google analytics

Google Ads Auto-Tagging: What Is It & Who Should Use It?

Google Ads Auto-tagging has been around for as long as I can remember (and I’ve been doing this since 2006). While it’s not new, many companies using Google Ads and even some PPC managers either have never heard of it or aren’t quite sure exactly what it is.

Google Ads Account Settings

The default setting in Google Ads is auto-tagging turned on. The way to find this has changed a few times. Currently, On the left side you’ll see a list that looks like this image below. It doesn’t matter where you are in the interface you can click there. When you get here you’ll want to make sure and click Account Settings on the top.

google ads account settings.png

Once you are here you’ll see a full list of account level settings. One of them you’ll see is Auto-tagging and if you click in you’ll likely see the box checked off.

google ads account settings list.png

What Is Auto-Tagging?

Auto-tagging is designed to be used with Google Analytics. What it does is automatically append special tagging to all of your ads so that they data can be parsed out inside of Google Analytics. If you’re familiar at all with Google Analytics tagging you might be thinking about UTM tags. If you didn’t know any better you might think that if you use auto-tagging, all Google does is automatically create UTM tags for your ads. That would make sense wouldn’t it?

Look what happens when I click an ad on Google for an account that has auto-tagging enabled (we know this because it’s one of our clients)

No UTM tags are to be found in this URL. What you see instead is a gclid tag followed by a bunch of letters, numbers and symbols. Why do they use a gclid and not UTM tags? After all, UTM tags were created for Google Analytics originally.

Why Does Google Use The GCLID?

A gclid is simply a Google click ID. There are a couple reasons Google uses a special click ID (which only Google Analytics can read) and not UTM tags. For starters, they want you to use Google Analytics for all your website tracking needs. Another reason is that UTM tagging only has 5 parameters that it can pass: source, medium, campaign name, campaign term, content. Google passes dozens of other data points from their click id into Google analytics that can only be passed this very way.

If you login to your Google Analytics account, under Acquisition you’ll see an entire Google Ads section:

google analytics google ads.png

You’ll see shopping data, hour of day, ad group and more. None of that would be possible without the gclid. If you’re Google analytics and Google Ads accounts are linked together you’ll also see cost data. If you have auto-tagging turned off and are manually UTM tagging you’ll still see data in here, but only for what you can pass which is limited to source, medium, campaign name, keyword and content.

Using auto-tagging and linking up your Google Ads and Google analytics accounts will provide you with all sorts of new data points that you can slice and dice up to get a deeper view of your advertising and how it integrates with your other website traffic.

Why Not Auto-tag?

The limitation of auto-tagging is when you are passing data into another place outside of Google analytics. This could be Omniture, Salesforce or any other type of CRM. Only Google analytics can parse the data in a gclid so you won’t see any of this passed to other tracking platforms.

If you are doing this already, make sure and double check your data. We’ve seen all sorts of funky things happen over the years when doing this.

Can I auto-tag and manually append UTM tags?

Technically it is possible, but I would advise against this. Even if you match up all the naming perfectly, we still will typically see data issues in Google analytics. To be safe and keep your data clean we would advise against this option. The better solution would be to create something outside of UTM tags that Google analytics wouldn’t read for your other tracking platform. In some cases this is farily simple, like with Salesforce and Omniture, but other cases it isn’t like if you’re using Unbounce and want the lead data passed.

If you must use UTM tags for your other tracking sources, you are better off missing out on the extra data passed from Google Ads to Google analytics, turn off auto-tagging and use only manually created UTM tagging.

If you have any other further questions on tracking your Google ads, please message, text or call and we’ll help you out.

Don't Forget To Tag Your Facebook Ads!

There are currently more than 28 million websites using Google Analytics. With all likelihood, you’re one of them. Yet time and time again we get into a potential client’s or new client’s Facebook Ads account and none of the ads have ever been setup to track properly in Google Analytics. Unless you properly tag your ads in Facebook Ads Manager, all of your Facebook traffic will be mixed together between paid and organic in Google analytics. Not to mention you won’t be able to drill down any further than source.

What Is A UTM Tag?

UTM stands for urchin tracking module and is nothing more than the format used by Google to track unique URL’s. If you’re using Google Analytics for your website every time you setup something that has a clickable URL, you should be tagging it with the UTM tags. For more information check out Google’s URL Builder. If your organic Facebook post has a link, tag it. If you send out an email, tag all the links. The naming convention is entirely up to you, but these are the UTM parameters Google reads (what you do with them is your choice):

Campaign Source: Required field and used to identify where the click came from (Facebook, Google)

Campaign Medium: Used to identify the type of source (email, CPM, CPC)

Campaign Name: Used as the first layer of identifying the traffic source.

Campaign Term: Intended to track the keyword in paid search, but can also be used as a second layer from campaign to further identify the traffic source.

Campaign Content: Used as a third layer for identifying the traffic source

Here’s what a UTM tag looks like:


The initial UTM can start with either a ? or a & depending on your URL setup. This is where it can get a little confusing and where mistakes are made. If there is already a ? in the URL somewhere, the first UTM start with an & just like the following UTM’s. If there is no ? in the URL before the UTM tag, start with ? before the first UTM.

How To Add UTM Tags To Facebook:

First, all your URL tracking in Facebook will be at the ad level.

facebook utm tagging.png

View Tag:

If you’re running a tracking system like Doubleclick or another attribution software that will track ad impressions, there is where you would put the tag.

URL Parameters:

This is where the UTM tag will go. There are two ways to do this. Either you can build it yourself or you can use the Facebook “Build A URL Parameter.” If you click the link you’ll see the following to build your URL parameter:

Last year Facebook introduced dynamic parameters to help with the tagging. These work similar to value track with Google Ads. If you click into each one of the boxes you have the choice to either pick a dynamic parameter or enter your own. To the right are the dynamic parameters you get to choose from. As you fill in the boxes on the bottom you’ll see what it looks like. You also have the choice to add your own parameters if there is another tracking program you uses. Maybe you use Salesforce to keep track of your leads and have custom parameters setup.

One thing to note that we’ve learned the hard way. For any other source you typically add the ? or & to start your UTM tag. Do not add that in Facebook. For some reason they automatically take care of this. If you add it yourself it won’t track properly. if your used to setting up UTM tags regularly this can be challenging to break your normal habit. I know it has been for me.


Be sure and track all your marketing channels correctly in Google Analytics. This allows you to gain deeper insights into where your sales and leads are really coming from. Don’t just remember UTM tags in Facebook. Remember them for all marketing channels. The better your tag, the cleaner and more accurate your data will be in Google Analytics.