Using Google Analytics to track email signature marketing campaigns

When you first think of email marketing, newsletters and marketing automation are probably the first ideas that come to your mind. What marketers often forget, is that these two pretty obvious associations are not the only options here. Another great way of promoting your products and brand by email, are certainly centrally managed email signatures. Since email footers can contain branding and marketing banners, taking full control of what is stamped in employees’ signatures is a marketing opportunity no company should miss.

Wise marketers, however, not only run marketing campaigns, but also collect proper web analytics data to judge how their campaigns perform. This is usually the key to adjusting the marketing efforts and making them more effective in the future. In this article, I will show you how to use Google Analytics (currently the most widely used web analytics platform) for tracking your email signature marketing campaigns. I will use CodeTwo Exchange Rules for creating a company-wide email signature on Exchange Server and Google custom campaign parameters, for tagging the links used in it. I will also show you how to access the statistical information collected by means of the URL tags in the Google Analytics interface. Let’s cut to the chase then!

Tracking email signature campaigns with Analytics

Note: The below article describes how to tag links using Google custom campaign parameters that are used by Google Analytics for identifying web traffic sources. Keep in mind that this methodology can be used accordingly with other web analytics platforms. Some of them (e.g. Kissmetrics) even support the same tag names as Google.

What are custom campaign parameters?

Custom campaign parameters, also known as URL or UTM tags, are used by Google Analytics to identify the marketing campaigns that generate traffic to your website. If links that send traffic to your webpage are properly tagged, Google Analytics can group web traffic according to the tag values. This makes your data more readable in the Analytics reports.

There are five types of URL tags you can use:

  • utm_source – usually stands for the referrer, e.g. newsletter, google, footer, etc.
  • utm_medium – defines the marketing medium that is distributing the given link, e.g. email.
  • utm_campaign – a name of your campaign, which can refer to a product name or marketing slogan, e.g. summer_discount.
  • utm_term – used in paid ads to define particular keywords that are linked to your website, e.g. buy (this tag is optional)
  • utm_content – useful in A/B testing for defining particular ads that send traffic to a website, e.g. add1 (this tag is optional)

Each of these parameters can provide useful information while you analyze your reports. In order to collect this information, you need to pair those tags with proper values and add them to your links as a query string. The full list of tags with wider explanations can also be found in Google’s official documentation.

Tip: It is important to stay consistent in terms of naming the values of UTM tags across all campaigns that you run. For instance, once you choose to name a medium ‘email’, you shouldn’t change it to ‘e-mail’ in future campaigns which use the same medium. This will let you measure the results in a more consistent way.

Let’s now move on and see how URL tracking works with email signature campaigns.

Composing company-wide email signature with URL tags

In the first step, I will create an email signature template for my entire company. This template will be automatically added to all users’ outgoing emails after I save my settings. Since we use Exchange Server as our email platform, I will use CodeTwo Exchange Rules for composing an email signature template directly on the server. The program allows me to define so called email signature rules that add personalized signatures to messages after they are sent by users.

Note: The URL tagging process described below can be applied to other CodeTwo email signature products as well. If you use other email platform than Exchange Server, you can find the best solution for your needs in the product comparison chart.

My signature rule will be responsible for stamping unified email signatures to all outgoing messages. I decided not to exclude any users from this campaign, but if you wish to do so this can be easily done by choosing a specific group of users or even single persons in the rule’s conditions, or exceptions.

Setting up a signature rule

The program has a built-in access rights management feature and I’m able deploy this setting without the need of bothering the IT administrator. This gives me flexibility in terms of changing the marketing information that is sent out in signatures.

This is how my email signature looks in the CodeTwo Exchange Rules HTML editor:

Setting up email signatures in HTML editor

As you can see, the main product I would like to promote is email migration software. My email signature template contains an email banner with a call to action that I discussed with the rest of my marketing team. The banner is linked to the product page. Apart from the marketing banner, there are also other links to my website in this template. What I need to do now is tag all those links with proper UTM tags. The easiest way to do that is to use the URL builder form provided by Google.

For the purpose of this example I will use only 3 parameters that are required. The values for those parameters will be:

  • utm_source: footer
  • utm_medium: email
  • utm_campaign: EmailMigration

The final URL looks like this:

And that’s it! After adding the query string to every link pointing to my website, my email signature campaign is ready to go. The signature  can now go live. All I need to do is hit the Save button in the program’s main menu.

Reading campaign data in Google Analytics

Now it’s time to find your data in Google Analytics. The custom campaign reports are a part of the Campaigns reports. Log in to your Analytics account and click on Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns in the left pane of the interface.

Google Analytics campaigns

You will now see the list of campaigns that send traffic to your website. The easiest way to find your email signature campaign, is to find its name in the search field (in our case ‘EmailMigration’). You can also view the results for the entire source (footer) or medium values (email) by changing the Primary Dimension in you Google Analytics view. It all depends on what you are currently trying to analyze and at which level of granularity you need to work (whether you’re estimating a single campaign, or e.g. the entire medium this campaign uses).

Google Analytics report with UTMs

The pictured report contains a lot of useful data for five footer campaigns that run in the company. It reads that 1682 sessions were initiated by footer campaigns in the given period. Most of them, however, were returning visitors (new sessions rate is 9.38%). You can also see how users behaved on the website. For instance, the 16.41% bounce rate shows you that most of the visitors found the content pretty engaging and went on to another place in this particular domain. The report also shows that the average number of pages visited per session was 1.58 and how long an average user stayed on your page. That’s a lot of useful data a wise marketer can make a good use of!


CodeTwo email signature management tools

4 thoughts on “Using Google Analytics to track email signature marketing campaigns

  1. Hi Gniewko, very insightful tips in this article. One thing that pops into my mind now is what if I ran a similar campaign from outlook without using CodeTwo Exchange but simply adding UTM tags to the links contained in that email? would that still work or GA won’t collect data if the email is not sent in HTML format?

    Thanks very much, Ricky

    • Hi Ricky,
      Whenever a tagged link is clicked, or pasted into a browser – GA collects data, CodeTwo Exchange Rules is not necessary for tagging links. However, if you are to handle signatures in a company, and manage multiple campaigns, CodeTwo Exchange Rules will make that much quicker and easier.
      As to emails not sent in an HTML format, they still can be used to track the campaigns; however, people are less likely to click a plaintext link.

  2. Thanks for the write up (interestingly, Google’s own pages for this explanation don’t shown up on first page).

    Intersting article, whilst I understand why you’ve written this to include your own CodeTwo software, I feel this article could do with more value for the masses (the Small Business Owner’s & Decision Makers that I serve).

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to add the following to help those (the masses) who 1.Don’t have such centrally managed email (yes they exist and are even the majority in my experience) 2.Don’t even have an email footer strategy, campaign or thought for.

    So, the benefits/tips for the masses then …
    1. Properly tag your links in your email signature will give you better insight when trying to decipher Analytics (eg.Instead of “Direct” accruing data, you’ll see ’email signatures’ as a source).
    2. Ad a unique tag for each member of staff (even if they have same links as their peers, this can also prove insightful eg.”Need more info Click Here” could tell you whether one member of staff or department is getting more clicks than the next).
    3. You can also achieve a similar tracking in analytics, by simply adopting the following tagging mindset:
    or better still..

    Thereafter, simply setup a filter in Google Analytics that looks for that full-url and even create a custom dashboard report to email you monthly on the individuals’ teams performance.

    Steve Walters
    Marketing Consultant & Tech Adviser.

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