What is UTM tracking and why and how do you use it? This article will give you the knowledge you need to master UTM tracking.
When do I need to use UTM tracking?
The main reason to use UTM tracking is to know exactly where your website traffic is coming from. You can do this by using the campaign, source and medium parameters.
By using UTM parameters, you can track sources with more precision. For example, you can track which of your campaigns resonate with your audience, discover which of your channels have high bounce rates and so much more. This way, you are able to amend future campaigns to gain better results.
What is UTM tracking?
UTM codes are a snippet of simple code that you can add to the end of a URL to track the performance of content and campaigns. There are 5 URL parameters you can track – medium, source, campaign, term and content – we will discuss these later. Dimensions tracked through UTM codes will appear in your Google Analytics reports to give you a clearer insight into marketing performance.
A UTM code looks something like this:
Adding the UTM code doesn’t impact the actual page. In fact, deleting the UTM code altogether won’t have an impact on the page’s ability to load. The code only serves to help your analytics tools to track the source of your visitors.
This means that codes can be used to calculate the impact of your campaigns. If you’ve struggled with marketing attribution, UTM codes are extremely useful. However, it is important to remember that although using UTM codes is useful, they are only accurate when used consistently across the site and campaigns (e.g. using naming convention, document the UTM codes etc).
What are the 5 UTM Parameters for campaign tracking?
There are 5 different UTM parameters. The first 3 are by far the most commonly used parameters (medium, source and campaign), but for additional insights you can choose to track all 5. Here are the 5 parameters that you can track with UTM codes and why you might track them:
The medium parameter tracks the type of traffic that the visitor originated from (PPC, social, email, display, referral, etc). The parameter is utm_medium.
The source parameter tracks where the traffic originated from. The parameter added to your URL is utm_source. Sources you could track could include Facebook, Google or the name of an email list.
The campaign parameter allows you to track a specific campaign’s performance. For example, campaign parameters can be used to differentiate between different traffic through Facebook Ad campaigns or email campaigns. The parameter is utm_campaign.
The term, or keyword term, parameter will track which keyword term a website visitor came from. This term parameter is specifically used for paid search ads. The parameter is utm_term.
If you have multiple links directing users to the same URL (such as an email with more than one CTA button), using this code will help you to track which link was clicked. The parameter is utm_content.
By inputting all of these parameters, you’re URL should look something like this:
Here’s a breakdown of where UTM tracking is commonly used.
As the name suggests, Google Ads is within the Google ecosystem. This means that tracking ad clicks is mostly taken care of, you just need to make sure that you have auto-tagging enabled. This will add the GCLID (Google Click ID) parameter to the end of all links to tie together the ad click as a session within Google Analytics.
Google Analytics also recognises that traffic containing this GCLID is from Google Ads and will automatically attribute it to Google/CPC. Whilst auto-tagging provides you with basic tracking, you will need to set up a tracking template to track more granular data like campaign name, term and content.
Paid & Organic Social
If left untouched, social media link clicks will be tracked as a ‘referral’ from the individual platform, for example, Twitter / referral. Although this will still be attributed to the ‘social’ channel, there is no visibility on the campaign, post, or if the click was from an organic post or an ad. Therefore, it’s always recommended to use UTM tracking on any social media post or ad. It’s important to check the individual documentation for each platform as they each have different ways of adding UTM tracking.
Many popular email marketing platforms, like Klaviyo or dotdigital, will automatically add UTM tracking to every link within your email campaigns. However, it’s always important to confirm this by either checking in your source / medium report or clicking a link in one of your own emails.
How to Build UTM Codes in Google Analytics
Follow these simple steps to build UTM codes in Google Analytics.
1. Open Google’s Campaign URL Builder and fill in each attribute in the form
Once you’ve visited Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder, you’ll see the UTM builder which will look like the image shown below. Include the URL, campaign, source, medium, term and content information into their respective boxes.
2. Use the link in your marketing campaign
After you have entered your desired parameters, you are able to scroll down to see your URL, which you can copy and paste into your campaign or content. If you’d like to shorten your link, Google’s URL Builder allows you to shorten the created link, or you can use a tool like bit.ly.
3. Measure your success
Google will automatically track incoming campaigns if you already have Google Analytics set up. You can access them under “Acquisition,” “Campaigns,” then “All Campaigns.” Click on each campaign to view the source and medium.
To find your UTM data in Google Analytics GA4, navigate to “Reports,” then “Acquisition” (underneath Life cycle). Here, you can see your UTM campaign data in all 3 Acquisition reports: Acquisition overview, User acquisition and Traffic acquisition.
Aside from using tools to create UTM codes, you can alternatively manually add the parameters. You can simply do this by typing in the individual parameters at the end of your URL.
As UTM codes can get pretty lengthy, you’re more likely to make a mistake, so it’s generally better to use the URL builder tools above.
However, if you simply want to add the name of a campaign or source to the end of a URL, typing it out is a simple option.
UTM Tracking Best Practices
Before adding UTM codes, here are some things to remember:
Establish a UTM naming convention from the start – Before you start a campaign, agree on naming conventions for common parameters. This should include the names for different mediums (social vs. social media) and traffic sources (Twitter vs. twitter.com) to keep everything easy to follow and consistent.
Use easy to understand names – Your campaign, content and source links should be easy to understand. Anyone looking at the code should be able to understand what the code means at a glance. Your UTM tracking code should look something like this:
Use link shorteners for user-friendly URLs – The complexity of a UTM code is directly related to its length. As you start running more sophisticated campaigns, your URLs will naturally become longer.
Adhere to the all lower or upper case rule — UTM codes are case-sensitive. Generally, it’s best practice to use all lowercase in your UTM links.
How will you use UTM parameters?
By using the steps, best practices and tools mentioned above, you can start creating and using UTM tracking to track the performance of your marketing campaigns and content.
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