By - Neal Cole

How to Track SMS Marketing Campaigns in Google Analytics

Photo of woman looking at sms messages on smartphone
Photo by Meghan Schiereck on Unsplash

 

Why Track  SMS Marketing Campaigns in Google Analytics?

 

Tracking SMS marketing campaigns in Google Analytics gives you the ability to measure the effectiveness of your SMS activity. This enables you to experiment and learn from mistakes and successes to optimise your SMS marketing campaigns and increase your conversion rate.

 

SMS marketing has grown in importance as over 1.5 billion devices have the ability to send and receive messages via SMS. This has resulted in the number of SMS messages sent increasing by over 7,700 per cent over the last ten years. SMS messages also have a much better return on investment than other digital marketing channels because they have a 209% higher response rate than email, phone or social media platforms.

 

Here we explain how you can track SMS marketing campaigns in Google Analytics.

 

1. Append UTM Parameters to the URL Link:

 

To track SMS marketing campaigns in Google Analytics you need to append Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) parameters to the URLs you text to prospects and customers. There are five variants of UTM parameters which Google Analytics can recognise to identify information such as the campaign source and medium.

 

To append UTM parameters to your URL you can either create a spreadsheet to build the campaign URL or use a website like Google’s campaign URL builder. With Google’s free URL builder, you input the following information:

 

Website URL: The full website URL that you want to send users to.

Campaign Source (Mandatory) : The referrer that is sending users to your site (for example google or an affiliate site). Format utm_source=google.

Campaign Medium (Mandatory): The marketing channel (for example SMS, email or CPC). Format utm_medium=sms.

Campaign Name (Mandatory): The keyword used to describe the campaign (for example the product, coupon code, or slogan). Format utm_campaign=cro

Campaign Term (Optional):  For paid search the keyword used for the ad (for example car+finance). Format utm_term=conversion

Campaign Content (Optional):  Used for A/B testing and content -targeted ads (for example variant1). Format utm_content=variant1.

Google's campaign URL builder for tracking sms marketing campaigns

 

Be careful if you are sending users to a single page application (SPA) with content that loads dynamically. These URLs will usually have a URL fragment (#) within them. If your UTM parameters are located after the fragment (#), Google Analytics will ignore them and you will lose your acquisition data. To allow for the SPA you have three options:

 

      1. Move the query parameters with your UTM data to before the fragment (#).
      2. Rewrite the page path before sending to Google Analytics using a GTM custom JavaScript variables.
      3. Switch from using a ? to a #, and adjust Google Analytics  tracking.

 

For details of how to implement these solutions go to Troubleshooting Missing Acquisition Sources and Campaigns in Google Analytics from Bounteous.

 

2. Shorten URL Link for Sending by SMS:

 

To reduce the length of the link you send in SMS messages you can use a link shortener like bitly or ShortURL.   This will prevent prospects or customers receiving an overly long link which could be distracting for the user. Google’s campaign URL builder now links to bitly so that you can create a free account and automatically cut the length of links when using the tool.

Image of Google campaign URL builder with short link

 

3. Go the report in Google Analytics:

 

To find the SMS marketing campaign analytics go to Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns. Then change the primary dimension for the report to ‘Source/Medium’.

Google Analytics acquisition campaign source/medium

 

4. Add SMS to Channel Groupings in Google Analytics:

 

You should consider adding  SMS to your default acquisition  channel grouping to avoid such traffic going into ‘Other’ or direct. Go to to your GA test view so that you can first test changes before implementing it in your reporting view. In the Admin area go to the far right column and select  Channel Settings > Channel Grouping.

 

You can create a test channel grouping by selecting +NEW CHANNEL GROUPING or edit the Default Channel Grouping to add SMS as a new channel. To add a new channel to the default channel grouping select ‘Edit’ from the ‘Actions’ drop down menu on the far right of the screen.

 

Select + Define a new channel and name it SMS. You can then use the campaign medium to define users as coming from SMS and click done. Don’t forget to save the change and check it is working correctly before making the change in your reporting view.

 

Add a new channel to default channel grouping in Google Analytics

 

 

5. Test in Realtime Reports:

 

Ask your marketing or operations team to include you in their testing for SMS campaigns. You can then use the GA Realtime report to check the UTM parameters are being recorded correctly. This is especially the case if you have a SPA page that loads content dynamically. If you don’t see SMS as the medium for a campaign when you click on a test link,  inform your campaign manager that you  need time investigate. It’s better to delay a campaign if you can to avoid having to explain later why you don’t have the tracking.

 

6. Measure the conversion rate of campaigns:

 

You can then create goals in Google Analytics to analyse the conversion rate of your SMS or other marketing campaigns.  If you have a complex funnel, where users may progress through different pages according to choices they make, you can automate a complex funnel visualisation in Data Studio using custom segments.

 

Image of automated funnel visualisation in Data Studio
Image Source: Conversion-uplift.co.uk

 

7. What other marketing campaigns can use UTMs?

 

UTM parameters can be used for lots of different kinds of marketing campaigns, including email and banner ads. This will help you identify their effectiveness and allow you to reward the people involved. Some other types of campaigns to consider for UTMs are:

 

Sales team interactions with prospects and customers. Provide your sales team with a list of links (with UTMs appended) to important pages on your website and ask them to share them with prospects and customers. This will enable you to see how much traffic the sales team drives to the website.

 

Customer Services engagement. Similarly, provide Customer Services with a list of UTM appended links to relevant pages to track how much customers use the URLs supplied to them.

 

In-page links from external websites. When you write a guest post or purchase a sponsored link ensure the URLs to your website include the relevant UTM parameters. This will allow you to measure how much traffic different blogs posts or link generate to your website.

 

Marketing promotions on social media. By using UTMs you will be able to track where such users navigate to on your website and measure the conversion rate.

 

Google My Business Profile. By adding UTM parameters to your links on Google My Business Profile you will be able to distinguish between traffic from Google search engine traffic and that generated from local SEO. This will help you understand if you should put more effort into local SEO rather than search engine marketing.

 

PPC marketing. Using the UTM keyword search term for PPC campaigns allows you track the quality and outcomes of individual search terms in Google Analytics. This can be used to analyse your conversion funnel to identify where leads are most likely to drop off and make changes to improve your conversion rate.

 

PR and corporate news. Include links with UTM parameters in your press releases and corporate communications to determine how much traffic these drive to your website and where they navigate to once they land.

 

Social media posts. Google Analytics will tell you which social media platforms drive most traffic to your website. However, by adding UTM parameters to your posts you will be tell which individual posts and campaigns are most effective at generating traffic to your site.

 

8. When not to use UTMs:

 

Never use UTMs on internal links on your website or navigation links because this will remove acquisition source data and split sessions. You don’t need to use UTMs on internal links as you can see from Google Analytics Behaviour Flow report which pages users navigate to after landing on your site.

 

Conclusion:

 

Once you begin to track SMS marketing campaigns in Google Analytics you will be in a much better position to improve the effectiveness of your campaigns. By adding UTM parameters you will be able to fully utilise the power of Google Analytics acquisition reports and identify new insights into where potential blockages exist in your conversion funnel.

 

Thank you for reading most post. Please leave any comments or feedback below because if helps us improve our content to better meet your needs.

 

  • About the author:  Neal provides web analytics and CRO consultancy services and has worked in many sectors including financial services, online gaming and retail. He has helped brands such Hastings Direct, Manchester Airport Group Online and Assurant Ltd to improve their digital marketing measurement and performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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