms of service (See #7). 

The precise wording is:

"You will not (and will not allow any third party to) use the Service to track, collect or upload any data that personally identifies an individual (such as a name, email address or billing information), or other data which can be reasonably linked to such information by Google".

They also state that you can't match any clickstream data to any individual user of your site. So issuing each person a unique id and passing that through utm_content is also prohibited. As some comments below make clear, you can still track an individual ID provided it can be linked back to an individual.

Share your thoughts

  • This is a really helpful stuff.

    I was looking for a source for creating a URL for my email marketing campaign and finally i got it. Thanks for sharing the useful information

  • Matthew Delzingaro commented on June 27, 2016

    I was wondering if GA email tracker actually see the email sent?

  • Can I use GA to track email response like Opens, Bounces, Unsubscribe and Complaints? Or does GA only record once the customer clicks on the email link to the website?

    • Hi Andrew,

      GA will only help you track website interactions ‘after the click’. An email provider will give you those measures.


  • Very useful article, thank you!
    The importance of tracking the results of the campaign can hardly be overestimated. In order to improve the results of the work done, you need to have statistical information. It helps to find weak points and to correct deficiencies. Before I changed service for email campaigns (currently I use SendPulse, I did not attach importance to the study results. But now my service provides for this perfect technical ability that helps me analyze my work and do it better.

  • Nitesh commented on October 29, 2015

    Hi ,

    Can I track my campaign with GA using Business Gmail ID because my current Email provider is not giving Email tracking service .

  • Excellent clear article on using UTM tags for Google Analytics. We will implement it on our innovation blog to see how we grow.


  • Anil commented on August 19, 2015

    Can i get the user data like location, browser, OS by using google analytics link in my email?

  • Chris commented on April 22, 2015


    Thank-you for this information. I have done as you suggest and it works great except when I look at the GA report based on campaign name or even medium I get pages that are not included in the newsletter. Do you have any idea why and how to get rid of these in the report?



    • Hi Chris – that’s cool it works – you will get additional pages if someone clicks to other pages in the same session – that’s what’s happening there I think.

      • Chris commented on April 22, 2015

        Thanks, is thre anyway to generate a report without these other urls?

  • Sorry, noticed that the image tag did not appear, let me try this.

    thanks for this article, will this track email opens if I put the tracking url on my img link? So in your example, [img src= landing_page.htm?utm_campaign=EnewsNov& utm_medium=email&utm_source=HouseList&utm_term =editorial-link&utm_content=header ] to track email opens?

    • Hi – this method is for tracking clickthroughs from emails to the website, not opens – so your code here won’t work. That’s why most use an email service provider for tracking opens – you can see individuals opening and clicking too which is useful for following-up.

      HTH, Dave

  • none commented on April 22, 2015

    thanks for this article, will this track email opens if I put the tracking url on my img link? So in your example, to track email opens?

  • check out uk’s best web design and seo agencies on

  • Mark commented on October 29, 2014

    OK I have created a URL builder for links in my emails to prospects, I just wanted to see if they click the link and visit my website. Now how do I set it up in GA …
    Since I am new to GA, Its very confusing//Please help.

  • Portman commented on July 15, 2014

    Google Analytics is one of those things that is really important and can
    seem so overwhelming! I’m one of the people who actually DOES get a lot
    of traffic from Twitter (thanks to Klout and GA I know this) but it’s
    great to know the details about what gets more traffic so that I can
    figure out why.go here

  • Hi

    I have followed the instructions, put “email” into medium and created the custom URL via the URL builder

    What comes next?

  • Leonidas Savvides commented on April 23, 2014

    after set an email segment and set url in email i view the segment analytics data?

  • I think is also a good tool monitor email marketing tracking. I don’t criticize Google Analytics its definitely amazing tool where one can track his website traffic at the same email marketing campaign as well.

  • roryf commented on April 21, 2014

    Your last point about Google’s terms of service and Privacy is incorrect. The ToS reads:

    > collect or upload any data that personally identifies an individual (such as a name, email address or billing information), or other data which can be reasonably linked to such information by Google

    What this means is that you can’t use any data which could personally identify an individual based purely on visitor data obtained by Google, i.e. a person with access to your Google Analytics. A user id does not fall within this since personally identifying that user would also require access to your user database.

    Worth nothing that the ToS used to explicitly forbid user ids, but that was removed some time ago.

    • Thanks for your comment Rory – i have updated the end of the article in line with this. Universal Analytics helps track individuals anonymously so I imagine that’s why they updated this.

  • Mark commented on March 17, 2014

    Another option for doing this is, which also allows you to see how many emails were viewed, unlike when you use GA. It is super easy to setup and use.

  • Olaf Jonsek commented on January 29, 2014

    Good article! Another quick and easy way to track opened emails in Google Analytics is the tool – it does not require any programming and is very intuitive. All data gets posted straight into your Google Analytics account and you don’t have to share passwords and such.

  • fred commented on October 23, 2013

    Hi Dave thanks for the post. Theorically very useful and I’m more than willing to try it.
    My question is… Will the utm_term (if used same keywords in Adwords account) sum the clicks from both Adwords and E-mail marketing campaigns or will it show separately in Analytics?

    I’m not a big fan of analytics due to its discrepancy in results even in itself (never mind relating with adwords clicks and conversions) but the company uses it so I gotta go with the flow.

  • anil commented on June 8, 2013

    Hi,I can putting google analytic s code to my website,

    I am sending mail to other using MailChimp account they are provided One Unique number Based on this number how can i see the Reports in ANALYTICS???Where can i see this reports??

  • amy.macgregor commented on May 13, 2013

    Hi Dave, do you know if you can get ESP campaign data into Google Analytics to volume, opens and clicks can be reported in Google Analytics?

  • RACHIT GUPTA commented on March 7, 2013

    Thanks for giving steps of email campaign.Its really useful & if we implement code for our website or blog it will easily track.

  • Faustino Rodriguez commented on April 27, 2012

    thanks for pointing out to Google Privacy policy on point #7
    However, it’s worth noting that the example PDF from Vertical Response you mentioned, would be in clear violation of that point #7 when using EMAIL_ADDRESS as Ad_content tag as shown in page 7
    Is that correct?

    • Hi Faustino, you’re quite right – I didn’t know the linked PDF broke the TOS. Note that I originally wrote this on my old blog 3 years ago, so VR are likely NOT still using this method (hopefully) :).

  • Great article Dave! I was curious- I haven’t read up about this much, but is there a way to use Google analytics to capture the email address of those who click through your email campaign for re marketing purposes in the future? So 1. Customer clicks through your email campaign 2. Link is coded with email capture parameter & email personalization element dictated from the esp 3. Address is cookied so when customer returns again and performs certain action on site, like cart abandonment, their address is captured in order to retarget to them.

    This is available in other analytics packages like Coremetrics, (URL append would look something like this: &cm_em=%%email%%) but I haven’t read if Google has something similar…

    • Thanks Carolyn, that’s a good thought but it’s against Google’s terms of service for privacy reasons which is why i mentioned it in post. It’s one of the biggest limitations of GA compared to othe analytics systems like Coremetrics or Omniture IMO.

      • jim_collins commented on July 16, 2013

        Google has changed their ToS so that you can tag users , you just can’t do it in a way that GA can use to identify them. So if, for example, you obfuscated their email address that would be fine..

        • Ramsay Leimenstoll commented on September 27, 2013

          I know this is a long-shot since your comment is two months old, but @3aa9625d2f23394b7e22b6ddfe09de94:disqus could you point towards an authoritative source explaining the nuances of the new ToS? Or could @davechaffey:disqus? I am especially interested in what side including someone’s account name for your service (not their email address) would fall on – allowed or not allowed?

        • I know this is late, but for future reference, obfuscating an email address is not fine. It’s very questionable. This section of the ToS relating to the measurement API is fairly clear:

          “You will not upload any data that allows Google to personally identify an individual (such as certain names, social security numbers, email addresses, or any similar data), or data that permanently identifies a particular device (such as a mobile phone’s unique device identifier if such an identifier cannot be reset), **even in hashed form**”


          But, as Dave has explained elsewhere it is OK to use an anonymous ID, such as internal account number, because then the data in GA could not be unencrypted to get any PII — you would need access to the internal data source. I think the spirit of the restriction is to protect *Google* from the responsibility for holding PII on their servers. They must be extremely sensitive about the risks.

          • Kevin commented on April 27, 2015

            Hi Tim – do you know if SiteCatalyst allows to track a unique ID from email? If so, do you know where I’d start in SC to set this up? Thanks – Kevin

      • Gautam B Saigal commented on September 15, 2013

        Feedback:can you tag all your blog posts/ categories dave. Will help in reading more posts. Thanks

Get FREE marketing planning templates

Start your Digital Marketing Plan today with our free Basic membership.

  • FREE fast start guides to review your approach
  • FREE digital marketing plan templates
  • FREE alerts on the latest developments

Need help with your Email marketing?

Get more from your digital marketing with in-company or remote training and consultancy from Smart Insights

Get FREE marketing planning templates

Start your Digital Marketing Plan today with our free Basic membership.

  • FREE fast start guides to review your approach
  • FREE digital marketing plan templates
  • FREE alerts on the latest developments