UTM tracking is often seen as time consuming and difficult—generally as a pain. However, it can be one of the most useful tools when it comes to tracking website traffic.
We’ve put together some tips on how you can easily setup and utilize UTMs to analyze and track your traffic.
What is a UTM?
UTMs, sometimes referred to as UTM codes or UTM parameters, are strings of text that can be added to URLs, which allow you to track these URLs when site visitors click on them. UTM codes are used by Google Analytics (a free tool) to find the data in the code and record it with the pageview. You can review the data in Google Analytics, meaning you can track traffic—where visitors came from and how they found you.
While Google tracks cookies, UTMS allow you to override Google’s tracking with your own custom tracking. The information you’ll receive, as a result, allows you to see where visitors came from, what campaign they’re a part of, and will also offer information on where visitors clicked on the page and the keywords that worked to bring them to the page.
Tracking with UTMs
What can you track with UTMs? You can track:
- Social media: you can see which content is most effective across channels
- Emails: yes, you can even add UTMs to emails. The results will be click-through metrics from the same email. Did more people click on one part over another, such as were there more clicks on the top vs the bottom? You can also tag pages, signup URLs, etc. The data coming back will show you what was most effective in the emails.
- Advertisements: you can monitor PPC advertisements with UTMs.
UTMs are useful for many different types of things—you can even use them on shortened URLs. However, you should not use them to for internal tracking. The reason is because Google will count each click as a new visit; if someone is checking out different pages on your site, and you’re using UTMs on the internal URLs, Google will count each click as a separate, unique visitor. Your site analytics will quickly become useless.
Types of UTM Codes
There are several types of UTM codes, let’s take a look:
UTM source: tells you where the traffic is coming from—what specific website or social channel was used. When creating a UTM code for a source, it’s usually better to use the site name as the source.
However, avoid using this type of UTM code on emails—as there’s no specific website track—you’re tracking email campaigns in this instance.
UTM campaign: this is a UTM code you’ll use for a specific campaign. You might choose to use this on product launches, promotional campaigns, individual emails, etc. Name it whatever makes sense to you.
UTM content: these are used to track a specific ad or link location that produced the traffic to your site. The content tag helps you determine which versions of the same ad worked or not, whether the ad placement worked better in one version, etc.
Content UTMs can also be used to track marketing campaigns, to differentiate links in an email, for instance. This may allow you to determine if an image or text worked better, for instance. This code also allows you to record the date of the emails.
UTM term: this code allows you to track specific keywords, especially if you’re running ads outside of Google. This will keep your traffic from being merged in Google Analytics, so you’ll have better information on ROI and which keywords worked.
Before you can create a UTM, you’ll have to understand the elements of a UTM and where to place it. Let’s take a look at an example—we’ve created a simple one to make it easy: www.yourbusiness.com/services?utm_source=active%20users&atm_medium=email_campaign=feature%20launch&utm_content=bottom%20cta%20button
This is an example of a UTM code used in an email campaign for a product. The receivers of the email are a set of active users of the product and the email will only be sent to these users, not every subscriber in the records.
- URL of the services page: www.yourbusiness.com/services: this is just the base URL leading to information about services.
- ?: tells the browser that everything after this is data only, nothing else
- Utm_source=active%20users: defines the active users as the UTM source.
- &: is a signal to your marketing tools that the previous UTM is done and the next one is starting.
- Utm_medium=email: UTM medium is email
- Utm_campaign=feature%20launch: the campaign UTM is defined as “feature launch.”
- Utm_content=%20cta%20button: the UTM content has a bottom cta button; this information allows you to track the traffic to the individual link of the campaign.
This looks complex, but there are some tools that can make it easy to create your UTMs. These are called UTM builders. One easy tool to try is Google’s URL Builder. Just fill out the form—it will guide you through the process easily and quickly.
Keep in mind that UTM parameters are case sensitive and need to be exactly the same every time. If not, Google will track them as different channels.
It may be a good idea to use a spreadsheet to keep track of your UTM codes, and make sure to they stay the same each time you use them. With a spreadsheet, you can track codes for various campaigns, etc.
Chances are your UTM will be quite long, so you’ll want to shorten it for using on social media. You can quickly and easily use a Bitly or another URL shortener for this.
UTM codes are a great way to gain more information on clicks and traffic. They’re easy to use across multiple channels and the results will all show up in one place. With this useful tool, you’ll have control over how the codes are logged and presented in Google Analytics, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the data that UTM codes help you to track.
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent a decade working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.