UTM codes are one of the most effective ways to track and analyze your marketing practices. Whether you want the results of your own company or blog's promotional efforts, or you are a marketing professional that is responsible for tracking and producing the results of a client's campaigns, the data can help you determine whether your ideas are working or if you need to head in another direction.
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Let's start with the basics…
What is a UTM Code?
A UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) is a snippet of code that you add to a URL in order to track the source, medium, and content of any given campaign. These links are incredibly useful if you really want to track your website data to further optimize your marketing strategies and determine which areas you do and don't need to focus your attention on.bu
UTM codes work hand-in-hand with Google Analytics. The terms you enter allow you to analyze your campaign data: what referred your readers to your site (source), what vehicle they used to access your site (medium), what keyword, if any, was attached to that particular campaign (term), and any other identifiers you may have used to differentiate your promotions (content).
There are numerous ways to use UTM codes; how you choose to utilize them will depend on what mediums you use to get your content out there and how frequently. Your codes will tell you how many customers/readers are coming from each source that you are promoting on and which medium gained enough of their interest to make them click. This data will ultimately help you determine which resource is getting you the most bang for your buck so you don't spend too much time and money on the wrong outlet.
What are the UTM Parameters?
There are five different parameters that you can add to your website link: Source, Medium, Name, Term and Content.
Your Campaign Source would be your referrer. For example, if you are posting your link on your social media accounts, you may want to differentiate each link by platform: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr, etc. Or, maybe you are sending your content out in an email blast to your subscribers. For that, your Source would be labeled as your emailing marketing tool, such as “Convertkit,” or simply “Email.” This is easily the most important parameter you can use because it will help you determine where to focus your efforts.
Your Campaign Medium would be the marketing vehicle you use to promote the link. This could be an ad banner, an email, or a social media post. This is the second-most important parameter because it will help you understand which medium attracts the most attention, be it a text link, a 300×250 sidebar advertisement, or an email blast.
Your Campaign Name is a parameter that easily identifies the specific post, product or initiative that you are marketing. If you are promoting a blog post about your favorite Tomato Bruschetta recipe, you may simply call your campaign “Bruschetta,” unless you have more than one post on that topic – then you would need to get more specific. If you are selling a new product, you would give your Campaign the product name. If you are having a sale of some sort, you would name your campaign something that identifies the sale. The campaign name remains the same throughout all of your marketing efforts. So, if you have a big sale going on, your campaign name identifying that sale will stay the same across all links promoting it. This is so you can easily filter to the campaign when you are trying to analyze the results in Google Analytics, and view all of your sources and mediums within.
Campaign Terms are useful when you are utilizing paid keywords. You may be targeting search terms like, “make money online fast,” or “how to pay off credit card debt,” which you will surely want to analyze within your campaigns.
If you are putting out more than one ad for the same campaign, you may choose to create different designs or change up the text. This would require that you identify the variations using Campaign Content, which will help you see which ad is performing better. Once you determine the best performer, you can put out others that look similar to the one bringing in the results you are looking for, or completely remove the one that is performing poorly.
You can easily build your UTM link here.
Note: If you are buying traffic to your website, it is important to know that some native advertising websites incorporate their own UTM codes. So, if you end up specifying your own, it could conflict with the existing parameters and cause neither to show up in Google Analytics. Before making changes to your code, confirm that the site sending traffic to your page does not already have variables.
A Hypothetical Campaign
To further explain, let's pretend your shop is running a summer-long sale. You will likely want to promote it across various platforms; banner ads on online newspapers, email blasts to your subscribers, social media posts and ads for your current and potential followers and more. Now, if you are running banner ads on Facebook to promote your sale, you should create more than one design for A/B testing. This will help you determine what types of creatives are the most eye-catching and what messaging was most enticing so in the future, you can replicate the design for different campaigns. Determining the success of each campaign type will come down to your UTM codes. Each design/banner that is promoting your content should have its own custom UTM link so that when you're running your reports, you can identify just how much traffic and conversions were generated by each.
In this scenario, your UTM link should look something like this:
For each banner design, you would change your UTM content parameter to a different ad number or identifier in order to filter your data and determine which one performed best. If you are promoting the same banner on a different platform, simply change the Campaign Source and leave the rest the same.
Here is an example of a UTM link I have used to promote one of my recipes:
The source was the Life She Lives Facebook page, the Medium was the post to my feed, and the Campaign name was my pancake recipe. If I were to promote the same link in a Facebook Advertisement, I would change my Medium to “banner” and add a UTM Content parameter. If I were to promote the same article on a different social media account, I would change the Source to identify which platform I was posting on (ie., Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest), and leave the rest of them as they are.
Bear in mind that you aren't required to use all of the parameters; the only requirement is Campaign Source.
One you have created your UTM code, you can easily track your campaigns within Google Analytics and use the data to improve upon your marketing strategies.