in Web Analytics

The utm_term Parameter: Screwing Up Yahoo Paid Search & Google Analytics

One of the joys of Google Analytics is that it syncs perfectly with AdWords (though measuring paid search with Google Analytics is somewhat incomplete). The same can’t be said of Yahoo. You have to append tracking parameters to your destination URLs, but you need to pay attention to the utm_term variable if you want to avoid a lot of meaningless data, aka (not set). If you don’t, you could be losing data you’ll never get back.

Learn To Love utm_term

As GA’s basic overview of link tagging outlines, there are a variety of parameters to define for your campaign tracking. If you’re thumbing through your campaign data and you hit a wall of “(not set)”, then it’s likely you didn’t assign a value to one of these parameters. In the case of non-AdWords paid search, you’re most likely to see (not set) if you didn’t define the utm_term parameter, which refers to the keyword you purchased.

The prospect of manually tagging, or even concatenating, your keywords for Yahoo Search Marketing campaigns is time consuming and unnecessary. There is a more elegant solution. Let’s step back and look at the 5 Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) dynamic variables:

  1. OVKEY – the keywords you purchased on
  2. OVMTC – the match type
  3. OVKWID- keyword ID
  4. OVRAW – actual search query
  5. OVADID- creative ID

For the purposes of being able to report top paid search keywords or long tail analysis, you should setup your destination URLs with the utm_term={OVKEY}. Your paid search keyword reports for Yahoo will now populate and and show the purchased keyword. And, you didn’t have to type anything out. Thanks to my coworker Matt for the help.

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  1. Alex,

    Great information, thanks for the post! I do have 2 question below:

    1. Within Google Analytics I don’t see an option to segment the variable utm_term. I only see segments available for: keyword, source, medium, campaign, ad content, visitor type & landing page? How do you view the term variable?

    2. Wouldn’t it also be beneficial to be tracking both: 1. OVKEY – the keywords you purchased on 2. OVRAW – actual search query. So setting up the url like so:{OVKEY}&utm_term={OVRAW}

    Is this possible? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to not only track the keyword you paid for but also the actual words that people are searching for?



  2. Hey BJ,

    Sorry for the late reply, your comment got caught in Askimet’s aggressive spam filter for some reason.

    You don’t actually segment by “utm_term”. Instead, you segment for keyword. utm_term is the same as keyword for paid search campaigns.

    It would definitely be beneficial to get both the word you’ve purchased and the actual search query. Doing so would help you determine how to expand or refine your keyword list. I think the destination URL you provided would override the utm_term with only one of those values, not both.

    Honestly, I don’t have an answer for you on how to get both items in Google Analytics. I’ll post again if I figure it out and if you do, email me at alex @ alexlcohen . com


  3. Alex,

    I continued to play with these variables, and am even trying to set up a filter too only track my Yahoo PPC traffic (since it isn’t converting very well for us). I have set up an include filter for campaign term ‘ovkey’ and am recieving 0 stats.

    Have you played with the ‘Tracking Url’s’ feature within Yahoo’s PPC? Do I need this turned on or off, for this to work?


    BJ Wright

    P.S. Sorry for dragging on this post!

  4. Hey BJ,

    I haven’t played with the tracking URL feature in Yahoo PPC, so I can’t be much help for you there.

    What I can tell you is that your destination URLs need to include all of the parameters for Google Analytics. If you setup utm_source as YSM, then you can create a profile just for that source and you should get site stats (never retroactively, mind you).

    If you’re still stuck, drop me an email.

    Justin Cutroni’s ebook has a good overview of filters.


  5. This comment is about 4 months too late, but here goes none the less!

    In regards to BJ’s question about YSM’s auto-tagging feature, in order for the utm_term={OVKey} function to work – auto-tagging must be turned on.

    Chances are you’ve already figured that out and moved on, but I thought I’d share anyways.

  6. I’ve gone through and tagged my Yahoo ads accordingly and already I am seeing a significant decrease in those (not set) results. I am however, seeing a big increase of {ovkey} as a result. Have you found a similar issue and if so, what is causing that?

  7. Elizabeth,

    If I were you I would do a manual check of all of my destination URLs. You can download your Yahoo! Search Marketing account and manually review each URL. It’s possible you’ve got a few URLs that are incorrectly formatted and are throwing the {ovkey} into your results!

    Hope that helps.

  8. Thanks. Turns out the issue was that if you use the Google URL Builder it replaces the {brackets} with } and %&B which is what GA wasn’t interpreting correctly. A little spring cleaning never hurt though!

  9. Hey Elizabeth & John,

    Thanks for pitching into the solution. I never use the URL builder for large scale tagging. You can build these out more efficiently using the concatenate function in excel to assemble this stuff.


  10. Thanks alot! This was very useful… However, I have another question for some strange reason Yahoo keeps pausing my ad variations automatically, do you have any idea why this can be happening?

  11. It’s happening because your ads are set to “optimize” instead of rotate in your settings. So what’s happening is when Yahoo determines that one ad is “optimal” over the other, it pauses the less optimal ad and only runs the ad it thinks is the best only.

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