Google UTM parameters

Do you know which online marketing campaign is bringing the maximum traffic and business to your website?

Sure, you may be keeping an eye on various referral sources in your Google Analytics (GA) reports. Wouldn't it be helpful to have an advanced tracking option that will keep you informed of the marketing campaign that is getting the maximum traffic?

This is where UTM parameters come into play.

By tagging your URLs with UTMs (Urchin Tracking Module), you can understand how your visitors interact with your website.

This is how these UTM parameters are displayed at the end of your URL.

Example of a UTM parameter link

What can these snippets tell you after appending your URLs?

I'll tell you the traffic aspects that you can track in the next section. First, let me say one catch associated with them.

UTM parameters are stubborn entities that stick to your links even as you switch to different networks and media.

This means that if a visitor has selected your link (marked with a UTM) from Twitter to share it on Facebook, it is still considered a share from Twitter.

According to research conducted by BuzzFeed, the content is actually spreading across the social web in a branching tree pattern.

How the content spreads the ultimate guide to UTM parameters

Research by 33across showed that 82% of online sharing is done by pasting URLs. This means that UTMs persist and can provide misleading data for cross-platform social media sharing.

There is one possible solution: clean up the URLs by removing UTM codes at the end once shared on a social platform.

Then, when this clean URL is shared on private social media (e.g., Email, WhatsApp, and Messenger), it will show up as direct traffic in your analytics.

Again, this is misleading information that becomes part of your dark social intercourse.

With that caveat, I just wanted you to understand that UTMs are not the ultimate solution to understanding how your content is performing.

But they sure do make your marketing campaign image less messy.

So let's start with generating custom URLs for your campaign and some best practices for UTM. Then we will look at live UTM use cases.

But before we delve into, let me explain the basics more clearly.

What are UTM parameters?

Here is a short and very helpful definition of Kissmetrics:

“UTM parameters are simply tags that you add to a URL. When someone clicks on a URL with UTM parameters, these tags are sent back to Google Analytics for tracking. "

Are you ready to launch your UTM campaign and see how these insights could influence your marketing efforts?

How to generate URL parameters with Google's URL Builder

With the help of UTM parameters you can find out which URLs are most effective in attracting visitors to your content. Is there a systematic way to append them to your urls?

Fortunately yes.

Say hello to Google's URL builder. There are now three different ones depending on whether you want to track data in GA, Google Play, or the Apple App Store.

We'll take a look at the help in Google Analytics Help (see image below) to set up your URLs.

Example for the UTM builder from Google

Here are the five form fields you need to fill out:

  • Campaign source: The platform (or provider) from which the traffic originates, e.g. B. Facebook or your email newsletter.
  • Campaign medium: You can use this to identify the medium like cost per click (CPC), social media, affiliate or QR code.
  • Campaign duration: You mainly use this for tracking your keywords during a paid AdWords campaign. You can also use it in your display ad campaigns to identify aspects of your target audience.
  • Campaign content: When testing ads in A / B, this is a useful metric that gives details about your ad. You can also use it to distinguish links that point to the same URL.
  • Campaign Name: This is only used to identify your campaign. Like your website or specific product promotion. Here is a sample screenshot of the campaign names that might appear when you navigate to Traffic Sources >> Sources >> Campaigns.

UTM parameters traffic source data

You can also use the amazing Effin UTM Builder Chrome Extension (now UTM.io) to build UTMs. The URL is filled in automatically and the most frequently used terms are saved as presets.

Example for the builder for UTM parameters

Best practices for UTM parameters

Here are three best practices that you need to follow to label your URLs. That way, you can easily see where the traffic is coming from.

1. Create a standard naming convention for UTM parameters

If you stay consistent, you can avoid a lot of confusion and make sure your UTMs are reportable.

First, use hyphens over underscores, percentages (representation for spaces within GA) and plus signs in your URLs. Google's algorithm doesn't penalize you for using them and they work better. Matt Cutts explains why here.

Second, you should match lowercase letters throughout all of your campaigns. For example,

utm_source = LinkedIn is different from utm_source = LinkedIn.

Additionally, when switching to uppercase, camel, or other capital letters, you need to remember this convention. So it's better to stick to lowercase letters and not let human errors creep in.

Third, keep your URLs clean, descriptive, non-redundant, and easy to read.

For example, you could mistakenly include the same values ​​in the source and media parameters.

Example for UTM parameters

Or you can put the specific aspect of origin under Medium (as in the following example), but still confuse yourself with the double use of "Facebook".

Example for UTM parameters

The best way is to just let the UTMs flow like a normal sentence without redundancy. See how easy it is to decrypt your campaign details at the URL below.

The traffic source is Facebook with post as a medium and part of the new admin dashboard April 2014 campaign.

Example for UTM parameters

Here is a visual summary of the points I just mentioned.

Best practices for UTM parameters

Note: After you've taken enough time to create data-rich URLs, I recommend shortening them using tools like bit.ly or Google Link Shortener. A long and bulky URL doesn't make for a good user experience and can even be perceived as spam.

In addition, the UTM parameters are visible to the users in their address bars. So be transparent and don't use values ​​that the user doesn't want to see.

2. Keep track of your UTM links in a table

Keeping a record of the tagged links will ensure that your marketing team stays on the same page. You can use this free spreadsheet template from Sam Wiltshire or this free link tagging tool from Rafflecopter to get started.

Also, create a document with a naming convention that provides clear instructions on how to mark links. This can be an iterative and advanced guide. If you come across a new scenario, feel free to add the example to this document.

3. Next steps after setting up a UTM system

The most important consideration for a business is not the number of clicks and traffic generated by different sources. it's sales.

Once you are familiar with UTMs it is helpful to connect your tracking data to your CRM. It shows you a clear picture of how different online marketing channels are affecting your bottom line.

Alternatively, you can also set goals in GA. For example, if you want to measure reader loyalty and engagement, I'll show you the process in this article.

However, I recommend that you keep track of more specific metrics for conversion, such as: B. Generated leads and email subscriptions.

Now that you know these best practices, let's talk about when to use UTM parameters.

Use of UTM parameters

Here are three use cases for UTM parameters that you can implement right away.

1. Add UTM parameters to social media links

Let's say you want to find your social media platform with the highest ROI and which links on that platform are performing the best in terms of traffic. You can then use UTMs to analyze your referral traffic for social media.

For example, on Twitter, you have four ways to promote your links: a regular tweet, a promoted tweet, a website field, a profile / bio description.

If you don't block the profile link (because the first part of the URL you entered is displayed), you can track all of these link clicks separately.

UTM parameter example for link

Here are examples of UTM parameter strings based on Twitter with different means.

? utm_source = twitter & utm_medium =profile& utm_campaign = email

? utm_source = twitter & utm_medium =Tweet& utm_campaign = email

? utm_source = twitter & utm_medium =promoted& utm_campaign = email

Once you've generated a custom URL, you can use the abbreviations mentioned earlier to shorten the link and save the valuable 160 character property.

Likewise, on Facebook you can create separate UTM links for promoted posts, profile contact information, posts in a group, organic posts from your page, and more. Kristin Hines shares UTM parameters for major social media here.

Once you get data and create goals (as mentioned in Best Practice 3 above), you get an enriching GA report like this one.

Example for UTM parameter data

2. Test the clicks in your e-mail newsletters

Do you want to understand the parameters in your newsletter that drive most of the traffic to your website?

Appending UTMs to your URLs can then be helpful.

Let's look at an example of an instant update email from Redfin.

Example for UTM parameters in e-mails

All the links in the above email share these UTM parameters:

utm_campaign: instant_listings_update

utm_medium: E-Mail

utm_source: myredfin

However, Redfin correctly set up different utm_content values ​​for all links (the screenshot above shows the unique values ​​for each link). Even if the subscribers to the myredfin list call up the same page, redfin knows the link on which they clicked.

Now let's look at a bad example of UTM.

Here's an email from Pinterest recommending certain boards.

Example of UTM parameters from Pinterest

As you can see, each board has an author, 5 pictures, and a follow board CTA.

All of the above links have the following UTM parameters in common:

utm_campaign: week_wkly_130722

utm_medium: E-Mail

utm_source: sendgrid.com

Notice that the utm_camapign value at 13 07 22 represents the date it was sent (07/22/2013). It is useful information.

That being said, Pinterest doesn't impress with its UTM implementation.

  • There is no way to find out the specific images and CTA buttons in the email that the audience clicks. So Pinterest doesn't even know which of the Follow Boards buttons work well. The utm_content can be used to gain this insight.
  • The value "utm_campaign" causes a confusing overhead when using "weekly" and "weekly" twice. And sendgrid.com as utm_source offers no value from an analytical point of view. It's the email service provider that Pinterest uses and they already know that.

I recommend reading Puru Choudhary's UTM analysis of 8 other companies here.

You can further implement UTM parameters in your email signature to keep track of whether visitors are coming to your website.

Gniewko Oblicki created a company-wide signature template to which UTM parameters were attached. This is what it looks like in the CodeTwo Exchange Rules HTML editor.

Case study on UTM parameters

He ran five footer campaigns at the company and found that users were incredibly engaging on their website. Here is the GA report with the results of 1682 sessions initiated by the five campaigns.

Case study on utm parameters

3. Track the most effective banner ads

If you are into paid marketing on a regular basis, you surely want to know which banner ads are performing the best.

UTMs not only allow you to determine which external website is driving the most traffic, but also the placement, design, size, color and banner types of the banners that are most effective.

For example, let's say you're using two banner sizes, 300px and 600px, for advertising on a third-party website, Koozai.

This is what the UTM could look like if it is 300 pixels wide.

Example of a link to UTM parameters

This is what it would look like if it was 600 px wide.

Example for UTM parameters

Once you've marked both sizes, you can easily find the more effective one and double it up.

Kristi uses 320px banner ads in the sidebar of her blog. And here's how they stand up to other clicks on their eBook.

UTM parameters Traffic Insights

Let me reiterate that once you have set goals within GA, you will find the most valuable information that will affect your business.

For example, Kristi navigated to "Target Set 1" to find out how her banner ad is converted into sales. And she can compare it to her eBook sales through other links.

UTM parameters example of traffic growth

Conclusion

UTM parameters provide extremely valuable insights into your data traffic. You can uncover a gold mine of behavioral data to grow your sales and refine your overall marketing strategy.

Use google's url builder to build UTM parameters for your links. This will help you start the campaign tracking. Remember to follow best practices.

Have you ever used UTM parameters for campaign tracking? Did it provide any insight into creating a custom campaign? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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