Consider the following scenario - A user follows a UTM-tracked link to our website utm_campaign=external-campaign (and for example medium: social-network, source: linkedin) - During the registration process, the user is asked to confirm his email, and the link in the email includes again UTM tracking information utm_campaign=registration-confirmation (and for example medium: email, source: my-website)

What happens in Google analytics ? Is the user session recorded as belonging to the external-campaign campaign, the registration-confirmation campaign, or both ? And what are the recommendations regarding this ?

EDIT : our use case

Our user acquisition flow involves 3 steps with some specific mechanics

  • A User
    • (a) either follows a UTM tracked link to our website with an invitation code
    • (b) OR discovers our website on his own (eg via google search) and lands without invitation code
  • This user must fill-in a presubscription form that will eventually result in the user receiving an email with a link and a sign up token to finish the registration and add a password but
    • (a) Those who came via the UTM link + invitation code, upon submitting the form, immediately receive the email
    • (b) those who presubscribed without invitation code will only receive this email LATER (~1 day), because we need to check their form manually

Users coming from (a) start a session with an utm_source=external_website, those from (b) start a session without UTM information

When we send the presubscription email in the link, we added a utm_source=my-website that, according to the answers, would have for effect to start a NEW sessions for users (a) (and also for users (b) from what I infer) ?

What should be our best tracking strategy in this case ?

1 Answer 1


Based on the Google Analytics session definition available here:

Every time a user's campaign source changes, Analytics opens a new session.

So you will see two sessions. One attributed to external-campaign, which starts at the original landing page, and having an exit page within the registration process. A second one attributed to registration-confirmation, having a landing page at the registration confirmation page, and containing any pages, the user visits from now on within this session.

Regarding the recommendation, it all depends on how you want to track the usage of the confirmation mail. If this happens within minutes, you might want to treat it as one session. In this case, you might want to hide all UTM parameters and referrals from this landing page, so that Google Analyitcs treated it as part of the previous session.


Based on the detailed use case, I would consider the following behavior.

  • Users of scenario B, arriving without the invitation code, will still have some source and medium, where their sessions are attributed. Google search, direct traffic, referral sites.
  • Not using UTM in emails most of the times has two results. Users of mail clients (e.g. Outlook, smartphone mail apps) will most of the times arrive to your site without source, resulting sessions as Direct traffic, or keeping the last known source/medium if the same browser is used and existing clientId is available. On the other hand, as webmail clients will pass themselves as referrers, you will see traffic coming from sites like mail.gmail.com / referral. So I think it's better to add UTM parameters to links in your mails anyway.

A simpler solution would be to add UTM tracking to all your confirmation mails. Setup two goals in Google Analytics for pre-registration and confirmation as well. You'll be able to track traffic sources leading to pre-registration events, and you can event track assisting traffic sources leading to registration confirmation in Multi-Channel Funnel reports.

A more sophisticated solution could be to include UTM in the confirmation mail, but to track time elapsed between pre-registration and confirmation. Within a desired time frame, e.g. 30 minutes aligned to default session timeout, you could programmatically strip the UTM and referrer values from data sent to Analytics. As a result, this behaviour is simply attributed to original traffic source. After 30 minutes, your confirmation mail is tracked as a traffic source.

  • Thanks @krg, I've edited my question to better reflect our use case. Regarding what I mentioned, do you suggest that for (a) users, we should actually NOT add UTM information in our presubscription email so as to keep the information that users (a) actually came from utm_source=exteral-website ? But then, should we still add UTM in the presubscription emails sent to (b) users ? Jun 23, 2019 at 14:23
  • 1
    I've added more details. I hope it makes sense, and helps you to design your tracking strategy.
    – kgrg
    Jun 25, 2019 at 4:58

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