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Everything You Need to Know About UTM Parameters

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Updated onJune 2, 2020

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Give a quick reply: Which social network helps you get the most traffic to your website right now?

Don’t hesitate.

It’s fine if you can’t answer it immediately. But yes, it would be great if you could get the answer just in a few seconds whenever your boss questions you.

Do you know the amount of revenue you gain via social network?

Do you know the percentage of traffic generated by social media versus email?

All these results can be tracked and that too for free. How? With Google Analytics and a bit of UTM link codes.

Surely we are going to take a look the way it takes place further.

Introducing UTM Codes

To make it simple, the tags that are added at the end of the URL are called as UTM codes. The elaboration of UTM is Urchin Tracking Module.

UTM codes are also called as UTM parameters, or tracking tags. The reason behind this being, they help you “track” website traffic from its origin.

These codes help the site owners to track the visits made to that URL. UTM codes can also help you find the way visitors came to your website such as the link in your email, social media post, or ad which was successful in encouraging them to click.

Basically, the UTM codes help in tracking site visits. There are five parameters defined by the UTM that help in precise analysis of your website traffic.

All these five parameters that track information are attached to the end of the URL and are separated from the website address part with a question mark. Each of these parameters are separated from each other with the ‘&’ symbol.

Check the below example:

In this example URL, the below three UTM code parameters are set:

  • source—It specifies the source where the link is featured, such as Twitter, Google, your blog, etc. Here it is the blog name.
  • medium— It identifies the medium (like email or social media) that the link appeared on. In this example, it is social media.
  • campaign— It specifies the campaign you’re running. With this parameter, you can uniquely identify your campaign, possibly based on a product name or time period or a promo code. In this example, the campaign name is “SM2020” which means social media 2020.

You might be wondering that just prior to some time, I mentioned about five parameters and the URL comprises just the three of them. What about the remaining two?

Note that though there are five parameters defined, you don’t need to make use of all of them. The fact is that just based on the way you use the URL, defining the values just for source, medium and campaign can help you monitor your traffic accurately.

Coming to the two UTM codes those are merely used but are significant, if you want to track visitors coming from the paid ads to your website.

term— It identifies the paid keywords related to your ads. For instance, if you want your paid ads to appear when someone searches for “best web hosting” it should be used in the term tag.

content— It enables you to make your ads unique. You can do A/B testing and can help in tracking where a user clicked among multiple links within the content. For instance, separating banner clicks from text link clicks.

Note that when you add these snippets of code after the question mark, it won’t have an effect on the page. These just allow your analytics program to know that someone visited your link via a particular source inside a complete marketing channel as a part of a campaign.

How to Create and Track UTM Codes?

Is there any easy and best way to create custom URLs for your campaign tracking?

Of course it can be done manually as you simply need to define three to five tags in an easy format.

Though there are tools that help making it easier. For instance, The Campaign URL Builder of Google is not only free but also good and user-friendly UTM generator.

You get six fields in the Campaign URL Builder – one for the website URL and one for each of the five UTM parameters. Just the website link and the source, medium and name parameters are needed. You get an accurately formatted URL that contains the parameters you set.

Once you start with your campaign and have enough visitors for tracking, you can use Google Analytics for finding specific URL codes. Just log into Google Analytics and go to Traffic Sources > Sources > Campaigns.

It will display the data at the campaign level which will include the statistics depending on specific values for the campaign parameter.

You can dive deep into each campaign to view the data based on the source and medium depending on the source and medium parameters. You will also see the statistics associated with the other parameters such as term and content by clicking into the specific source and medium values.

Since you are able to analyze the behavior of your website’s visitors in such a detail, you can use this data for improving your website traffic.

For instance, in case you track that you get maximum traffic from Twitter but you aggressively promote your business via Facebook, you get a clear solution. It means you can increase your outreach on Facebook by using your Twitter content.

Suppose you thought that promotion might get a huge response cracked but suddenly some other offer creates an unexpected rush to buy, it will give you the chance for comparing and contrasting those campaigns. With the data in your hands of each campaign, you can also take a glimpse of the marketing efforts taken as well as sort out the areas that require improvement.

This analysis can be done without the availability of UTM codes and since they can be easily set up, no site owner should miss the chance to collect such valuable information related to their users’ behavior.

Related: 8 Google Analytics Metrics – Must Watch

Common Places to Use UTM Codes

UTM codes can help small businesses in tracking their performance by using them in three common campaigning platforms including social media campaigns, email campaigns and paid ad campaigns.

In this section, we will check some specific ways that UTM codes can be used in these three areas but first you need to note an important point.

UTM codes help to measure campaign performance across all three of the marketing channels which is one tremendously valuable use of them. With this, you can also compare your marketing efforts on one channel to another one.

In addition to informing about the social media campaign that gives you high traffic or the ads that performed best, these codes can even let you know if your social media marketing efforts are beating your paid ads.

Since they offer high-level, cross channel analysis, it is simply as valuable as detailed channel-related analysis such as for example A/B testing your paid ads.

Social Media

One of the most effective channels for catching the eye of the new customers is social media marketing.

Google Analytics by default offers you the information about the traffic gained from the key social platforms. But you won’t get the details with those statistics as given by UTM code.

UTM codes can also tell you whether the user visited your site by clicking your ad’s link, your profile or status update. In this way, you can determine the part of social media presence that gains the most attention. You can then make changes in the parts where those required the most.

You may not be able to find how your link will appear in a social media post as you do with the links in your emails and ads that are completely under your control. Because the link developed using the UTM codes isn’t much interesting to look at, you can place it in your social profile where a link will display anchor text rather than the complete URL.

Email Campaigns

You might already know that an email newsletter or marketing emails particularly comprise of multiple links to the sender’s website. The body comprises of the main subject of promotion and a text link that will take users to the suitable landing page. There will be a link to the homepage in the email banner and the footer as well as there may be links to shipping info or to an FAQ page.

With the custom URL for each link in the email, you will able to check the recipients’ interest in a particular subject with the text on which there were more clicks.

In case there is someone that has opened your email…mark my words…just opened it, you already have gained a great prospect. By understanding their next move you will know how effective your content was as it will be the action of the user that you very well know is already interested in your offering.

Related: {Ultimate Guide} – How to Create an Email Newsletter for Quick Subscription?

Ad Campaigns

In case you are using Google Ads or any other paid ad platform, UTM codes as well as the analysis enabled, must be your key approach. The term parameter can be used to track ad keywords. Also, the content parameter can be used to set up A/B testing and zero in on specific ad characteristics that increase your website visitors.

Where to Track the UTM Code?

You can sort the traffic based on source/medium by most major analytics platforms as it is a common view.

For this, let’s check the views for Google Analytics as it is the most commonly used tool.

Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium

In this section, you can view the overall metrics for each source/medium as per Google and your UTMs.

The number 5 displays the campaign where the source/medium is defined using a UTM code. Others have all been generated by Google.

Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns

In this, you can compare all of the campaigns that you are running.

Here you will see only the paid Google Campaigns that you run and the campaigns you have listed using UTMs.

The metrics will be the same as in source/medium but will be for targeted audience.

If you look at this image above, you will see that only 68% of the users came from either Google paid ads or campaigns that we listed using UTMs.

Get More Refined Content

So these are the two main ways you can use to monitor traffic coming from links with UTMs to your site. Since these offer defined dimensions, you can always divide your metrics by adding any of the parameters as a secondary dimension.

The above image displays the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages view, and you can add a secondary dimension by tapping the button “Secondary dimension.”

You can do this in most views.

The Benefits of Using UTM Codes

If you want to check the way website visitors engage with your site once they are there, it is always valuable to know which web-pages are getting the maximum hits. This statistic won’t help you in determining the way visitors come to your site.

Many times the web address part of your marketing URLs will direct users to just a single landing page on your website. Also, the number of users visiting your site on that page will be similar to the total number of visitors and therefore, this statistic would be useless to know from where the visitors came.

Making all the marketing URLs different and counting the number of people coming in on each URL is the only way to bring in visitors.

This is what UTM codes actually allow site owners to do!

For instance, while using UTM codes in your social media posts, you will be able to check the number of visitors that clicked the link in your Facebook post. Then compare that value to visitors that clicked your Twitter post.

In case you sent a marketing email that reveals two things, for example, a sale for limited time period as well as lower shipping costs, it is possible to assign URLs with unique UTM codes. Due to this, you will get the number of people that got attracted to flash sale or to the lower shipping price.

In case of multiple ads, each with a slightly unique approach, adding different UTM codes in the URLs of each ad will help to check which ad performed well in engaging the visitors to your site.

With UTM code, you get a deep insight into your website traffic.

The three campaigning platforms mentioned above – social media, email and ads are coincidentally the three most effective ways for placing UTM codes to use.

Let’s now learn some practical ways that will help you to create custom URLs.

Best Practices for UTM Tracking

Prior to starting with adding UTM codes to your campaign links,  follow the best practices below:

Define a UTM Naming Convention since the Start

It is significant to define naming conventions that will be used by your entire team. In case some of your team members are using “facebook.com” and some are using “facebook” under the parameter “utm_source” you will only get a flooded data.

Prior to starting a campaign, ensure to decide on naming conventions for common parameters. In this the names for different mediums for example “social” vs. “social media”, “search” vs. “paid search”, etc. and traffic sources such as “facebook” vs “facebook.com” or “reddit” vs “reddit.com”.

Also, spaces or capitalizations will chaos your analytics by dividing the same campaigns into two in case you use different conventions. It is therefore better to set up rules from the start by asking the below queries, for example:

Should you use dashes or underscores in a campaign name?

Should all links be in lowercase only?

Usually, it is best to use all lowercase in your UTM links.

1. Use Names that are Easy to Understand

Make sure you use easy to understand campaign, content as well as the source links. When someone checks the code, one should be able to know what the code is about at a glance.

For example, check below the UTM tracking code used by MilesWeb:

https://www.milesweb.in/hosting-offers/web-hosting?utm_source=fb%-ad&utm_medium=Web-Hosting-Ad&utm_campaign=FB-Remarketing-80%25OFF

From the campaign name alone, you can see that it retargets its Facebook users.

This UTM code can be understood by anyone even if they don’t have any idea on what would be the statistics.

In contrast, consider the below UTM code:

https://getstarted.tiktok.com/c1/IN?platform=facebook&channel=IN-mn1-mktb-1112-regpixel-pc-bc30-image-coupon-AwardSelling-lpc1-20200304&utm_source=facebook+ad&utm_medium=pc&utm_campaign=IN-mn1-mktb-1112-regpixel-pc-bc30-image-coupon-AwardSelling-lpc1-20200304&fbclid=IwAR2onj2gShBMiC1cbs7b5mAjh_QzwLMr9__QvIsjm2IcokODBo64aYSOCaQ

Did you understand anything?

This code is not only using the same name for multiple parameters (medium, term and campaign) but also the same isn’t senseless. What one is trying to track with this code isn’t possible, without knowing the context. Of course, you can create a naming convention that helps a campaign with a numerical code. There’s one disadvantage that the analysis will become more difficult if you don’t create an easy to understand name.

2. Make User-Friendly URLs Using Link Shorteners

The more the length of a UTM code, the more complex it is. When you run highly sophisticated campaigns, your URLs become longer.

But it isn’t considered to be good as per the UX.

What should be done then?

Make use of link shortners. Links shortners such as Goo.gl or Bit.ly can help to convert the lengthy links into shareable URLs. Don’t worry as the UTM parameters will remain instant even with the shortened link.

This is much effective for your social media posts.

3. Improve Your Marketing Efforts with Actionable Data

When you use UTM codes for creating custom URLs, you can get detailed information on what is attracting visitors to your website. It becomes easy to determine which marketing campaign drives the most traffic and also what content of the one ad is making it perform better than the other one.

This type of information is actionable.

When you can make a decision with the detailed performance data, it is as simple as ABC to define the next step for enhancing your marketing efforts.

Have you used UTM codes for your promotional posts? If yes, do share your experiences in the comments below.

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Pallavi is a Digital Marketing Executive at MilesWeb and has an experience of over 4 years in content development. She is interested in writing engaging content on business, technology, web hosting and other topics related to information technology.

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