Cookies are a cornerstone of using the internet and, ultimately, provide enhanced user experiences, both directly on sites and via effective data usage by the companies using the cookies.
But how do these magical little nuggets of information actually work? Here is a quick overview:
1. A website/host sends a text file to the user's device to be stored. This contains at least a unique identifier for that device and a reference to the website.
2. The website/host checks for the presence of this information when a user visits. It basically acts as memory for the website, as web servers have none.
3. Information relating to the behaviour or personal information of that unique identifier are then captured.
This can help with everything from remembering preferences, identifying an audience in Facebook, serving retargeted ads, creating your Google Analytics data to providing pop-ups at a relevant time with a relevant message.
They are clever little things, these cookies!
As you build the amount of traffic you are driving to your website then it is important to be able to compare campaigns to figure out what is working.
The way to do this is to start using tracking parameters in the links you use to your site. These are codes that you add to the end of each link to tell Google Analytics where the visit has come from. The most basic of these are:
Once you start to use these parameters you'll be able to tailor your reporting to look at specific channels / campaigns, and compare them against each other. The most basic form of this can be found under Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium. You can also add the parameters as 'advanced' filters on many reports or use them to build a segment.
Complete consistency in the parameter information format you use is the most important thing to remember. In fact, it is best to think these out before you start so that you'll be able to report using the same parameters over time.
Ask yourself these questions and then base the tracking you use on it:
You should only have a few sources, a handful of mediums and many more campaigns. Here are some examples:
If you are new to using Google Analytics tracking parameters then their URL builder is a really helpful tool to ensure you’re adding the parameters correctly. You can find this here: https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/
And with that I'll sign off with a fun (?!) fact; UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module, a legacy from the platform Google Analytics is built from; Urchin WebAnalytics Software.
*Please comment or message me with any questions or feedback. Thanks!*
Here are some tips and tricks for effectively using Social Media, Email, Advertising Search Engine Optimisation and all of the other digital marketing channels.