Almost all marketers can attest themselves to the rush experienced at the time of a campaign launch. All those long hours spent crafting bespoke content that speaks to an audience leading in meaningful conversions; it's every marketer's dream!
But just as critical as the campaign itself is how you track it. A successful marketing campaign without tracking is like driving a car without knowing where you are going. If you don't know what worked for you this time and what didn't, how can you replicate successes to other campaigns and learn from losses? At least in part, UTM parameters hold the key to this question.
UTM parameters help you track, analyze, and understand how your audience interacts with your promotional content, emails, and other marketing campaign materials.
In this post, we will take a closer look at what UTM parameters are and how they can be used to get a better understanding of the way your campaign performs. This will help you invest in more data-driven sales and marketing efforts.
- What Are UTM Parameters?
- Why Are UTM Parameters Important?
- What's In A UTM Parameter?
- Best Practices For UTM Parameters
- How To Track UTM Parameters In Google Analytics?
- How To Build A UTM Code?
You can directly jump to a section of your choice or keep scrolling.
What Are UTM Parameters?
UTM is abbreviated for "Urchin Tracking Module." This name comes from a company that was acquired by Google in 2005, Urchin Software Corporation, that ended up laying the groundwork for what is known as Google Analytics today.
Image Source: Alexa blog
UTM parameters consist of short text codes added to URLs to track the performance of a webpage or campaign in Google Analytics. UTM parameters are a simple and reliable way to track online traffic from a wide range of sources - including emails, social campaigns, landing pages, and much more. For that reason, they are a critical part of every company's marketing toolkit.
UTM parameters are added as tags to a URL. They allow Google Analytics to track information about the origination of visitors every time a user clicks the link. This data allows you to know how visitors are coming to your website and how they are interacting with your content.
Here's how a link embedded with UTM parameters appears:
They start with a "?" and contain different tags such as utm_source, utm_campaign, utm_medium, etc.
Why Are UTM Parameters Important?
If you are running more than one marketing campaign, you are probably publishing multiple new links per day. UTM parameters help you to track the performance of almost all of these links across different messages, mediums, and channels.
Tracking each and every link of your marketing campaigns will allow you to make strategic data decisions rather than relying on your intuition and luck. With UTM parameters, you get the power to double down on the marketing methods that produce better results and shut down the efforts that aren't working.
Image Source: Partner Program
There are several reasons why you should be leveraging this tracking method. UTM codes provide ample information about the link's placement and purpose. It even makes it easier to track that ever-elusive traffic and clicks originating from a specific campaign.
Here are the top reasons for marketers to employ UTM parameters for tracking various links:
- They allow you to accurately track specific marketing campaigns and measure their ROI.
- They provide insight on conversion and traffic sources so that you can double down on high-performing channels.
- You can even A/B test individual campaigns or posts, thus preparing a campaign that drives maximum ROI.
- They are not affected by factors such as third-party cookies or Facebook Pixel.
- They work hand in hand with Google Analytics. So as long as you have Google Analytics set up, you don't need to integrate with another platform.
- UTM parameters help you separate out the traffic sent to your website from several other sources.
- Beyond tracing traffic, UTM parameters can also be used to separate out efforts based on who did what when you are working with a team. This will help while following up with people when an effort goes well to ask them what they did to get that result.
- In the case of marketing partners or affiliates, UTM parameters are extremely useful.
- When you want to grab the attention of potential partners, UTM parameters might make them take notice along with data-driven results.
What's In A UTM Parameter?
When set up correctly, UTM parameters tell the story of how your traffic is coming towards you. They should answer the following three questions:
- Where is my traffic coming from?
- How is it getting to me?
- Why is it coming to me?
To answer the above questions, there are five elements that you should identify: Source, Medium, Name, Content, and Term. The first three terms are required by Google Analytics, but the last two are optional and mostly used for tracking paid campaigns. Let's deep dive into each of these terms individually.
Image Source: Polka Dot Data
The campaign source will identify where your traffic is coming from. Whether it's a social media platform, newsletter, blog, search engine, or another specific source type.
The UTM code for source looks like: utm_source
For instance, if a click is coming from a Facebook post, the UTM code in the URL should look like utm_source=facebook.
The campaign medium will identify the type of channel driving your traffic, whether that's paid, organic, email, and so on.
The UTM code for medium looks like: utm_medium
For instance, if a click is coming from a paid social media campaign, the UTM code in the URL should look like utm_medium=paid-social.
The campaign name specifies the name of your campaign. This is especially helpful when you are running multiple campaigns at the same time. Examples for this parameter include a specific sale or promotion name, product or contest name, or even a tagline.
The UTM code for the name looks like: utm_campaign
For instance, if a click is coming from a campaign prepared for black Friday, the UTM code in the URL should look like utm_campaign=black-friday-sale.
Image Source: email on acid
The campaign content can help identify differences in your source's content. You can also use this parameter to identify a specific email in a campaign or series. If you are testing a button vs. a link in an A/B test, you could specify content as "button" or "link."
The UTM code for the content looks like: utm_content
For instance, if a click is coming from a banner ad prepared for a campaign, the UTM code in the URL should look like utm_content=banner-ad.
The campaign term is often used in ads to identify certain paid keywords that the marketer is using to drive traffic to the website.
The UTM code for the term looks like: utm_term
For instance, if a click is coming from a source that includes the term "social media," the UTM code in the URL should look like utm_term=social-media.
Image Source: CXL
Best Practices For UTM Parameters
Stick To Consistent Naming Conventions
When using UTM parameters, one of the biggest factors to be mindful of is consistent tagging. This especially implies for the medium and the source. This is because when you are tracking, you can accurately see which campaigns are driving more traffic to take certain actions.
For instance, if you sometimes tag the medium for paid campaigns as "paid" and other times as "promoted," it will be extremely difficult to know how your paid campaign is actually performing because the data isn't aggregated correctly.
Ensure that the tags you use in your UTM parameters always mean the same thing and remain consistent. Also, remember that UTM tags are case sensitive, so don't forget to use a consistent case.
This may seem like a simple enough rule, but it's common for a team to use inconsistent tags for the same medium, campaign, or source. A great way to avoid these mishaps is to create a naming convention within your team for campaigns according to your brand setup.
If ever there's a case where you need to make changes to the campaign keywords or ad creative after you have launched the ad, don't leave the UTM parameters unchanged. Update the UTM parameters within the ads platform to reflect the changes made to maintain consistency.
Inconsistent UTM parameters will lead to incomplete data. That means you won't get an accurate picture of how your campaigns perform. Common naming conventions for UTM parameters include using all lower-case (as UTM codes are case sensitive) and using underscores instead of spaces (else, they will be tracked separately).
Image Source: CXL
Don't Use UTM Parameters As Internal Links
UTM parameters are designed to track the traffic coming from external sources to your website or landing page. If you use UTM parameters to track the traffic coming from your own website, that will confuse Google Analytics and lead to tracking errors.
Track Your Links In A Spreadsheet
As the number of links with UTM parameters attached to them grows, you will need a way to keep them organized. Noting down every UTM parameter in a spreadsheet will help you manage each campaign consistently and avoid errors or duplications.
Image Source: Raze
Be Careful When Copying And Pasting Links
When you are copying and pasting links from websites such as Instagram, your links end up including irrelevant UTM codes. For instance, the "Copy Link" feature on Instagram posts for web browsers adds its own UTM code. Ensure to remove any irrelevant information as you track.
Keep It Simple!
Perhaps the most common issue when it comes to creating UTM parameters is overcomplicating the process. Long and overly detailed codes can muddle the waters, making it difficult to see what's going on. If you don't want the data to seem overwhelming, stick to the golden rule of keeping things simple.
Image Source: Koozai
Use UTMs On All Your Campaigns
If you need an accurate picture of your social media performance, you need to implement UTM parameters in all of your campaigns links. Be consistent, use it on new campaigns, and add them even to the existing ones. This way, you can easily establish patterns and behaviors that are useful for future campaigns.
Shorten Your URL
Your URL will become long after UTM parameters are attached to it. It would be helpful to shorten the URL when links have to be included in character-specific places such as Tweets. There are several different URL shortening tools available online that can help you with link shortening.
But even if you hide your long string of UTM parameters in a short link, when someone clicks on the link, they will see the full URL, including the UTM parameters in their address bar.
Image Source: Koozai
As a result, you should ensure that you don't use any naming conventions in UTM parameters that you don't want your prospects, customers, or competitors to see.
Test Your UTM Parameters
If you are using different social platforms to share the same content or to run paid advertisements, how will you know which one performs better? This is where UTM testing comes in.
UTMs let you do a split test. You can share the same paid ads on different social platforms but attach different UTMs parameters as per the social network. This will help you to determine which platform drives more traffic and which one works best for certain types of ads. This is extremely helpful in planning your marketing strategy so as to bring the maximum ROI.
Image Source: CXL
Recognize The Limitations
UTM parameters can make a big difference when it comes to understanding performance across campaigns and channels, but they do have their own limitations. The biggest one among them is its static nature. For instance, imagine someone comes across your link in an email and copies it to share on Facebook.
Anyone who clicks on the link from the Facebook post will be registered as coming from email. This is due to the static nature of UTM parameters. They only track information based on the data that you feed them with. They do not change their parameters dynamically based on where the link gets shared.
Manage Your Existing URLs
It's essential to manage your existing URLs that already have UTM parameters embedded in them. That way, you always have link trackable factors in place, so you don't have to recreate those trackable links every time. These URL management factors also help you keep track of naming conventions to help you stay consistent.
Image Source: CXL
Connect It With Marketing Metrics And Determine ROI
You can tie up your marketing metrics with the data gathered using UTMs, to find out what works and what doesn't. By measuring the traffic driven by paid ads, you can compute its ROI and focus more on the platforms that yield the best results.
When used correctly, UTM parameters give you a wealth of information on your traffic that will help you immensely in your social media marketing campaigns. Incorporating what works for your campaign will make it more cost-effective, competitive and enable you to drive your brand towards success.
Image Source: Raze
Regularly Check-In On Your Reporting Dashboard
This step is probably the most crucial step to collect more accurate information for your website. Periodically check on Google Analytics that you use to see if there are any odd UTM codes. Even when standardized UTM parameters are defined, human errors are bound to happen.
Checking regularly in Google Analytics will help to catch such mishaps at the earliest, thus avoiding any further damage to your campaign tracking efforts. Check for any mistyped UTM codes, even inconsistencies between the sources or mediums or mistagged links of your campaigns. Try to get them rectified at the earliest.
Image Source: Team Lewis
How To Track UTM Parameters In Google Analytics?
Once you have placed your UTM parameters properly in your campaign links and collected some data over a period of time, you can find and extract more information about your campaign from Google Analytics. To find and locate your UTM data in Google Analytics, head over to analytics.google.com > Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns. You can select different Primary Dimensions to really dig into the data. The Primary Dimensions include Campaign, Source, Medium, Source / Medium, and Other.
Image Source: Google Support
You can also display a secondary dimension. Once you set the secondary dimension to Event Category, you will be able to see how your various campaigns are performing.
How To Build A UTM Code?
Once you have identified the individual UTM parameters you would like to track, it's simply a matter of adding all UTM parameters to the end of the URL after inserting a question mark (?) and separating every parameter with "&" symbols. The below example illustrates the following:
While it's not complicated to create your UTM parameters, most people even opt to use a UTM generator, given the manual process it involves. The most popular option here is the Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder.
Image Source: Alexa blog
You simply need to enter all the values you want to track in a UTM parameter generator, and you will find the automatically generated URL.
If you are tracking a campaign related to an app, you have the option of either using the Google Play URL Builder or the iOS Campaign Tracking URL Builder.
In case you are looking for a tool that not just helps you create UTM parameters but also shorten them and schedule social media posts containing the link, Statusbrew is the tool for you.
Apart from helping you create social media posts and scheduling them in advance, Statusbrew also allows you to deep dive into your social performance and derive meaningful analytics that will help you make data-driven decisions.
Statusbrew allows you to add the default parameters such as campaign name, source, and medium along with custom parameters depending on what you need to track. For these parameters, you can choose to select a Custom Value or an Automated Entry based on Social Network, Profile Name, Profile User Name, or Tags.
You can also see a live preview of your link as you add the UTM parameters to them. Statusbrew integrates with Bitly to help you shorten your links.
Sounds interesting? Book a free demo today 👇
Statusbrew is an all in one social media management tool that supports Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, and even Google My Business.