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How to Track MSN Paid Search in Google Analytics

In my last article I introduced you to Google’s URL Builder and showed you how to track Yahoo paid search data from within Google Analytics. You should go back and read that article to understand what we are trying to do in this one (there is no need to repeat the entire thing here again.)

In this article I’ll show you how to do that same thing with MSN.

Quick Refresher

When fed the right data, Google Analytics can extract query string variables and then insert that into your analytics to provide better reporting capabilities—in this case relating specifically to paid search. Better reporting capabilities help you make more informed decisions about what marketing channels are working best for you.

Without this data, your MSN paid search traffic is grouped in Google Analytics with organic traffic, and that is not good. In short, not differentiating paid search from organic traffic does you absolutely no good what-so-ever.

Google’s URL Builder let’s you build a unique url that consists of data relating to your marketing efforts. You can then use this url, copy and pasting it into your MSN paid search ads as a destination url, to track varying amounts of information you could not get before. Here’s the example we used in that article:

Tracking MSN PPC With Google Analytics

Unlike both Google and Yahoo which require you to “flip a switch” to turn on (or off) url tagging, MSN requires you to do nothing—it’s automatically sent with each visitor.

Here’s what MSN sends:

The items listed in brackets ‘{ }’ above represent the variable data that MSN sends your way with each visitor. It is this information that we will plug back into our URL to track performance.

The two parameters that represent keywords are {OrderItemID} and {QueryString}. Depending on your preference, you may use either in the location of utm_term in your Google Analytics built url. The difference is that the first one {OrderItemID} represents the actual keyword you bid on and the second {QueryString} represents the actual raw search terms the visitor entered to get to your site.

Now, if opting for {QueryString} as your parameter of choice, understand that the search terms might not exactly match the keyword(s) you are bidding on—thus, in this case, you may want to consider adding the {MatchType} to the url string as well. This can help distinguish in Google Analytics if the search string is actually the keyword itself (i.e. exact match) or a variation of it (in the case or broad match). I do not use this method myself but wanted to point out what you need to consider if you are going one way or the other. We’re looking for data that provides valuable information remember.

I prefer to know the exact keywords that triggered the ad and use the {OrderItemID} as my ‘Campaign Term’.

The screenshot below shows what MSN (as of this writing) has listed for what each variable represents:

MSN AdCenter URL Tagging Help

Now, when we use these in conjunction with Google’s URL Builder we get something that looks like this screenshot below:

Screenshot: Google URL Builder Setup for MSN Tracking

This is the best way to get data at the keyword level, ad level and campaign level (although you’ll have to compare the AD ID with that in MSN Adcenter to determine which ad actually triggered the visit.)

Now, another method you might want to consider (although not one I’ve personally used yet) is to replace the ‘Campaign Name’ data with something like {QueryString} to gather even more information on your visitors actual search habits who use MSN.

When would this be a viable option? Well, if you only have one campaign setup within MSN Adcenter then you may not really feel you need that information again in analytics (after all, if you have only one campaign setup then all traffic must originate from that.) In this case it might be beneficial to determine the search habits of your visitors in relation to the actual keyword that triggered the ad to find out more opportunities you might be missing.

Either way, you now have access to tracking paid search traffic from MSN within Google Analytics and because of it, have opened up new doors that will help you make more informed decisions about your marketing efforts.

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