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I recently dispatched a newsletter via email. Each link in the newsletter pointed to a page on our website, and each link contained a query string that identified which newsletter a subscriber was responding to.

The query string uses Google Analytics tracking code, so the links looked something like this...

<a href="http://www.example.com/somepage.htm?utm_source=mailinglist&utm_medium=email&utm_content=may-2012" />click here!</a>

The method has worked correctly for previous mailshots, but on this occasion something rather unexpected happened. Google Analytics captured visits to the pages that were not referenced in the newsletter, in addition to the ones that were. The raw server logs also show HTTP GET requests for other unintended pages on the site, with the query string appended.

How can this be?

The web server is IIS7 running on Windows 2008. I recently added a customized HTTP handler to serve a web version of the newsletter, which basically links in external stylesheets, JavaScript, and removes the said query string from the now internal links.

Any ideas?

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Last Post by LaxLoafer
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Google Analytics captured visits to the pages that were not referenced in the newsletter, in addition to the ones that were.

Is it possible that some of the visitors where just opening a browser and typing in the URL incorrectly which would explain why you are seeing "unintended" pages being targetted?

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It's possible but seems unlikely to me. Sometimes visitors will attempt to guess a URL, but rarely have I seen them include a query string, at least not with seemingly consistent and valid parameters.

We've picked up around 40 instances of these unexpected URLs. I should also mention the issue doesn't appear to be browser or OS specific.

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Face in palm time - someone misread the raw server logs...

To view logs I often import them into a spreadsheet, as a means to quickly sort and filter records. Anyway, somewhere along the way the URLs and query strings must have been sorted separately, so they no longer match up correctly.

Google Analytics still reports unexpected landing pages for the newsletter, but suspect that's another issue.

Jorge, thanks for your contribution.

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