Whether you’re working with a digital marketing agency to craft your online strategy, or you’re flying solo, it’s highly likely you will distribute various pieces of marketing material in many places across the web. Let’s say you place display ads of various sizes on a range of websites, place a feature about your product in your monthly newsletter and place an article and advert in the newsletter of an online industry magazine.
Whilst it is easy to determine which channel is bringing in more traffic to your landing page (let’s say email drives more traffic than advertising), how do you determine which newsletter is more effective? Yours or the online magazines? Or what banner size is most effective? This is where UTM parameters come in to play!
UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module; the format used by Google to track your unique URLs.
So what actually are they? Let’s start with the basics – Generally speaking, anything succeeding a question mark (?) within a URL is a parameter, for example:
A UTM parameter is a tag added to the end of a URL which, once clicked, sends data back to Google Analytics allowing you to track which elements of your online marketing strategy are most effective. A UTM parameter is made up of the parameter and its value:
There are 5 key UTM parameters used for campaign tracking within Google Analytics, 3 of which are required, 2 which are optional.
So say we include a 200 x 100 banner within our monthly Koozmail email, which is advertising jobs at Koozai, the URL with UTM parameter would look as follows:
So now you know what they are; how do you implement them? It’s really simple actually! Using the Google Analytics URL builder, all you need to do is fill in the form and click ‘Submit’ and Hey Presto! So for the example above, the form would look as follows:
Then all you need to do is attach the link which has been generated in to the element you wish to track in the same way you normally would.
It is important to remember that UTM parameters are case sensitive. Therefore if you tag one URL with ‘utm_campaign=koozai’ and one with ‘utm_campaign=Koozai’ these will appear as two separate campaigns within your Google Analytics account.
UTM parameters are also visible to users in their address bar:
Therefore it is important not to use tags you wouldn’t want to be seen by your users. I would strongly recommend using transparent values which clearly describe your campaign.
So now for the reason you put in the effort in the first please… the data! The data can be easier viewed within Google Analytics by going to Traffic > Sources > Campaigns. Here you will have a list of all of the campaigns you have been tracking. You can click on each campaign to view more information on the medium and source etc. As with any other traffic source you can view the metrics most important to you; bounce rate, conversions, page views and so on, to determine which elements are the most effective for your campaigns.
So as I have already mentioned, UTM parameters should be used to track various elements within your online marketing strategy to determine what techniques are most effective for you. This can be in a number of applications:
There are various ways UTM parameters can be used in conjunction with social media. For example, you could tag the link to your website within your profile highlighting this link as part of your profile, and then tag the URL’s within your posts with a different UTM parameter. For example:
This will allow you to determine whether the links in your posts or profiles are more effective. It is important to remember that social profiles which display the URL as the anchor text (as with Twitter and Facebook) will display the URL with the UTM parameter at the end.
An alternate use is tagging social profiles on different platforms to determine which social platforms are performing best for your marketing strategy, for example:
and so on…
Above I discussed the potential of using UTM parameters within email newsletters, this allows you to not only track which newsletter is bringing traffic to your site but also what elements of that newsletter benefit your campaign the most.
It is also worth using UTM parameters within your email signature. Its fairly standard to have a link to your company website within your email signature these days, but do you really know how effective that link is? Why not find out?
It is worth noting that within email, when anchor text is used within an email signature to mask the UTM parameter, it can sometimes be stripped when a user chooses to use plain text as opposed to HTML.
Tagging the banners and advertisements you place on external sites not only allows you to monitor what sites are bringing you the most traffic but it allows you to determine what placement, size, design and any other variables are most effective for your online marketing strategy.
For example, let’s say (in the unlikely event) that the folk at Karen Millen decide to place two banners on the Koozai website of two different sizes, one 300px wide and the other 600px wide. By tagging these banners differently the marketing department at Karen Millen can determine which banner size is more effective.
The number of applications is ongoing and in short you can pretty much tag any external link pointing to your website and, I would recommend to!
Let’s say you’re launching a new product, you have a banner at the top of your homepage and a text link within an article further down on your homepage – Both of which lead to the page featuring your new product. But how can you differentiate which link is more effective – the banner or the text link? Use UTM parameters right? WRONG! You should never use UTM parameters to track internal campaigns because each time a link containing a UTM parameter is clicked a new visit is generated, therefore inflating your visit count along with skewing a whole other array of data.
So how should you track internal campaigns?
Well there are various ways to track internal campaigns including event tracking, custom variables, virtual page views or even site search. Any of these methods is acceptable, just never ever UTM parameters!
To conclude, I would recommend that where possible every external link pointing to your website is tagged so that you can determine where your traffic is coming from and what elements of online marketing are most effective for you. This will also help with budget allocation by highlighting opportunities which would benefit from further budget investment.
So over to you.. Do you use UTM parameters? Have you come across any issues or cool uses? Let me know in the comments. Alternatively, find out more about out Google Analytics services or get in touch for more information.
Google’s URL builder had been my go-to for a while, but now I use Rebrandly’s built in UTM builder which has the ability to save and load presets and then instantly create a branded short link with the UTM parameters built in.
Probably saves a good 30 seconds per link.
I’d recommend taking a look at a post I wrote about it: https://blog.rebrandly.com/utm-parameters-made-simple-guide-for-marketers/
I’ve built a little tool to help you create UTM tags easier. You can define some presets and reuse them to tag your links with UTMs. Check it out: https://utmtag.com
Excellent, very clearly explained. I tried to browse some info. on UTM and your write up was very informative. Thx
Thanks for this blog. I have been using utm parameters recently for campaigns and was wondering if you have any advice on how you would use utm parameters in relation to the default settings in the channel report in Google Analytics.
Still use this to get a basic overview of traffic source, but I’ve had a few campaigns drop into the Other category when setting utm parameters for social ads.
I would always use Facebook and Twitter as the source but always unsure what is the best medium parameter to use to keep in line with the channel defaults.
For example, for Facebook advertising would you use – cpm, cpc, display, or social as the medium?
For me, this would be down to how you want your Analytics account setup for tracking. What ever way you choose, keep it consistent moving forwards so you know where each campaign will be sat if you ever want to look back at historic data.
For my account, I would do the following for Facebook Ads:
If I were running a cpm campaign on Facebook I would do as above but change my medium to social_cpm.
As I said earlier though, I don’t believe there is any right or wrong way; it is more about being consistent and being able to analyse the data in front of you.
Hope that helps.
Thanks for the quick response.
Thanks for the information Gemma!
One question, How can I post the URL with its UTM parameters in my Facebook or Twitter account? Is there a way to hide the parameters?
You could use a URL shortener (for example Bitly) to shrink the URL and only show the shorter version. Once someone clicks on the link though, the tracking URL will appear in the URL bar. I don’t believe there is a way of hiding that.
Great resource, Gemma…! Esp the tip on internal campaigns… niceties like that are often lost in the noise.
You mention that 3 arguments are required. Due to character limits imposed by a vendor, we can’t fit 3. What would happen if we published the client URL with just the utm_source? Would GAnalytics simply ignore that?
Thanks Gemma great article.. Can you please tell me the difference between Urchin Traffic Monitor and Urchin Tracking Module or are they the same thing? Cheers
nice article. explained UTM very well.
Interesting that not once could I find what UTM stood for.
Ill keep looking
Thanks for the info Gemma.
Can I use the method described above to track which specific youtube video drove a sale on my ecommerce website?
Useful post explaining it all…
worth mentioning that as well as Google’s online tool, there’s a great plug in for chrome that will do it quickly for any page, you can even set up and store often used sets…not sure on other browsers though, very very quick and saves loads of time
Hey @Jim, where can i download the plugin?
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