Custom Dimensions for Email Marketing

Checklists of Google Analytics tips often include a reminder to make use of the UTM tracking parameters in order to track the effectiveness of digital channel marketing, especially email marketing. We agree this is good advice – but you can go further in leveraging the power of Google Analytics by using a combination of UTM parameters, Custom Dimensions and Reporting Segments.

UTM parameters let you track individual campaigns and creatives for comparison in reports like Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. This is really useful to see how different campaigns perform against each another. If you segment your email database (as you probably do) you can isolate each of these broadcast segments and compare their performance in a wide variety of Google Analytics reports including:

  • Content Consumption (Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages)
  • Completion of Goals (Conversions > Goals > Overview)
  • Completion of Events (Behaviour > Events > Overview)
  • Internal Site Search usage (Behaviour > Site Search > Overview)
  • Clicks by day of the week and hour of the day
  • Device, Operating System and browser

This can help both your content teams develop more engaging content for users as well as arm your marketers with more focused insight into their database segments and how they can improve future campaigns. Using Custom Dimensions you can isolate the audience segments or compare them against other channels. The following steps will explain how you can unlock this potential with your own campaigns and reports.

Add an Audience UTM Parameter

You should already be using UTM parameters appended to the links in your email broadcasts. These will include utm_campaign, utm_source and utm_medium. We recommend you make use of the free Google URL Builder to develop your parameters in the correct format.

In addition to the standard fields you need to add the following additional parameter – utm_audience=. After the ‘=’ you need to provide the name of your email segment with a ‘+’ between each word – for example you could have groups for ‘new subscribers’, ‘active clickers’ and ‘VIP users’. Your URL would now look something like this: domain.com/?utm_campaign=summer+2020&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_audience=new+subscriber

URL with audience UTM parameter

With this additional parameter in place, mark-up each of the tracked links in your email creatives adding the specific audience segment name to the parameter in each of your UTM links.

Creating a Custom Dimension

In order to make use of the audience parameter in your reports you will need to set-up a Custom Dimension in Google Analytics. To do this click on the ‘Admin’ cog icon in the bottom left corner of Google Analytics and under the ‘Property’ column scroll down to the section called ‘Custom Definitions’ and click on ‘Custom Dimensions’.

Location of Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics admin console

Now click on the red ‘+New Custom Dimension’ button and name the dimension ‘Audience’ and change the scope from the default ‘Hit’ to ‘Session’, check the ‘Active’ box and click ‘Save’.

Google Analytics custom dimension set-up screen

You have now added the audience parameter to your email link and created a custom dimension in Google Analytics. Inbound clicks will contain the UTM string including your ‘Audience’ segment and Google Analytics will know to categorise attributes to those audience groups if needed.

Segmenting Email Audiences

In order to isolate each of your email database audience groups in Google Analytics reports you will need to create separate segments for each of them. To do this go to a report such as ‘Behaviour > Events > Overview’ and click on ‘+ Add Segment’. You can see a number of default segments to choose from, but your segments won’t appear in this list yet.

In order to create your individual segments click on the red ‘+ New Segment’ button then under the ‘Advanced’ section click on ‘Conditions’. Now click on the ‘Ad Content’ drop down and scroll down to the green ‘Custom Dimensions’ button and expand it to see the ‘Audience’ custom dimension you created. Now leave the ‘Includes’ drop-down as ‘Contains’ then add into the text field the name of your audience segment (e.g. ‘VIP Users’ or ‘New Subscribers’) and click the blue ‘Save’ button.

Google Analytics segmentation builder screen

Check your favourite analytics reports to see how your segments perform against each other. The ‘Events’ report in Behaviour > Events > Overview is a great report to do this as well as the ‘All Pages reports in Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages

Google Analytics report showing audience segments