Which Three Tags Does Google Analytics Require for Accurate Campaign Tracking?

Gordon Choi
Gordon Choi

The 3 required (or compulsory) UTM tags for Google Analytics campaign tracking are:

  • utm_source
  • utm_medium
  • utm_campaign

Auto Campaign Tagging

If you are placing paid search (a.k.a. PPC / pay per click) ads on Google AdWords, you should link your Google Analytics account to your AdWords account, and you should make sure Adwords auto-tagging is enabled. Then campaign tracking of your AdWords account is already enabled, and you won’t have to explicitly deal with tagging your ad (or keyword) URLs.

Manual Campaign Tagging

But if you are placing ads elsewhere, such as on Baidu PPC, then you will have to manually tag all your URLs.

If not, then all Baidu paid search sessions and conversions will be reported as organic search sessions and conversions in your Google Analytics reports. When the paid search data is mixed up with the organic data, then you will almost have no chance to break them apart.

Campaign Tagging with UTM Parameters

Google Analytics has five built-in parameters for campaign URL tagging:

utm_source (compulsory)
utm_medium (compulsory)
utm_campaign (compulsory)
utm_term (optional)
utm_content (optional)

How Google Analytics URL tagging should be implemented for Baidu paid search:


The whole URL becomes:


Character Encoding Tool

Some specific browsers or some user’s browser settings may not be able to encode your keyword data correctly before the keywords show up in your Google Analytics reports. For some reasons if you start seeing keywords show up in your Google Analytics reports as unrecognized or funny characters, then you can use a local character encoder / decoder tool to encode your Chinese keyword and then tag the encoded keyword onto your URL.


The encoded keyword:


The whole URL becomes:


Similar method (for URL tagging implementation) can be applied to other Chinese search engines.

Google’s URL Builder Tool

Google has a URL Builder tool available which allows you to easily generate a campaign tagged URL:


Once you have correctly tagged all your paid search URLs, all future paid search sessions will be reported as paid search sessions.

However, for all the previous paid search sessions which were incorrectly reported as organic search sessions, Google Analytics does not provide a method to correct the traffic source in retrospect.

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Content on Gordon Choi’s Analytics Book is licensed under the CC Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International license.

Gordon Choi’s Other Books:
The China Mobile SEO Book
Mobile Website Book

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