Google Analytics 101: Source, Medium, & Campaigns

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This is the third post in my series Google Analytics 101. My previous post looks at the metrics of Users and New Users. In this post, we’ll discuss three dimensions in Google Analytics: source, medium, and campaigns.

What Are Dimensions?

Before explaining the source, medium, and campaigns first let’s discuss dimensions. Dimensions are categorical variables that describe the data. They are discrete values that label metrics with characteristics. There are many different dimensions out there. Examples: Gender, Race, State, City, Species, Color, and so many more.

An easy way to determine if something is a dimension is to ask, “Can you add them together?” If you cannot add them, then it’s usually a dimension. You cannot perform any mathematical operation on any dimension. Trying to divide Red by 3 is nonsensical.

Source and Medium

In Google Analytics two dimensions that are used frequently are source and medium. These dimensions are in the Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium report. Within the report, you’ll see source/medium on the left and various metrics on the right. Usually, Google Analytics will automatically populate the source and medium.

Source – Where website traffic comes from. Examples: Facebook, Google, Twitter, A Specific Website.

The source helps you determine where people originated. The source can tell you if some came to your site from Facebook or from another website. And it will tell you which website sent you the traffic.

Medium – How website traffic came to the site Examples: Organic, Paid_Social, Paid_Display, Referral

The medium can tell you how but also what type of traffic came to your site. For example, you can get traffic from Facebook in several different ways. The traffic can come from paid ads, organic social posts, stories, and many more. You can get quite granular with it. So while it’s good to know where your traffic came from, the type of traffic really adds a lot more insight.

Campaigns

Campaigns can be found in the Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns report. Furthermore, adding a campaign as a secondary dimension in the Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium report can be very helpful.

Campaigns allow you to group source/medium by a dimension. If you are running a marketing campaign that uses several tactics, then the campaign tag can help you see how they are all performing. While the source and medium tags are usually automatically populated by Google Analytics, the campaign dimension is not. UTM tags create the campaign dimension.

UTM Tags

What are UTM tags? UTM tags are parameters you can put at the end of a link to manually set the source, medium, and campaign. This is how you set campaign tags. Google provides a tool for creating links, here. By creating your own source, medium, and campaign you can add a lot more granularity and customization to your tracking.

I have a whole post on UTM tags here if you want learn more.

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