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GCLID also known as Google Click Identifier, is a unique tracking parameter used by Google Ads. When a user clicks on an ad generated by Google Ads, the GCLID is automatically appended to the URL. This identifier contains vital information about the click, such as the specific ad campaign, keywords, and other related details. By using a GCLID, advertisers can precisely track the performance of their ads and understand how users interact with them. This data is crucial for analysing the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, optimising ad spend, and making data-driven marketing decisions. Essentially, the GCLID is a cornerstone in understanding and improving the return on investment in digital advertising through Google Ads. Let's dig deeper:

What does a GCLID look like?

A GCLID (Google Click Identifier) typically looks like a long string of numbers and letters, appended to the end of a URL after a user clicks on a Google ad. An example GCLID might look like this:

In the above example, gclid= is the parameter name, and the alphanumeric string that follows is the unique identifier assigned to that specific click. This string encodes various details about the click, such as the ad campaign, keywords, and other relevant information that helps in the tracking and analysing ad performance.

How do I enable GCLID in Google Ads?

GCLIDs are generally enabled by default in Google Ads. They are a key component of Google's auto-tagging feature, which automatically appends the GCLID to the URLs of ads when they are clicked. This feature is crucial for detailed tracking and attribution in Google Ads, as it allows for accurate reporting and analysis of your ad performance.

When you create a Google Ads account, auto-tagging is typically turned on to ensure that clicks on your ads are tracked effectively. However, users have the option to manually turn off auto-tagging, though it's not recommended if you're using Google Ads in conjunction with Google Analytics, as it provides valuable data for analysing customer behaviour and campaign effectiveness. Enabling auto-tagging ensures that you get the most comprehensive insights into your ad campaigns.

How is the GCLID created?

The GCLID is automatically generated (by Googles systems) unique code attached to a URL when a user clicks on a Google ad. Generated at the moment of the click, this code encodes information about the ad campaign, such as the specific ad, keywords, and ad group (but nothing that identifies the user). As explained above, it's part of Google's auto-tagging feature and is crucial for tracking ad performance. When the user lands on the website, the GCLID is captured by tools like Google Analytics, enabling detailed analysis of ad effectiveness and user behaviour.

How does GCLID compare to UTM tracking?

Although GCLID and UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters are both used for tracking the performance of online marketing campaigns, they do differ in their purpose, origin, and usage.

GCLID, automatically generated by Google Ads, provides encrypted, detailed information about clicks from Google's advertising network. In contrast, UTM parameters are manually added to URLs and offer flexibility across various platforms, detailing the source, medium, and other campaign data in a readable format. While GCLIDs are exclusive to Google Ads and require less manual intervention, UTMs are versatile, used for broader analytics and can be customised for diverse marketing campaigns (e.g. Email Marketing) across different channels.