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What The gclid?

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what the gclid

Most of us are aware of Google Ads auto-tagging but don’t know how it works. What does auto-tagging do and why is it important in your Google Ads account?  Auto-tagging is a way for Google Ads to communicate all the details about a user session to Analytics.  In turn, we are able to use the information reported in Analytics to measure post-click behavior.

Auto-tagging is a setting in Google Ads that allows the system to append your final URLs with parameters in order to report traffic statistics into Analytics. Auto-tagging is a huge time-saver, but sometimes it breaks, creating a real challenge when trying to measure performance. Plus, whenever data is reporting inaccurately in Analytics, a considerable amount of time can be spent troubleshooting performance issues. Or worse, it can make you think your paid search traffic is not converting.

You’ll notice with auto-tagging that Google appends “gclid” to your final URLs. What does this term mean anyway? The term “gclid,” or the Google click identifier, is a way for Google Ads to communicate information about the searcher to Analytics. This data allows you to view post-click activity in Analytics, such as time spent on site, pages per visit, etc. Google Ads auto-tagging will encode the necessary tags into the URL to report on information like:

  • Source
  • Medium
  • Campaign
  • Ad Group
  • Keyword
  • Match type
  • Ad Creative

When you enable auto-tagging in Google Ads you do not have to manually set-up tags for every URL. Whenever possible it is recommended to use auto-tagging over manual tagging to avoid mistakes. Plus, manually tagging each URL can save time and reduce errors due to capitalization or misspellings.

First, check in Google Ads to see if you have auto-tagging enabled. You can do this under ” Settings > Account Settings > Auto-tagging.”

Google Ads account settings for autotaggingAuto-tagging setting location

In these example tagged URLs, using capital vs. non-capital sources or mediums will cause Analytics to split up the data and report these as two independent statistics. This is another reason why auto-tagging is ideal over manual tagging.

www.website.com/?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=CampaignName
www.website.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=CampaignName

All ad clicks will now automatically append the gclid to the ad’s URL and send all associated data to Google Analytics.

There are rare times when a Google Ads account can not be connected Analytics and we need to manually tag each URL to be able to view performance data. When you create manual tags, it is important to make sure they are identical and use the same case to make sure they appear under the same line item in Analytics

Manual Tags And Reporting

Yes, case matters when you are manually tagging URLs for your campaigns. As mentioned above, you do not want Analytics splitting up your stats because you used capitalization on half of your URLs.

You will want to make sure the source, medium, and campaigns are consistently named and using the same case. I usually prefer to capitalize my campaign names because I like how it appears under “Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns.” This setup is just a preference but ensures Google Analytics naming matches the naming convention in my accounts. Here’s an example.

  • Source: google
  • Medium: cpc
  • Campaign: CampaignName (or Campaign_Name)
  • Keywords

If you do use capitalization on some and not others the source/medium will report separately in Analytics. You could have 2 Google Ads sources that show as such.

  • Google / cpc
  • google / cpc

This makes it harder to quickly segment traffic as you now need to filter for multiple source / medium’s to see your ad performance data.

Reasons Websites Drop The Gclid

Another issue we have found for the gclid getting dropped is when final URL redirects. A website that redirects from http://www.website.com to http://website.com may drop the gclid and you will have incorrect data reporting in Analytics. This can even happen when a HTTP URL redirects to the secure HTTPS URL. Google has a help section entitled Check if Google Ads auto-tagging works to help you ensure you are using the correct URL.

Third-party payment options may also cause the gclid to be dropped. On an ecommerce site, you may see a referral from Paypal.com in Analytics. Thus, if someone clicks your ad and pays via PayPal, the referrer will be PayPal instead of Google Ads.

PayPal referral example

Troubleshooting The Gclid Issue

Unfortunately, auto-tagging settings and Gclid dropping off is a somewhat common tracking error. If you have a high volume of ads it can be tricky to make sure these are set-up properly. Every website is different, and server settings may change tracking behavior. In order for auto-tagging to work properly, you will need to make sure the Google Ads final URL and the website URLs match up.

In one case, we had a client who had all the ads pointed to http://www.website.com instead of the https:// version. Display traffic was reporting terrible metrics when it was really the URL issue causing the gclid to drop. Since we corrected the final URL, display is one of the best performing campaigns.

In another case, some of the URLs were set up with the WWW and some were not, preventing Analytics from reporting revenue associated with Paid Search. Analytics was reporting most transactions as direct traffic.

Checking The gclid In Analytics

So how do you know if you have a mismatch or if you have an issue with gclid parameters? Analytics is a good place to start.  You might see a notification error that says ‘Invalid Google Ads gclid’ that will give you additional details into what is happening.

Invalid AdWords gclidInvalid gclid

Analytics may also show you a notification error stating there are clicks and sessions discrepancies.

Clicks and Sessions DiscrepanciesTraffic discrepancies

You can also view the clicks vs sessions data under “Acquisition > Ads > Campaigns.”

google analytics adwords clicks sessionsGoogle Ads metrics in Google Analytics

In the example above, you can see the clicks and sessions have a significant discrepancy in their data. Keep in mind, these numbers will never match up exactly, but there shouldn’t be this big of a difference in the data.

You can view all conversion paths under “Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths.”

assisted conversions pathsMulti-channel funnels

As you can see in the above example, many of our conversions are falling under direct traffic, which may be because the URL is dropping the gclid.

Next, you can visit the Google support page. Open a new window in Chrome and select “Menu > More Tools > Developer Tools” and select the Network tag. In the address bar, set up your URL like the example provided and select enter http://www.example.com/?parameter=1&gclid=TeSter-123. After the page finishes loading, you should still see the gclid in the address bar or the header. If you do not see it at all that means your website is dropping the gclid and you’ll need to work with the web team on why.

Also, keep in mind that when you add your website in the address bar and if you see a status of 302, this status means your website has a redirect and auto-tagging may not work. Make sure you follow the redirect and see the tag carried over.

google chrome redirect auto-tagging gclidA 302 status

We hope this article will help you understand how auto-tagging actually functions, the differences between auto-tagging and manual tagging and how these features can impact your Analytics data. We have also included some additional resources below to help you verify if your auto-tagging is working and additional reasons why it may not be.

Author:
Post updated by Jacob Fairclough (prior post date: 06/01/16)

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

How long has it been since your marketing team got restructured? 

Wearing our magic mind-reading hat, we’d guess it was within the last two years. 

Impressed by the guess? Don’t be.  

Research from Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds that almost half of marketing teams restructured in the last 12 months. (And the other half probably did it the previous year.) 

Why do marketing teams restructure so often? Is this a new thing? Is it just something that comes with marketing? What does it all mean for now and the future? 

CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose offers his take in this video and the summary below. 

Marketing means frequent change 

Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds 46.5% of marketing teams restructured in the last year — a 5-percentage point increase over 2023 when 41.4% of teams changed their structure. 

But that’s markedly less than the 56.5% of marketing teams that restructured in 2022, which most likely reflected the impact of remote work, the fallout of the pandemic, and other digital marketing trends. 

Maybe the real story isn’t, “Holy smokes, 46% of businesses restructured their marketing last year.” The real story may be, “Holy smokes, only 46% of businesses restructured their marketing.” 

Put simply, marketing teams are now in the business of changing frequently. 

It raises two questions.  

First, why does marketing experience this change? You don’t see this happening in other parts of the business. Accounting teams rarely get restructured (usually only if something dramatic happens in the organization). The same goes for legal or operations. Does marketing change too frequently? Or do other functions in business not change enough? 

Second, you may ask, “Wait a minute, we haven’t reorganized our marketing teams in some time. Are we behind? Are we missing out? What are they organizing into? Or you may fall at the other end of the spectrum and ask, “Are we changing too fast? Do companies that don’t change so often do better? 

OK, that’s more than one question, but the second question boils down to this: Should you restructure your marketing organization? 

Reorganizing marketing 

Centralization emerged as the theme coming out of the pandemic. Gartner reports (registration required) a distinct move to a fully centralized model for marketing over the last few years: “(R)esponsibilities across the marketing organization have shifted. Marketing’s sole responsibilities for marketing operations, marketing strategy, and marketing-led innovation have increased.”  

According to a Gartner study, marketing assuming sole responsibility for marketing operations, marketing innovation, brand management, and digital rose by double-digit percentage points in 2022 compared to the previous year.  

What does all that mean for today in plainer language? 

Because teams are siloed, it’s increasingly tougher to create a collaborative environment. And marketing and content creation processes are complex (there are lots of people doing more small parts to creative, content, channel management, and measurement). So it’s a lot harder these days to get stuff done if you’re not working as one big, joined-up team. 

Honestly, it comes down to this question: How do you better communicate and coordinate your content? That’s innovation in modern marketing — an idea and content factory operating in a coordinated, consistent, and collaborative way. 

Let me give you an example. All 25 companies we worked with last year experienced restructuring fatigue. They were not eager creative, operations, analytics, media, and digital tech teams champing at the bit for more new roles, responsibilities, and operational changes. They were still trying to settle into the last restructuring.  

What worked was fine-tuning a mostly centralized model into a fully centralized operational model. It wasn’t a full restructuring, just a nudge to keep going. 

In most of those situations, the Gartner data rang true. Marketing has shifted to get a tighter and closer set of disparate teams working together to collaborate, produce, and measure more efficiently and effectively.  

As Gartner said in true Gartner-speak fashion: “Marginal losses of sole responsibility (in favor of shared and collaborative) were also reported across capabilities essential for digitally oriented growth, including digital media, digital commerce, and CX.” 

Companies gave up the idea of marketing owning one part of the customer experience, content type, or channel. Instead, they moved into more collaborative sharing of the customer experience, content type, or channel.  

Rethinking the marketing reorg 

This evolution can be productive. 

Almost 10 years ago, Carla Johnson and I wrote about this in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. We talked about the idea of building to change: 

“Tomorrow’s marketing and communications teams succeed by learning to adapt — and by deploying systems of engagement that facilitate adaptation. By constantly building to change, the marketing department builds to succeed.” 

We surmised the marketing team of the future wouldn’t be asking what it was changing into but why it was changing. Marketing today is at the tipping point of that. 

The fact that half of all marketing teams restructure and change every two years might not be a reaction to shifting markets. It may just be how you should think of marketingas something fluid that you build and change into whatever it needs to be tomorrow, not something you must tear down and restructure every few years.  

The strength in that view comes not in knowing you need to change or what you will change into. The strength comes from the ability and capacity to do whatever marketing should. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:  

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

2. Understand topical authority: Keywords vs. entities

Google has been talking about topical authority for a long time, and in Discover, it is completely relevant. Traditional SEO includes the use of keywords to position your web pages for a specific search, but the content strategy in Discover should be based on entities, i.e., concepts, characters, places, topics… everything that a Knowledge Panel can have. It is necessary to know in which topics Google considers we have more authority and relevance in order to talk about them.

3. Avoid clickbait in titles

“Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.” This is the opening sentence that describes how headlines should be in Google’s documentation. I always say that it is not about using clickbait but a bit of creativity from the journalist. Generating a good H1 is also part of the job of content creation.

Google also adds:

“Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.”

“Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.

Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.”

Do you think this information fits with what you see every day on Google Discover? I would reckon there were many sites that did not comply with this and received a lot of traffic from Discover.

With the last core updates in 2023, Google was extremely hard on news sites and some niches with content focused on Discover, directly affecting E-E-A-T. The impact was so severe that many publishers shared drastic drops in Search Console with expert Lily Ray, who wrote an article with data from more than 150 publishers.

4. Images are important

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you look at your Discover feed, you’ll see most of the images catch your attention. They are detailed shots of delicious food, close-ups of a person’s face showing emotions, or even images where the character in question does not appear, such as “the new manicure that will be a trend in 2024,” persuading you to click.

Google’s documentation recommends adding “high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover” and notes important technical requirements such as images needing to be “at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting.” You may also have found that media outlets create their own collages in order to have images that stand out from competitors.

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

One of the most important parts of having a website is making sure your audience can find your site (and find what they’re looking for).

The good news is that Google Search Essentials, formerly called Google Webmaster Guidelines, simplifies the process of optimizing your site for search performance.

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