Measuring success with UTM tags
Analytics

Measuring success with UTM tags

13th November 2019

Have you ever wanted to track traffic to a website and monitor its behaviour but been unable to distinguish exactly which platform or campaign the traffic came from in Analytics? If so, you are not alone.

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. In their simplest form UTM tags, also known as UTM codes, are additions to a URL structure that helps you to track and attribute your traffic to a specific platform.

How do UTM tags work?

As mentioned, UTM code are additions to your pre-existing URL. By adding this information, you are able to define a variety of dimensions which make it easier to understand exactly where your traffic is coming from and how it behaves segmented by source. Such UTM tags can look something like this:

UTM URL example

As you can see from the example above, the UTM tag uses two pieces of information; the parameter which highlights what element you are using and the value which is the identifiable name you have used for your parameter:

UTM example explained

The example above shows us the parameter is ‘source’ and the value is ‘facebook’

As a general rule, there are three parameters that are most commonly used which include:

  • Campaign source: stating where your traffic came from. For example, if this is going on Facebook, you would include ‘utm_source=facebook’.
  • Medium: the type or channel of marketing that you are using. Examples include cpc (for paid ads), organic, email, etc. This will be written as ‘utm_medium=cpc’.
  • Campaign name: this is to distinguish between your campaigns. What you name them is up to you. Just remember to use a hyphen (-) or an underscore (_) instead of any spaces – it does still function as a URL after all. E.g. ‘utm_campaign=my_awesome_campaign’

There are two additional parameters that can be used to further segment your data:

  • Campaign term: this is usually used appended with the specific keyword that drove traffic. Written as ‘utm_term=keyword’
  • Campaign content: which can be used to differentiate your posts – perfect for split-testing (or AB testing) ads. An example of this might be written like this, ‘utm_content=ad1’

Each UTM starts with the URL which is the landing page you want to direct your traffic to.

If we were to place all of the above together, our URL would look something like this:

Expanded UTM URL example

Lower case vs. upper case

A frequently asked question comes up around “should I be using capitalisation?”. Whilst you may notice the examples above use an all-lower-case scheme, it’s not necessarily essential. However, it is imperative to ensure that it remains the same.

A UTM tag with capitalisation does make a difference. Whilst it does not make a difference to the UTM’s performance, it will be read as different parameters to those without capitalisation.

This may not seem too much of an issue. However, if creating multiple UTMs for multiple posts or campaigns, you will need to remember your exact capitalisation scheme. This will make it significantly easier to segment your data in Analytics. In the scenario where you need to create multiple UTMs, it can be difficult to remember exactly how you wrote it.

For example, forgetting which way you wrote Facebook or facebook and Paid or paid could lead to your data looking like this:

Double Facebook data in GA

…which, as you can imagine, is not the easiest when it comes to reporting or taking learnings from your campaigns.

Building UTM tags

So we have the identifiable elements down, but what is the best way to build them into a concise URL that drives traffic to your landing page? Well, it’s much like building a wall; you have your parameters and values (e.g. utm_source=cpc) which are a bit like bricks and between them are the elements that lead onto the next parameter – think of this as your cement. As aforementioned, it starts by using your desired URL. You then need to add in a question mark ‘?’ to start the UTM. Following this are your parameters, all held together by an ampersand ‘&’.

Some people swear by using spreadsheet to make it easier to build their UTM tags. There are a number of templates available such as the UTM Builder & Shortener from Whole Whale. Alternatively, you can use generator from Google Analytics Demos & Tools. All you need to do is pop in your URL and your parameter values and copy the link at the end:

UTM URL builder

Another tool is the UTM Codes Generator from G2.

Benefits

As we have discussed, the purpose of using UTM tags is to see more data from your online activity – specifically around where it came from. But what does this mean to you? There are a whole host of benefits to being able to see more data which include:

  • Using the data to inform your marketing activity. There’s little point in marketing without knowing if it’s working or not. Using UTM tags to measure success allows you to make strong decisions based on real data. For example, if you need to know if your time on organic posts on Twitter is helping to direct traffic to your site? With UTM tags in our links it’s easy enough.
  • Informing other members of your team. If, for example, you are an in-house marketing manager and you want to show detailed results to your boss, FD, etc. you can. This can go a long way to proving how well your marketing efforts are working.
  • Proving whether platform-specific data is accurate. Ever noticed that Facebook’s conversions look somewhat different compared with conversion data from Analytics? No worries if you haven’t. The attribution of the Facebook pixel often takes view-through conversions into consideration which is great… unless you rely on a last-click attribution model when looking at your overall sales and leads. Having the UTM codes in place will allow you to compare the data from both platforms.

Where to find this data

Now that you know how to track the data, it would be very helpful to see where this data lives. In Google Analytics, you will be able to find your data anywhere that details where your traffic came from.

For example, you can get an overview of your traffic split out by source and medium by going to Acquisition – All Traffic – Source/Medium.

Full Source / Medium reports in Google Analytics

Conclusion

Using UTM tags is a great way to understand more about where your traffic is coming from, how users behave after reaching your site via each platform and if these people turned into leads or sales.

You do not necessarily need to put it in everything you do, just the places which do not usually get picked up in Analytics. For example if running Google Ads and your account is linked with Analytics, you can already get a breakdown of keyword, campaign, etc.

Now that you know, use this to make decisions on where your marketing efforts should go and where to place your budgets. Most of all, have fun with it and enjoy looking at data in a whole new and detailed light.

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Written By
Alix is a digital marketing consultant and managing director of Alix Digital. With over 10 years marketing experience, Alix specialises in PPC, SEO and content writing.
Measuring success with UTM tags
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13th November 2019
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