Basics of pages, marketing channels and tracking codes in Adobe Analytics

Sometimes it’s good to go back to basics. I’m sure for analysts using Adobe Analytics this blog post might be bit boring, but maybe you should show this to your friendly marketing manager who might not be so familiar about the basic concepts of Adobe Analytics. I could write a book about these basic features of Adobe Analytics because there are so many possibilities to do different kind of settings for your AA variables and marketing channels etc.

Adobe Analytics is powerful tool, but with superfeatures comes some complexity. Actually, I got the idea to write this post from Adam Greco’s “different flavors of success events” posts. You can read those in here (part1) and in here (part2). Hopefully more to come. Don’t you just love Adam’s posts? Those are always just pure diamonds and useful stuff you can use yourself.

I was thinking to test all those different event allocations too with my blog and make a small post based on the results. But you know me, when I get started with a small testing, I always get so many “ah, oh” moments and want to tell more about that and this too. I did a journey on my site and let’s see what kind of reports we get when looking marketing channels, tracking codes and page reports.

Let the journey begin

Unique visitor has 3 different visits to my site. He is always using same device and browser, and not deleted cookies between visits.

1) Visit number one:
Landing url:
Based on my configuration traffic source is “email” and tracking code (campaign code) is “e-campaign-abc”.
Entry page is “homepage” then he goes another page named “/what-is-analysis-workspace-inside-adobe-analytics/” and then exit.

2) Visit number two:
Landing url:
Based on my configuration traffic source is “Social Networks” and tracking code (campaign code) is “facebook-campaign-123”.
Entry page is  again “homepage” then he goes again to”/what-is-analysis-workspace-inside-adobe-analytics/” and then “/how-to-make-adobe-analytics-tagging-map-aka-solution-design-requirements-for-sitecatalyst-implementation/” -> exit.

3) Visit number three:
Landing url:
User searches “” on Google search engine and comes to my site.
Based on my configuration traffic source is “Natural Search” and tracking code (campaign code) is “Unspecified” at the moment, which means not including anything on the url for my tracking code. However, since there was only few hours between second and third visit, Adobe then pulls “facebook-campaign-123” as a tracking code for this 3rd visit too when we see report in Adobe. So there was no new tracking code that would overwrite the “facebook-campaign-123”.
Entry page is “homepage” then user goes to “/category/adobe-analytics/” and then “/5-key-learnings-tips-for-adobe-analysis-workspace/ and there he did one click that I’m tracking as event called “Event Something”. After that he opens “/adobe-sitecatalyst-tip-1-save-full-referrer-page-url-processing-rules/” and finally exit.

Side notes:
– Tracking code settings are “Allocation: most recent” and “Expire after: Month”. These are quite default settings that admins usually use.

About marketing channels

Q: What is first touch channel for this visitor?
A: Email

Q: If I use “Event Something” as a metric and want to know where did the visitor come to my site first time?
A: Again, Email. This way you can give credit to user’s first channel, even though, on this visit user didn’t converted.

Q: What is last touch channel for this visitor?
A: Natural Search

Q: If I use “Event Something” as a metric and want to know where did the visitor come to my site when he converted?
A: Again, Natural Search. This is the most common way, so we tend to use credit for the last touch channel, because this is the channel that resulted to conversion.

About tracking codes

Tracking codes aka campaign codes are totally different thing than marketing channels. These are pretty much the same as Google Analytics has UTM parameters. Tracking code is own variable that you can configure in admin section. I will not write all the details how to code and capture tracking code from the url, this time I want to focus more on the reporting. Here is a screenshot from my campaign variable (tracking code) configuration:

campaign variable

I know, damn cool, you can configure very advanced settings directly in the admin sections, without the need to do javascript coding and hacking at all. It’s the same for other Adobe Analytics variables as eVars, props and events. Back to questions, so usually we have 2 common place to see traffic sources for users: marketing channels and tracking codes. You don’t want to have too many marketing channels aka traffic sources, but sometimes you want to analyze every single campaign material and that’s why you could and should use very detailed tracking codes for paid ads and other sources as email etc.

Q: If I look “event something” as a metric and using “tracking code” report, which tracking code gets the conversion if any?
A: If we assume, these all 3 visits were made within 30 days, conversion would be given to tracking code called “facebook-campaign-123” since it was the last tracking code that exists and is still in the memory of Adobe Analytics, even though, the last visit didn’t have any tracking codes.

Q: Why do I see so many visits and conversions with the value of “Unspecified” in the tracking code reports?
A: This just means visitor didn’t have any tracking code in the visit (e.g. user came from Google’s natural search or using direct url) AND (!) he didn’t have any previous visits with tracking codes that were still remembered based on the “expire after” settings.

Bonus tip:
You could copy (using javascript or processing rules) tracking code to e.g. 3 other eVar variables and then in the setting you could change “expire after” setting to those eVars and use pretty much anything you like, and this way you could follow your tracking code visits and conversions as long as you want to. You could also change the setting to keep always the first value and that way new tracking codes wouldn’t overwrite those. Again, you can do and play around with the settings in any way you want to. On this blog post I’m just focusing to most used “default” settings.

Adobe Analytics (standard version) is not including real attribution modeling, but as you can see, you can do some pretty cool stuff using different kinds of tracking codes. Well, that was a long prelude for the things I originally wanted to write this post. I’m talking about different event types and how to interpret those in pages reports and also in marketing channels.

Pages report

s.pageName is the variable where you code name of the page. You can see the results in default “pages” report. However, I always copy pagename to eVar and prop variable too. At least for precaution, because prop might be handy for pathing reports, although, pagename should work just fine for pathing too. I always use eVar variable when analyzing pages, eVars are just more handy in many cases starting from making segments etc and one of the biggest reasons is below. That is default “pages” report for third visit I had. I converted only once and it was on page named “/5-key-learnings-tips-for-adobe-analysis-workspace/”. What on earth is that report showing me!? This is one of the most confusing things I get to answer many times.

pages event linear allocation
Wow, I got three “event something” today. Not true! Default pages report uses LINEAR ALLOCATION, so it divides “points” to every single page that was involved before the event happens. Some people tend to think that is 3 different form submissions which is not true.

However, if you look pageName (eVar) report you see this:

evar pagename report
To me this makes more sense. Of course, linear allocation is imporant feature when you want see which pages were involved before the event/conversion happened, could be useful when analyzing blog content before visitors subscribed etc.

Event allocation in calculated metrics builder

Now finally the thing that lead me to really write this post. Even when you have hardcoded only one event (e.g. form submission) to your site – you can do pretty cool stuff with calculated metrics builder and allocation feature. Below is the picture of calculated metrics builder and where you can find the different allocations.

event allocation
I did my “event something” event with different kinds of allocations, and if I choose those metrics and look my pageName report with eVar variable:

pages by evar report
Yes, I segmented to use only my visitor journey. Data looks valid if I look visits. How about those different event allocations.

  • Event Something: makes sense, it is associated with page where the event happen
  • Event Something – Linear: This is a bit tricky one, linear gives credit to all pages in the visit before the event, however the calculation is done bit differently than in participation. Use participation if this is confusing. Better to read explanation in here
  • Event Something – Visit Participation: makes sense, it will credit all pages which were involved in the visit before the event was populated
  • Event Someting – Reporting Window Participation: makes sense and this is a cool one, it gives credit even to pages that were on my previous visits. It shows only zero for the last page I visited because it was after the event! (in last touch channel credit would be given also to direct traffic source and not just for natural search)

I guess better to stop before this post goes too too long. Anyway, this was meant to be example that don’t just use basic reports and default metrics, you can do much deeper analysis with different settings and calculated metrics.

You read the whole blog post and didn’t cheat by just scanning and fast scrolling? I applause to you. I know, too long post and I should have divided it to different parts… but I do this these firstly to myself and by writing these I learn a lot, hopefully you learned something new too.


Like I said, my example was from the perfect world and nowadays analyzing user jorneys is not easy when people are using many different devices and browsers. But this was more of a showcase how some variables and reports tend to work in Adobe Analytics. You have to know how your report suite and variables are configured before you can analyze anything, there are so many ways to do settings for different things in the admin section.

Ps. Want to read more?


About Antti

Digital Analytics Manager specialized in Adobe Analytics, Online personalization, SEO, CRO...

2 thoughts on “Basics of pages, marketing channels and tracking codes in Adobe Analytics

  1. Hi,

    What about this use case. A visitor converts on their very first ever visit to the site via the Paid Search channel. Logically thinking the first touch channel is also the last touch channel.

    Will First Touch Channel and Last Touch Channel be Paid Search?



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