Tracking email campaigns helps us determine their effectiveness and the extent to which our investments in them are paying off. Google Analytics is a powerful tracking tool that provides extensive insight into campaign performance without breaking the bank. Seasoned marketers tend to find using Google Analytics for email marketing relatively intuitive and user friendly, but there can be a bit of a learning curve for less experienced marketers with a more limited analytics skillset. The initial campaign set-up process requires significantly more leg work than the subsequent analysis, but once it’s completed, critical insights about the performance of your emails will be findable simply by viewing your reports.
Why do we track and monitor email campaigns?
Keeping a pulse on performance metrics can reveal whether or not goals are being met, leads are being generated, customers are converting, and campaigns are operationally sound. In 2022, you’d be hard-pressed to find a successful email marketer who advises setting up a campaign and letting it run without regular oversight. Monitoring performance consistently facilitates identifying both the aspects of your strategy that are driving results and the areas that need to be improved.
Why use Google Analytics?
Here are a few compelling reasons to optimize your campaigns with Google Analytics (GA):
GA offers an impressive host of capabilities entirely free, allowing you to spend your marketing budget on your marketing efforts, not on their analysis.
- Up-to-date data
Your campaign data displays in real time. When you view your reports, you’re looking at a snapshot of the current performance of your campaigns, which allows you to consider all relevant data when making decisions about your strategy.
- Standard metric tracking
GA reports all of the common metrics that other analytical tools and external services providers (ESPs) offer, like open rate, click rate, and bounce rate, to name a few. These metrics reveal important information about email deliverability — or, that rate at which your emails land successfully in inboxes — and subject line and content quality. Link click data can help you determine which pieces of your content most effectively inspire action.
In addition to those metrics, GA tracks the location of email opens, which allows you to customize send times (and even content) to your audience. It also tracks the elapsed time between the sending and opening of an email, among other helpful data points.
- Post-email behavior tracking
This is where many other tracking tools’ capabilities end and where Google Analytics sets itself apart. GA continues to track recipient behavior after they’ve clicked a link in your email and landed on your site. With this data, you can follow your subscribers’ real journey from opening an email, to navigating your site, to completing a checkout, for example. This insight reveals much more than just the pieces of content that best motivate users to click. In detail, it tells you how you can expect users to interact with your site after clicking, shedding light on the specific behaviors that particular email content inspires.
- Audience segmentation capability
Another useful feature of GA is audience segmentation. With it, you can segment visitors to your site who were referred by emails, painting a telling picture of how much traffic you can attribute to email marketing campaigns vs. other marketing efforts. This tool can also help you identify which email campaigns are responsible for referring the most traffic to your site.
- Advanced reporting
Google Analytics provides in-depth data like the amount of time visitors spent on your site after clicking a link in your emails.
How to start tracking with Google Analytics
- Set up a Google Analytics account
Create an account or sign in to your account at google.com/analytics. Then, specify a property name. This will represent the email that you plan to track. Be sure to specify your industry when prompted, as neglecting to do so will prevent certain options, like goals, from displaying later on.
- Set goals
According to GA, “Goals measure how well your site or app fulfills your target objectives. A goal represents a completed activity, called a conversion, that contributes to the success of your business. Examples of goals include making a purchase (for an ecommerce site), completing a game level (for a mobile gaming app), or submitting a contact information form (for a marketing or lead generation site).”
GA offers 3 options for creating goals:
1. Use goal templates. Goal templates fit into these four categories which reflect standard business objectives: Revenue, Acquisition, Inquiry, and Engagement.
2. Create custom goals. GA offers four types of custom goals: destination, duration, pages/screens per session, and event. Destination goals refer to visits to specific locations. Duration goals refer to sessions lasting a specific length of time. Pages/screens per session goals refer to a user viewing a specific number of pages or screens. Event goals refer to actions previously specified as events, like video plays.
3. Create smart goals, which are designed for users who have too few conversions to use Google Ads optimization tools. In order to use Smart Goals, your account must meet a number of prerequisites. Learn more about Smart Goals here.
Goals are set at the View level. Once you’ve signed into your GA account, Click “Admin” and navigate to the desired View. Then, click “Goals” in the View column. Here, you can create new goals and edit existing goals. Choose the goal type that reflects your campaign objectives. After making your goal selection, you can specify additional details.
- Create a campaign
This is the lengthiest and potentially most tedious part of the process, but it can be broken down into these 4 steps:
1. Connect your site to Google analytics. Here’s a link to the instructions, which are fairly simple.
2. Create trackable URLs. Trackable URLs are links with corresponding UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters or tags at the end of the URL, and they’re recommended when directing traffic to your site from any external location. In the context of email marketing, they enable you to pinpoint exactly which emails (and links therein) are responsible for traffic. Check out this Digital Branding Institute article for instructions and best practices for creating trackable URLs.
3. Add URLs. Some ESPs have functionality that supports tracking with GA, which can spare you the time and effort of manually setting it up. Check whether your ESP supports automated link tracking, as setting up campaign tracking tags within your email system is easier than manually adding them to links. You can tag your URLs manually by using the Google Analytics URL builder, or automatically within your ESP, if it has the functionality. Check out this Sendpulse article for more details about the tags that are necessary for email tracking.
4. Segment your campaign to see how specific groups of users interact with your site. Create an advanced segment by clicking “Add Segment” in Audience Overview, then clicking “New Segment”. Under “Traffic Sources”, select “Email” as the medium. You can set up to 20 filters–like age and location, for example–per segment. Data from advanced segments can be an instrumental point of reference for email customization and can help you get the right content to the right recipients, increasing their likelihood of engagement and conversion.
- View your reports
Next, view your campaign reports to begin your performance analysis. Navigate to your reports by visiting your GA dashboard, clicking “Acquisition,” and then clicking “Campaigns.”
GA makes complex data digestible with visual representations like graphs and charts, and spares you the time and frustration of doing your own calculations. It can report a wealth of useful information. Here are a few examples of reports from which you’re likely to glean valuable insight:
1. The real-time report shows the number of visitors to your site a particular campaign was responsible for, as well as user location, the specific pages they viewed, and devices they used.
2. The campaign report shows overall performance, including user time spent on particular pages on your site and number of pages visited.
3. The behavior flow report shows a user’s path as they navigate pages on your site after clicking a link in your email.
A Final Note on Monitoring your Campaigns with Google Analytics
Every email marketer’s nightmare is a campaign full of compelling content that falls short of its potential. Tracking campaign performance is the best way to make the most of your email marketing efforts, evaluate your strategy, and adapt based on your findings without relying on speculation. Google Analytics offers some of the most powerful and budget-friendly analytical resources available, takes the guesswork out of running an evolving campaign that facilitates continuous conversion, and delivers the highest possible return on your investment.