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How to Track Yahoo Paid Search in Google Analytics

If you want to really take your business to the next level you must have an analytics system in place that provides you with data which can help you make informed decisions. By informed decisions I don’t mean “oh, my visitors use ‘xxx’ browser” or “the screen resolution of most visitors is ‘xxx'”. Sure, these elements might be useful to a very small degree if, and only if, you are looking at ensuring your site is designed to meet the right audience.

But, if you did your homework, your site should already be designed to fit any visitor that arrives, no matter the platform, browser type, screen resolution, or what ever it is you come up with relating to design.

Now there are many flavors of analytics that may work for your needs. In this article I am going to focus on Google Analytics. It’s free, it’s powerful, and it flat out can get the job done.

So, we’re talking Google Analytics setup to provide us with valuable decision making data. To get this type of information, just installing Google Analytics alone is not going to be enough. You need to take advantage of the full tracking capabilities to provide you with data from all your advertising channels. This will help you understand where to invest your time and resources to optimize a given channel—ideally that which provides a positive ROI.

I’ve written about Google Analytics in a number of past articles and discussed the ecommerce tracking, goal / funnel tracking, etc… so I won’t go into that in this article (although in future articles I will revisit these areas as much has changed in GA since the writing of those.)

In this article I am going to talk about tracking paid search traffic channels, specifically from Yahoo (Search Marketing).

As anyone running paid search campaigns might have already gathered, it’s fairly easy to track Adwords traffic in Google Analytics when you link the two and flip the proper auto-tagging switches, but it’s not so easy to track paid search traffic from Yahoo (or MSN for that matter but that topic is for my next article.)

Yes, Yahoo offers its own ppc tracking tools—including its own form of analytics. However, anyone that wants to find out from within Google Analytics how their paid search traffic from Yahoo is performing, has to do a little work.

In fact, currently—for those of you not already separating this out within your analytics—your paid search traffic from Yahoo (and again, MSN) comes over mixed with the organic traffic and is listed as such within Analytics. This isn’t good.

Google Analytics Screenshot of Yahoo / MSN Traffic

This is a problem. How can you make informed decisions about which channel of traffic provides the biggest bang for your buck when it’s mixed with organic. You can’t—at least not real easily.

So to track paid search traffic from MSN and Yahoo we need to separate them using the link itself and the variables we can pass to native Google Analytics. In short we need to develop a proper URL structure that we can use from within our MSN and Yahoo paid search ads themselves. These links must contain information which passes data to Google Analytics about the origin of that traffic.

The official term is called URL Tagging. Sounds complicated yes, and it could be, if it weren’t for this handy little tool that Google provides.

It’s called the URL Builder.

The URL Builder gives us the power to fill in a few fields click a button, and return a pre-built URL that we can use within our ppc campaigns. These would represent what are known as the Destination URL’s for a given keyword (you do break your destination URL’s down to the keyword level right? Doing so gives you more control and if you’re not, you should be.)

Let’s dive in and show you how you can gather keyword level data from Yahoo paid search, but one last thing you may be wondering before we do.

If you are wondering whether you need to provide a unique URL for each keyword the answer is no. Yahoo by default passes variable information to you with each visitor. All you need to know is what they pass and what to grab to insert into your analytics. That’s what I’m going to show you here.

Google’s URL Builder

Here’s is a crash course in Google’s URL Builder:

Google URL Builder Screenshot

The URL Builder let’s you enter your landing page (website URL) and associated variables including source (search engine), medium (cpc vs. email, organic, etc…), term (your keyword), content (ad version), and name (your campaign). After completing the form, the URL Builder provides you with a full tracking URL that you can copy/paste into your Yahoo or MSN ads. Here’s an example:

Tracking Yahoo PPC With Google Analytics

First thing we need to do to get Yahoo to send us the data we are after is to turn on auto-tagging from within your Yahoo Search Marketing account or you’ll get nothing but the keyword coming over (and that doesn’t help a whole lot on its own.)

Yahoo Search Marketing Tracking URL Section

To do this you’ll need to login to your YSM (Yahoo Search Marketing) account and go to:

Administration > Tracking URLs

Once that is complete Yahoo will begin to pass a lot more data than just the keyword over in the query string and we’ll be able to retrieve that data from within Google Analytics.

The parameters identifiers that Yahoo uses to pass various paid search data in the query string are:

Inserting these parameters into the utm_term, utm_content, and utm_campaign sections of your URL, you’ll be able to successfully pull the keyword you bid on, the ad it came from, and the campaign that held the ad into Google Analytics.

So going back to the above example (bullet points) the url for Yahoo would look like this after we inserted the parameters:


Yahoo Parameters in Google URL Builder

Notice in place of the term, content, and campaign level data we entered earlier there are now Yahoo specific parameters that fill the string with dynamic data.

That’s all you need to do to begin to track the information on Yahoo paid search in Google Analytics. In the next article I’ll show you how to do the same thing using MSN Adcenter and after that one show you how to drill down on this data from within Google Analytics to find out what it’s all telling you.

Don’t be afraid to use this same strategy to track all kinds of marketing activity. Using this technique you can track email campaigns, banner advertising, or just about anything else you can imagine.

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