Marketing tips: A beginner’s guide to UTM tracking

WTF are UTMs? UTMs are here, there and everywhere in the marketing world. They’re hardcore and highly desirable. Check out my brief guide to why UTMs are awesome and why businesses must embrace them in their marketing strategies.

UTM Codes: What, how and when

UTM = Urchin Tracking Module. These are simple codes – just bits of text, really – which you can attach to a URL in order to track how your traffic is coming to you from a digital marketing campaign.

Or, in my own words, UTMs = Utterly Terrific for Marketers.

UTMs are basically fantastic when it comes to tracking where traffic is coming from to your website. UTM codes enable analytical services, like Google Analytics (the biggie – and wonderfully free) to tell you where searchers have come from, whether it be through a Facebook post, blog outbound link or Twitter Ad. They give you a greater understanding of your marketing successes and flops.

They’re really handy when it comes to A/B Testing too – testing different versions of marketing content. You can differentiate links from different ads/emails and see which are getting better responses and driving more traffic.

It’s all about collecting super helpful data and using it to improve, grow and focus your marketing successes. Normally, each UTM code would be broken down into Source (where you identify the advertiser/site/whatever is sending traffic to your landing page), Medium (the marketing medium, like via email or CPC) and Campaign Name (the actual name of your campaign for easy analysis).

This is great for marketers desiring analysis of a number of campaigns.

So let’s see one up close.

Creating UTMs

I’ve made a UTM code to add to a previous blog of mine: “11 tips for effective Twitter marketing.” Obviously, the landing page is the blog itself here on Bethany Writes. Here it is in full:

An example of a UTM code added to the end of a marketing blog URL

Clearly, this isn’t the sexiest of URLs and typing it out, for every single link you create, would be awfully boring. So most of us use URL generators. It’s not lazy, it’s time efficient.

This is how I did it:

Tracking with Google Analytics

I use Google Analytics, but there are other awesome analytic tools available. The best will help you understand where your traffic is coming from, gain value from analysis and help you improve your marketing depending on the results. It’s very easy to set up – you simply create an account and fill in basic details of the website you’re looking to drive traffic to; your ‘property’.

I used this Campaign URL Builder, to create:

Google Analytics Campaign Link Builder for UTM tagging

As you can see, the parameters were:

Campaign Source = twitter

Campaign Medium = social

Campaign Name = twittermarketingtips

You actually have the option of five parameters to add to URLS – the link builder also gave the option of adding a Campaign Term and Campaign Content. The Campaign Term is for paid searches – when you use utm_term to note the ad keywords. The Campaign Content parameter is handy for A/B testing, as you can differentiate ads or links that point to the same URL.

When adding UTM parameters to a URL, always use utm_source, utm_medium and utm_campaign.

Using utm_term and utm_content is optional and dependent on how many campaigns you have running, where they are being promoted and how how much detail you require when monitoring their performances.

My final UTM code was neatly added to my URL and I had the option to shorten the link – perfect for my plans to promote over Twitter. The URL I Tweeted (after scheduling through Hootsuite), looked like this:

This now very small URL was actually very powerful.

UTM tracking with WordPress

As I use WordPress to run this blog, I had to ensure I had enabled Google Analytics to track the website. I needed to add the Tracking Code provided to the <head> section of my website – available on all pages to enable easy future-use of UTM. Joy!

In this example, I will use a free WordPress plugin to add my newly created tracking code to every page of my WordPress website.

1. I installed this Tracking Code Manager plug in which was handily available for free.

Tracking Code Manager download for UTM tracking

2. I took my Global site tagging code from Google Analytics. You can get this from Settings > Tracking Info > Tracking Code. It includes your property specific tracking ID. Then it was a simple copy and paste job, to…

3. Add this to the <head> section of my WordPress site by using the Tracking Code manager plug-in. This looked like this:

Now my UTM is up and running. Hurray!

Getting analytical

So you’ve set up your UTMs and traffic’s rolling in faster than central Bristol at 8.45am on a Monday.

What next? I would personally always choose Google Analytics. First of all, as mentioned previously, it’s free. It’s also a really helpful, smooth tool for analysing these fantastic UTMs through handy reports. Real-time reports are your new best friends. They tell you the number of people on your site – at the real-time – as well as their location in the world, the keywords and sites that referred them and which specific pages they’re checking out. It’s revealed second by second so you know exactly what’s happening in the present moment.

Hootsuite URL parameters

If you don’t know already know, I’m a massive Hootsuite fantastic. I shout all about it in my blog ‘8 reasons why your business needs a Facebook page.‘ Hootsuite also helps with tracking where your traffic is coming from. Through the social media management platform, you can use URL parameters to track social media posts and where they’re hits are coming from. Again, setting yourself up with Google Analytics is a great idea for this.

This is what Hootsuite’s URL parameters set-up looks like:

A digital marketing using the Hootsuite UTM tagging advanced option

If you’re already set up and using Hootsuite, this is all fun and games! It’s really quite simple. UTM parameters send information to Google Analytics to monitor how much traffic your business’ social media posts send to your website. When you create a new post with a landing page URL, simply press the advanced button and you’ll reach the page above. As you can see, you then fill out the parameter boxes and add more if necessary.

Apply Parameters > Shrink > Add to your post. Easy!

It’s a good idea to set presets here too to save time creating parameters later. You can delete or edit these parameters at any time.

Love and cherish UTM codes

Convinced? If you’re not already using UTM codes, it’s time to start, if you want to:

1- Track the performance of your marketing activities

2- Measure the impact of your marketing content

3- Crack on with some A/B Testing

4- Start compelling UTM themed conversations at parties

Do you use UTM tracking? Do you find it helpful? 🙂

Bethany Wash

Storyteller. Digital marketer. Blogger. Social media enthusiast. Off the clock, an avid reader, cat mum, flautist and cocktail lover flitting between Bristol and Cornwall.

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