How to Segment Untagged Email-Driven Traffic in Google Analytics

Maybe you realized after your email campaign deployed that you forgot to set a utm_source= or any UTM parameters at all on your destination URLs. Regardless of the reason for the slip up, there’s a way to glean some insights from that campaign.

If you have an email that performed significantly in click-through rate, but you don’t see any campaign hits in GA, then this is also going to help you investigate a bit further.

The Google URL builder requires that you include a utm_source if using auto-tagging. If you’re cranking out hundreds of custom campaigns like I do, you’ve moved on to a customized template for yourself to reach your goals quicker. Or, hey, you can build your own URL builder, like I did.

Rest assured, GA will do some auto-tagging for you. All that email-driven traffic that wasn’t defined by a source will come through your custom default channels as Referral traffic. The medium will be blank, even if you did set one. I made this mistake, and when I went to search for any traffic at all containing the word “email,” I barely found anything. This makes no sense because I send out a lot of automated emails.


Something just didn’t feel right about this to me. I checked for a medium of email, and also came up with nothing. Then I realized, something must’ve been wrong with the UTM parameters and how the email campaign links were tagged.

My saving grace: when traffic comes to your site from clicks that are referred through the email client, the email client version will auto-populate as the source dimension in GA. Therefore, there’s still hope to uncover this segment and glean insights from their behavior. Here’s how to create a custom segment that only targets that specific type of traffic — or in other words — uncovers what you thought was lost.

Create a Custom Email-Driven Traffic Segment


First, you’ll want to view only traffic with the medium of “referral.” Normally, properly tagged traffic will come in with a medium of “email.” However, in this case untagged traffic gets lumped together with all your other referral traffic. You can get to this medium from the left navigation by clicking Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels then either click “Medium” as your primary dimension (arrow 1 in the picture above). Click on “referral” in the list of medium options to isolate only referral traffic.

Then, set your secondary dimension to “source.” This will be the list of email clients your users have come from. See this as step 2 in the picture above. A drop-down panel will appear. Type in “source” in the search bar to find and select Source.

Finally, click on the advanced link over on the right to filter out specific types of sources, shown in step 3 above. A filter will appear like this: source_contains_mail

Enter your advanced criteria as you see shown above. Basically, this says “include traffic with a source containing the word ‘mail.'” Most email clients will have the word “mail” somewhere in their name. This isn’t a definite catch-all, but you’ll get plenty of sources this way. Click “Apply” and watch your list appear. It should look something like this:actual_email_visitors

There you have it. I went from showing only 129 sessions of email-driven traffic to 10,230 sessions in the same time period. Phew. 

Moral of the story: using analytics improperly can lead you seriously astray. Get to know your campaigns and your analytics tool inside and out!

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