Tips for correct e-commerce Tracking


In this post we explained how to use Google Analytics‘ UTM parameters for tracking. Another important feature in Google Analytics is „E-commerce Tracking “.
In what follows we want to take a closer look at e-commerce tracking discussing likely problems and solutions.

What is E-Commerce Tracking?

E-Commerce Tracking means gathering information about purchase activities on a website and sending them to Google Analytics. This is information about products, transactions, order value, time, order ID and other data. For this it is necessary to implement a tracking code into the website code. When the website is loading this tracking code creates a transparent pixel (also called tag) that sends data to Google Analytics.

Why is E-Commerce Tracking important?

In order to make this clearer to you, we provided an example:
Imagine that a potential customer found her way to our online shop. You spent €30 marketing budget in campaign XYZ on Google Adwords for her. As you are using UTM parameters you know that she found our shop through that specific campaign XYZ.
Now the customer buys products for €220 gross. By means of e-commerce tracking you can gather relevant data of the purchase, especially the order value and the order ID.

In Google Analytics you can look up the marketing costs (coming from Google Adwords) and gross sales of this purchase. As a result you calculate a customer value of €190 (€220-€30).

Your Magento shop system also recorded the €220 purchase but then had to accept a cancellation of the most expensive product in the shopping cart. In the end, the customers net order value was only €20.
We assume that the shop system is connected with the ERP system which has information about the material purchase value. In our example let’s assume it is €5 (your cost to purchase the teddybear from your supplier), which means that our customer value shrinks to only €15.

The Applicata BI Software connects Google Analytics campaigns and cost data with the shop system data and the marketing costs. Now the actual true customer value can be calculated and turns out to actually be negative:
[customer value Magento €15] – [marketing costs Google Analytics €30] = [customer value €-15].

This clearly shows that e-commerce tracking is highly relevant in order to connect marketing information of an order with the net order value and the contribution margin of this order!


Applicata compares order IDs and merges all data. If the customer returns and buys more products in this shop, Applicata determines automatically the new customer value.

How to set up E-Commerce Tracking?

First you need a Google Analytics account. There you receive the tracking code snippet which creates the pixel on your website. It needs to be implemented on every page. Therefore, you need HTML and JavaScript skills or you use a Tag Manager (see below “Google Tag Manager).

To integrate e-commerce data in your Google Analytics reports, e-commerce has to be enabled for each view in which you want to see the data.The Google Support provides detailed information on e-commerce set up.

Google Tag Manager helps with many tags

In case there are lots of tags (find supported tags here) to handle that send information to a third party, it is recommended to use the Google Tag Manager.
This is a single container tag that also needs to be implemented on each site, but once it’s done every other tag can be added and configured via a user interface. No further coding knowledge is needed.

What is the Problem with E-Commerce Tracking?

In Applicata’s experience companies using E-Commerce Tracking often do not track more than 20% of their transactions correctly. This means that they cannot determine revenue, customer acquisition costs and costs/revenue ratio for more than 20% of their orders.

6 Common Reasons for Incorrect E-Commerce Tracking and Solutions:

What follows demonstrates several problems concerning e-commerce tracking we often see and solve in Applicata projects.

  1. Google Pixel is not firing

    If the pixel is not triggered while the website is loading, it cannot send any data to Google Analytics. In this case you should set up test orders in different browsers and from different devices. This is how you can identify which combination of browser and device blocks the tracking. Mostly the reason is found on your own website and you should call in a developer.

  2. PayPal auto return is not working

    If a customer decides to buy a product and chooses PayPal for payment he or she will be directed to PayPal. The payment is executed externally at PayPals website. As soon as the payment is finished, the customer should be redirected to the shop automatically. There he or she should be led to the confirmation page with the order ID. The confirmation page is very important because this is the place where the tracking pixel fires and sends the order data to Google Analytics. In many cases PayPal is not implemented correctly and the so called ‘Auto Return‘ to the shop website is not triggering the pixel.

    It can also happen that the customer closes the PayPal page after payment and a redirect to the confirmation page is no longer possible.
    Very often we notice that the utm_source parameter is overwritten during auto return.
    In this case Google Analytics takes PayPal for the referrer although the actual origin is different. In this case the information how the customer came to your website would be lost for everyone who paid with PayPal.
    The solution is to modify the following settings at PayPal to fix ‘Auto Return’:

      Log into PayPal
      Go to ‘My Profile‘ and select `My Selling Tools‘
      Click on ‘Website Payment Preferences‘
      Switch on ‘Auto return‘ and enter the URL of your confirmation page
      Add an utm_parameter to the URL which prevents the original parameters from being overwritten: ?utm_nooverride=1
      For example: thankyou.php?utm_nooverride=1

    In case you are using Googles Universal Analytics you do not have to add ?utm_nooverride=1. You simply add to your ‘Referral Exclusion List’. The same applies to all other online payments systems.

  3. Insufficient Website Encryption

    All websites that receive user data should have a save HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) connection. No matter if it is an online shop or online banking.
    Other than a HTTP connection HTTPS transfers encrypted data to the server.
    There can be a problem when only some parts of the website are encrypted and others, pictures for example, are not. This can cause the tag not to fire and thereby not to send e-commerce data to Google Analytics.
    To be completely sure that incorrect tracking is not caused by an insufficient encryption you should always encrypt the whole ordering process. Encrypting the whole website is even better.

  4. Website loading takes too long

    Some companies are not using a shop system like Magento or Demandware. They build their own proprietary an online shop. In these cases, we often recognize that the websites are loading far too long. The problem is that slow loading pages can prevent the tracking pixel from firing and consequently no data will be sent to Google Analytics.

  5. Tags interfere with each other

    The tracking code snippets that create the pixels are placed in the website’s source code one after the other. While loading the website the code is read from top to bottom including the tracking code. If there is a buggy snippet of, for example, an affiliate system it prevents the following snippets from being read. The website loading is interrupted at this point. So, if the Google tag is located after the buggy code it cannot be read and executed anymore. In this case no e-commerce data will be sent to Google Analytics as well. It is preferable to use the Google Tag Manager.

  6. Google Tag Manager fires the wrong tag

    Wrong configuration can be a problem. Common problems with firing tags from Google Tag Manager have already been described here.


To evaluate the efficiency of marketing efforts Google Analytics is a very helpful tool.
Correct set up of e-commerce tracking is a basic requirement to ensure a clean connection of marketing and order data.
Through systematic elimination of every possible source of error we achieved over 98% e-commerce tracking rates with our customers that started with a 70% rate. This means that about 30% of their orders were not tracked correctly until the problens were solved as part of the Applicata BI Implementation project.

Correct URL Building with the help of Applicata


In the latest article UTM Tagging Explained we talked about the importance of correct URL tracking for entrepreneurs, in order to analyze customer data correctly and to optimize every marketing activity.

The most important tips for correct tracking:

  1. Use of consistent standards
  2. Consistency of notations
  3. Correct notations (use of capital and small initial letters)
  4. Do not mix up source & medium
  5. Adding of sub-domains

Even though companies put emphasis on correct URL tracking from the beginning, corporate growth, especially increasing numbers of employees and growing, international expansion, lead to an increasing complexity of marketing activities. Therefore, it becomes more difficult to ensure correct tracking data. Growth and expansion are often correlated to marketing campaigns on several channels and in cooperation with many partners in different countries. Due to this complexity and human errors it happens that consistent tracking standards cannot be enforced any longer. But inconsistent tracking data leads to incorrect marketing reports.


URL Building with the help of GoogleCampaign-URL-Builder-Google

Many marketers trust Google Analytics’ free UTM Builder when building UTM tracking links. Although this tool has a clear UTM structure for every campaign, mistakes and inconsistencies are predestined using it. Why? Because every box needs to be filled in manually. This is problematic if for example several employees work on the generation of URLs for different campaigns. Errors frequently occur because of mistakes like using small and capital letters, a mix-up of UTM source and medium or inconsistent notations (aff vs. affiliate, scm vs. social media etc.).




URL Building with the help of Excel

In order to avoid such mistakes the use of excel files or Google Docs is an alternative to the Google UTM Builder. This works better in general because standardized tracking structures for every channel can be established.

Such a file with UTM parameters can be quite helpful for companies in their start-up phase. That is why we created a UTM Tracking Parameters file which is available for free download below.




You can customize this file to your company specific tracking requirements and use it for the generation of campaign URLs.

Nevertheless, we often see here at Applicata that mistakes are also made in such documents when it is being used by several employees. As already mentioned, Google already matches campaigns differently according to the use of small and capital letters or different notations of a specific value. As a drop-down menu and a central administration of UTM options is missing, the generation of URLs with the help of this Excel File or Google Docs is still highly error prone.

The Problem

Google cannot match traffic to its correct channel and its correct campaign when using incorrect UTM tracking links. That is why often a big part of the traffic is placed into the categories “unallocated” or “other”. This means that Google tracked the traffic, however, cannot relate it to a specific channel or partner.


We already saw projects in which nearly 30% of the whole traffic has been matched incorrectly or lumped into “other”.

If website visits cannot be counted back to their correct campaigns, every analysis and report of this campaign is incorrect, too. The optimization of marketing activities based on wrong data leads to wrong budget allocations between marketing activities, too high expenses, lost revenue and consequently, to low profitability of your company.

The goal is to always track the traffic to its correct channel and partner.



The Solution

In order to counteract the error rate and the resulting problems of the Google UTM Builder and a solution based on Excel, the Applicata software includes two tools, which ensure a consistent and correct generation of URL tracking parameters:

  1. The Campaign Builder

With the help of the campaign builder every marketing manager can generate a UTM tracking link for every campaign, partner and country when using Applicata.


Due to the use of a drop-down menu the selection of UTM parameters is always correct and consistent. Furthermore, the tracking link can easily be copied and pasted for every advertisement and every website visit can thus be matched to the right campaign in Google Analytics.




  1. Mapping Tool

If somehow tracking a link was built incorrectly and incoming traffic henceforth was allocated incorrectly, a second valuable tool within the Applicata Software can correct this for you: the mapping tool.

This tool is an interface in which incorrect UTM trackings can be mapped to their correct place in the campaign tree. Consequently, website visits can be related to the right campaign, source and medium.

Example: Let’s assume there was a spelling mistake. The visit data of the incorrectly tracked campaign can easily be redirected to the right one.



Wrong: Source = affilient

Correction with the mapping tool

Right: Source = affilinet


Due to this correction, incorrect website visits can be redirected and correct campaign reports can be established.

This in turn is the basis for optimized budget allocations, growth and higher profitability.

p.s. So far, we did not find a way to export the corrected UTM tracking data into Google Analytics in order to correct the allocation of these campaigns in Google Analytics as well. We would be grateful for a hint how this could work.



UTM Tagging Explained



If you are marketing manager engaging in online marketing you need to know and understand your customers. Knowing who visited your website, how often customers return and which marketing activities directed customers to your site is imperative for an optimal online marketing budget allocation. Thereby UTM tagging helps a lot!

Why is tracking and analysis so important?

When it comes to online advertising, your objective should be to analyze the reach and effectiveness of every single marketing activity you are doing, in order to know if the return on investment justifies that specific

For example: Potential customers see a banner ad of your company on Facebook. Some of those who saw the ad might feel intrigued and click the banner. Upon clicking they are being directed to your website where some of the visitors end up buying one of your products.

As a marketer, you want to track & analyze how many customers saw and clicked this banner ad. You need to know what cost you incurred to run this ad and most importantly if these costs were reasonable compared to the revenue and profit margins of the sales you made.

Google Analytics – a free Tracking Tool

Google Analytics is the most popular free tool to track the source, behavior and revenues of every website visitor through simple pixel-tracking!
The data collected by Google Analytics enables marketers to deeply analyze the reach and efficiency of every online marketing activity.

4 Ways to access Websites

Google Analytics distinguishes four different ways to access a website:direct

direct – A visitor types the internet address of your website directly into the browser.

organicorganic – An internet user is accessing a search engine like google or bing. On those pages he searches for specific keywords. Upon being presented with search results he accesses the company’s website through clicking on the search results. This is considered as unpaid or “organic” search.


referral – Website A links to the company’s website B, the target page. If a visitor on website A clicks on that link and is being directed to website B, Google Analytics identifies website A as the referrer.


marketing campaign – this means paid or unpaid advertising links on other websites.


For example: paid banner ads, paid Google Adwords text links or unpaid links on Twitter.

Google needs your Help for correct Tracking!

Website visits that originate from marketing campaigns need to be accurately marked so that Google Analytics is able to correctly relate these visits to its original advertisements. There are several methods to do that, but Google Analytics prefers the use of UTM-parameters- called UTM-tagging. These parameters precisely describe the source of a marketing activity using five dimensions.
The goal of every online advertisements is to garner interest and to transfer a potential customer to the advertiser’s website. Therefore, the company’s URL is added to the online ad. Additionally, the UTM-parameters should be used to track information about the click’s source. Conceptual it looks like this: [] + [UTM-parameter]

Use UTM-tagging so Google Analytics can track correctly!

The five UTM-parameters which can be used for a marketing campaign are source, medium, campaign, term and content.

source: Source refers to the name of the website on which a company is advertising, e.g. Facebook, Google or Zanox.

medium: Medium refers to the channel. Usually channels are groups of similar advertising measures, e.g. Affiliate, Social Media, Display, Email etc.

campaign: This value should contain the name of the advertising campaign.

The parameters term and content are optional and can be used in different ways. Usually they are used for paid traffic only. The following are some suggestions:

term: Term can contain the paid keyword or the banner ad.

content: This tag should refer to the Ad-Group or the banner’s position on a website. It can also specify the content the banner is showing.

If these parameters are filled in the right way, it is possible to understand from which channel, partner and campaign the visitor came and which banner or keyword he clicked on. If however UTM-tags are not being attached to the link of an advertisement Google Analytics automatically classifies the website visit as „referral “. Without these parameters, an exact allocation of website visits to its origin is impossible.

UTM-Parameters must be added correctly to the target-URL

UTM-parameters have a special notation that has to be complied with for Google Analytics to match them correctly.

  • The ? demonstrates the end of the original URL and the beginning of the tracking code

  • Each parameter starts with utm_ followed by the type of parameter and =

  • This is where the individual value of the parameter is added. (Notice: At this point lots of things can go wrong!)

  • The & divides the parameters from each other

  • Spaces are not allowed in URLs which is why they are not allowed in UTM-tags either. If there needs to be some space %20 can be the placeholder; for example „Summer%20Sale “. Google Analytics will recognize this as a space.

The Google Campaign URL-Builder can help to create the right URL.

Example for a URL using UTM-tags:

UTM Parameters Example URL

5 Important Rules to Avoid Mistakes

  1. Use consistent guidelines within a company
    Every employee of a company running online marketing campaigns should be using the exact same UTM-tags for the same thing!

  2. Be consistent in naming the UTM-tags
    „Cpc“ and „paid“ may stand for the same type of traffic, but Google Analytics will consider them as two different things. You also have to keep the use of lower and capital letters in mind: „Paid“and „paid“ would end up as different results. The use of small letters is more common regarding utm_source and utm_medium.

  3. Choose the right value.Values for UTM-parameters should be chosen carefully. The following are some suggestions:

    • utm_medium: This contains a short form of the used channel, e.g. „email “or „eml“ could be a good choice for E-Mail. It is not unusual to name every paid traffic „cpc“. Google Analytics automatically does this with every traffic coming from Google Adwords, if no other term has been chosen.

    • utm_source: This value should contain the name of the ad platform, the affiliate, the e-mail service or the publisher that is used, e.g. „facebook “, „affilinet“, or „mailchimp“.

    • utm_campaign: This should contain the name of the campaign an ad belongs to. If there is a campaign called „Summer sale 2017“ coming up, every advertisement should be tagged as utm_campaign=„SS+2017“. The campaign value should be short, descriptive and easy to distinguish from other campaigns. Campaigns in different countries should start with the country code: e.g. GB, DE, US, etc.

    • utm_term: This is where the paid keyword or the banner is noted. If there should be an affiliate link the value {{pubid}} serves as a placeholder for the ad publisher’s ID.

    • utm_content: This contains a description of what the banner is showing or the banners position on a website. Due to this all banners of a campaign can be distinguished from each other and the most successful ones can be identified.

      URL Channel ExampleIn this channel listing SEA (Search Engine Advertising) is not mentioned because it is a special case. This will be subject of another post!

  4. Source & Medium tags should not be mixed up
    This is a common mistake which leads to incorrect results.

  5. Adding sub domains
    If a company (e.g. has a blog page with a different domain ( Google Analytics needs to know that this URL refers to the same company. For example. Let’s say a facebook visitor clicks on an ad and lands on the company‘s blog post. On the blog she clicks a link that leads to the company’s website. Google Analytics will identify the blog page as the referrer, however, the actual and relevant origin of this visitor is Facebook!
    The Google Analytics support provides help for cross domain tracking.

3 URL Examples for different Channels



This ad in the paid partner content section on is one out of three. This one is placed on the left side. Its position is mentioned in utm_content.



This example shows a blog post about a perfume on There is a textlink below the picture linking to the online shop In this case utm_term contains not a paid keyword, but the type of link.EN_url_affiliate



The following example is an e-mail newsletter with several links. The last one leads to one domain of Utm_source is spirit, because Spirit Airlines are the ones who sent the e-mail.EN_url_email

Companies also send e-mails which only contain links to their own website. Although this means unpaid traffic, those links should be tagged anyway to evaluate the efficiency of the product promotions in that e-mail. In this case utm_content could be filled to differentiate between the ads.


Clean UTM-tagging is important to allocate every website visits to its channel (medium), its source and its campaign. With UTM parameters, Google Analytics is able to identify the reach and effectiveness of every advertisement. Thereby, future campaigns can be planned accurately.
E-Commerce tracking and cost imports into Google Analytics are needed for an estimation of the cost-benefit efficiency. These are further topics dealt with in upcoming blog posts.

PS.: Applicata provides an URL builder as a part of the software solution. This URL builder is able to automatically create consistent UTM tags and target URLs for new campaigns. That is how we ensure clean tracking for our clients.