Update 7/12/2006: With the introduction of the Google Analytics “AdWords Analysis” report, the methodology described below is no longer necessary to track AdWords Ad Creatives using A/B Split tests. Instead, please refer to our post about using the new AdWords Analysis report (be sure to scroll closer to the bottom of the article to learn about tracking AdWords ad creatives using A/B split tests).

No matter the goal of your Google Adwords campaign one thing is always necessary; constant optimization! While Google’s “Auto Tagging” option is an easy way to get basic tracking data, with just a little more effort it is possible to take your tracking to a higher level!

By adding additional tracking codes to your referral URL link and turning off auto tagging, you are able to drill down even further in Google Analytics, allowing you to make the most out of every advertising dollar.

UTM, which stands for Urchin Traffic Monitor, are tags which are added to the end of your destination URL in order to add specific data to your paid tracking within Google Analytics. These tags identify such variables as campaign, source, medium, content, and search term.

Currently with the Google AdWords “Auto Tagging” feature the utm_content variable identifies each ad by the first line of text. This can cause problems if you are trying to implement A/B split testing because Auto-Tagging simply passes the ad text headline to the utm_content variable. This makes it impossible to differentiate tracking data from two different ads that share the same headline.

Even if your current ad versions do not contain the same headline, it is a best practice to turn off the “auto tagging” to implement more precise tracking. This will enable your future ads to be optimized by testing different ad text, & landing pages, which will boost your campaign Return on Investment (ROI.)

Using the A/B split technique allows you to spend more money on ads that are performing, and delete ads that are not producing a high Return on Investment (ROI). It also gives you richer data about what ad text is working, and enables you to optimize future ad creatives based on this information.

To tag two versions of ads (ad A & ad B) in the “Blue Shirts” Google Ad Group follow the example below.

A quick time saver when turning off Google AdWords “Auto Tagging” is the use of Dynamic Keyword Insertion in the utm_term variable. By setting your term variable to:


Google Adwords will automatically insert the keyword phrase that was searched into your tracking data. This feature enables you to receive the term searched by the AdWords user almost effortlessly!

Therefore, if you wanted to track the following ads, campaign=shirts, source=google, medium=cpc, content=blueshirts_A or B, and term={keyword}

Ad Version A:

The destination URL would look as follows:


Ad Version B:


The destination URL would look as follows:


Now you have a methodology to take your AdWords/Analytics tracking to a much higher level than what is provided “out of the box” with “auto tagging”.

For help configuring your Google AdWords and Google Analytics account, drop us a line at ROI Revolution and let us know how we can help.

This article was written by Page Christenbury, ROI Revolution Pay Per Click Marketing Specialist.