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Tracking Emails with Google Analytics
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Why should you use User Tracking?

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“uh huh… boring. Next?”

*click*

For those of you playing at home, that’s the sound the email campaign that you spent hours of hard work researching and painstakingly crafting being thrown in the Trash folder. That’s if you’re lucky, many companies send emails to users that never open them at all.

There’s nothing I hate more than putting my all into a piece of work and it going to waste, and so whenever we send out emails I like to use Google Analytics for email tracking to know exactly what’s going on. Once you know what users like and dislike, you can use this data to segment users into lists, which can then be used to target relevant content to relevant people (and reduce the likelihood of your hard work going into the Trash!)

Your email marketing analytics probably tells you who has opened an email, which links were clicked and what time they opened it. Google Analytics can tell you when users have come from an email campaign, which pages email users viewed and how many conversions came from that email, but you need a bit of customisation to link the two, using email User Tracking.

What is User Tracking?

User Tracking is monitoring users as they use your site, to understand they way they use it. A User ID is a good way to link individual users and their actions on site, as it gives the ability to link email addresses to on-site actions in a way that your email marketing analytics suite can’t. Most email services either come with pre-configured user IDs or allow you to create a custom field to store the ID. The main requirement for User IDs is that they should be unique, as this is the ID that will allow you to track users across your site.

The more database-savvy amongst you may be wondering why you need to use a separate ID rather than something like email (which is bound to be unique)? Sadly, Google’s terms of service (the one you clicked “I agree” on without reading…) states that you are not allowed to  “pass information… that Google could use as personally identifiable information”. Thankfully, there’s nothing personally identifiable about a unique ID, and as long as your key (the table linking IDs and user details like emails) is stored somewhere else, Google doesn’t seem to mind using Google Analytics for email tracking.

Once a user has a Unique ID, the next stage is to send that information. A common way to do this is by dynamically adding it to each link as a URL parameter (in the same way as you would customise an email to include the recipient’s name), however there are other methods available. When the user arrives on your site, this Unique ID is sent to Google Analytics as a User scope custom dimension (which then allows you to track that user across the site for as long as the user cookie remains set).

Your process should look something like this: 

  • User signs up to your email database and is given a unique ID
  • The Unique ID is dynamically inserted into links on the email
  • A custom dimension is set up in Google Analytics to receive the ID and store it as part of the Analytics User data (as opposed to Hit or Session data)
  • A report including your key pages and User IDs can then be produced, which can be used to segment your list.

The last point in this list is the important one – once you know what your users are doing, it’s vital that you do something with this information. If you want to target users that might be interested in Men’s Shoes, filter your analytics data to show pageviews of relevant pages and pivot the list by your user IDs. Once you have a list of IDs that are relevant, convert these back into user data and upload the resulting list as a segment.

Alternatively, if this seems overly complicated, get in touch with us and let us supercharge your email marketing analytics for you!

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