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Today’s world of multichannel digital marketing leaves many marketers with segmented data and even more fragmented insights. With click traffic coming in from multiple platforms, strategically planned campaigns, and variant testing across messaging we tend to find ourselves in a situation of data paralysis. One way to help consolidate some of your tracking is through UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) code that can be added to any URL. These parameters are simple to use and can be customized for any campaign, media, channel, or message. With this tool, your marketing efforts gain more clarity in their impact when evaluated in your analytics platforms such as Google Analytics, Hubspot, Adobe Analytics, Agency Analytics, or LuckyOrange.

Historically Tied to Google

UTM parameters were introduced by the predecessor to Google Analytics, Urchin, and are one of the few click tracking variants that are supported without additional implementation by Google Analytics. The parameters can contain up to five tracking components and can be easily parsed out in analytics tools to create reports and inherently develop insights for future campaign execution, if segmented correctly (more to come on this!). There are plenty of UTM builder tools out there and some marketers have created formula-based Excel sheets to create their final destination URLs. Every click on a link that contains these tracking values will be attributed to that browser’s session in the analytics property. Later sessions in the same browser can sometimes pull in these parameters if they are inside the attribution window (typically six months), which gives marketers even more insight into returning traffic.

Anatomy of a UTM

There are five UTM tracking parameters that can be used in any combination or order. Only one (utm_source) is required; the rest are optional, and if no value is determined they should not be a part of the final URL. The Google URL builder does require three values which are typically recommended to gain enough insight for future action. Below is a quick guide on the intended uses and values for reference.

 

Parameter Value Intended Use Example
utm_source Referrer, Channel, or Delivery Identifier utm_source=google
utm_medium Type of link or strategy utm_medium=ppcutm_medium=email
utm_campaign Promotion or campaign name utm_campaign=spring _sale
utm_term Search terms utm_term=birthday_gifts
utm_content Specific link, Messaging or Ad creative, or Call to Action utm_content=headerutm_content=sale_version_a

 

It is best practice to establish a naming consistency across your team. Tracking sheets like the one below will help you establish consistency and keep all of your naming conventions in one place.

Campaign Launch Date Final Url
Spring Sale Email 3/1/2020 website.com?utm_source=ifocus&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=spring_sale&utm_content=shop_button
Facebook Spring Sale Ad 3/1/2020 website.com?utm_source=ifocus&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=spring_sale&utm_content=carousel

 

When Should I Use a UTM Link?

This is one of our favorite questions. Your larger marketing strategy is likely full of goals, individual digital channel strategies designed to reach these goals, and multiple analytic metrics to help you discover which channels are effective or ineffective in reaching those goals. Including UTM links will give a marketer or business owner a clearer picture into all of these components. Identifying these areas of value will help you determine goal achievement by more than simple click metrics. Recommended uses for UTM links include:

  • Inside of all paid media campaigns, with further unique identification for multiple creative variations and different channels (PPC, display, programmaticpaid social media, paid digital video, etc.)
    • Beyond clicks and impressions, how does a user who clicked on an ad in one of your channel strategies or creative messages use your website? Does one channel have a high click-through rate, but also a high bounce rate? Does one creative message have a lower click-through rate versus others? Does one piece of creative lead to more purchases or more pageviews on the website? Does one creative message perform better (based on goals) on mobile devices than desktop, or perform better with women versus men?
  • Emails
    • Most emails contain several links in them by design. This is recommended and a great strategy! But which placements have the most value as you work toward your goals? Adding specific UTMs for link placement, messaging, and promotion will give you more informed data beyond basic click metrics.
  • Partner/Vendor placements
    • Many clients also buy placements on media websites or through email lists of media partners. When providing links to these partners, use a well-crafted UTM link to track the performance of these campaigns on your website. We’ve seen many clients buy placements and receive a ton of clicks, but none of those clicks resulted in a customer or in web traffic that aligned with their goals — which ultimately indicates a waste in advertising spend.
  • Organic social media posts
    • When you add a UTM to your organic posts, you gain insight into this unique segment of traffic. While your social media analytics are useful, they are only part of the larger picture and that data is often slightly different than the data in your website analytics. Age ranges and interest categories vary across platforms and you can gain some valuable insights from your social media traffic in your website analytics. UTMs give you the opportunity to segment this traffic more comprehensively.

How to Find and Effectively Use UTM Data

You’ve created the perfectly crafted UTM tracking URL for your campaigns and everything has launched. Hooray! The hard part is over and you can take a breath while the campaigns gain traction (or have a drink of your choice — either way, make sure you celebrate the launch!). As campaigns start to receive clicks the fun part begins. As self-professed data nerds, we get excited about this part of campaign execution.

When we start seeing clicks through UTM links, we can begin tracking them inside of analytics properties. Our team most regularly uses Google Analytics, but all properties have similar pathways to find this data. You have several options for monitoring performance:

  • Custom reporting under “Customization > Custom Reports”
    • Here you can add any of your designated parameter values to segment UTM data you want to track in reporting
  • Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium
    • This will give you individual performance by all source/medium fields coming to your website, including many that are automatically tracked (organic by search engine, direct, referral, etc.)
  • Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns
    • For Google Campaigns where UTMs have been added, you can find these here
  • Add a segment. This is the most underutilized tool we as marketers have available to us for FREE!
    • Add Segment (box at the top of Google Analytics) > +New Segment (red box top left of drop down section) > Traffic Sources
      • Here you can add the parameter values you want to monitor. This segment is then viewable across ALL of the audience metrics, conversion metrics, and website page behavior metrics available inside of Google Analytics

UTM links can help guide your team and business into the future with data that is incredibly difficult to find in other ways. The deeper level of granularity and segmentation can guide your business and marketing efforts to better achieve your goals across many different digital strategies. As an agency, we use UTMs for every campaign that is launched. As a result, those campaigns are tracked for every metric possible to help our clients achieve the long- and short-term goals designed to grow their business. If you’re ready to dive deeper into your campaign analytics, give our team a shout. We’re here to help!