What Are UTM Parameters and Why Would I Need to Use Them?

Let me start off by saying that Google Analytics is dumb. And that’s a tip I learned from going through MeasurementMarketing.io‘s classes. I mean, it is a great tool, but it’s not perfect. And we as marketers need to be smarter in our digital efforts. Enter: UTM Parameters.

What are UTM Parameters?

UTM Parameters are tracking tags that are added onto the ends of URLs. This data is then pushed into your Google Analytics account. You are then able to track on a more granular level of where your users are being acquired. There are five types of UTMs that can be added onto the end of your URL.

Required:
utm_source: who is the source of the traffic? This is used to identify the brand, business, or entity.
utm_medium: where is this traffic coming from? This is used to denote what medium was used to get the traffic to your website.
utm_campaign: what is the name of your campaign? This is used to track the various campaigns you are promoting.

Optional:
utm_term: This is mainly used for paid advertising, but can help you have insights into the traffic coming to your website.
utm_content: This is used to differentiate links that point to the same URL.

How do I create UTM Parameters?

You can use the Google Campaign URL Builder here. It has a simple form for you to add in your website URL and the campaign information. It will then spit out the full URL for you.

You could also use a spreadsheet to track your campaigns in the long term.

Why would I want to use UTM Parameters?

If you have an email newsletter that leads your audience back to your website, then you should be tracking your URLs. If you are promoting your blog or website on your social media channels, then you should be tracking your URLs. UTM Parameters help you identify several insights into your audience, your content and even heat-map style information.

Email Tracking

For example, you have an email with URL that leads a user back to your website, how do you know that person arrived from the email? You don’t. You kind of know, but you don’t. You know how many people clicked on a link within your email, but Google Analytics tracks the link as source coming “direct” to your website. It also tags this user with a medium of “none”. So you kind of know, but you don’t.

Google Analytics Traffic Source

By default, the content coming from your email efforts isn’t tagged. It always comes into your data as (direct)/(none) on your Source/Medium report, under the Acquisition section. This is why I said that Google Analytics is dumb. It’s so dumb that it doesn’t recognize that traffic is coming from your emails.

After adding the source, medium, and campaign tracking parameters to your URLs, you are telling GA what data to pass through. If, for example, you are selling coats in the following week’s email, you can then confirm that the utm_source:Weekly_Newsletter and the utm_medium:email and the utm_campaign:Spring_Coats will be recorded.

But what if I have more than one link in my newsletter? You want to think of Campaign has the highest level of organization. If you’re sending a monthly newsletter, maybe you want it to be the February_2021 edition. All links in the “February 2021” campaign of the weekly newsletter will fall under that campaign. If each section of your newsletter goes to a separate landing page, then you’ll be able to see which landing page does best from the February 2021 campaign.

*Strategy tip: If you’re working with a partner brand, and the numbers aren’t doing great, you may want to promote that landing page again in a separate campaign.

But what if I want to see which link converts the most? If you’re starting to question the placement of a link or a call-to-action button in your emails, you can start adding in the utm_term and utm_content tracking. If, for example, your Spring_Coats campaign email, you can use the utm_term:spring_jackets and then tag the textlink utm_content:jcrew_textlink and the image of the J.Crew jacket as utm_content:jcrew_spring_jacket_image. You would then be able to review the data to see if the text link or the picture of the jacket was the driver of clicks.

Social Media Tracking

If you are promoting your website on your social media channels, then you should be tracking. Do you want to know how much traffic you are getting from your Instagram bio? You can setup tracking on your URL to determine this over time.

If you are creating multiple posts for Facebook that are promoting the same blog post, how do you know which one drove more traffic to your website? You don’t unless you setup tracking.

By default, the social channels are tracked to some level. Google Analytics got a little smarter in the social traffic. Below you can see that clicking through the bio link shows that it was from Instagram on the realtime report.

Google Analytics Instagram Traffic

Thoughts

Adding campaign tracking tags to your marketing efforts really gives you a granular view of what pieces of your strategy are working. With all this data compiling within GA, you have endless ways to build your own marketing strategy for your business. There are so many ways that tags can be utilized. And you’ll learn how your customers are interacting with your emails and social media efforts.

You can get start with building your first Campaign URL Builder with Google’s free tool. And remember the link I mentioned in the first paragraph about learning where I learned that Google Analytics is dumb? Below is how the link looks in the Campaign Builder. I’m letting his business know that I have sent traffic from my own website to his.

When NOT to Use UTM Tags

If you’re writing an article on your website, then you do not want to use tracking tags to link to another article on the same domain. You are essentially telling your own Google Analytics to start a new session with each jump.

More to explore

#21in2021

2020 was, you know, quite the year. I had very great intentions in the very beginning. I was working hard on growing

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