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UTM Parameters: The Key to Unlocking Performance Metrics

 

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UTM, an acronym for Urchin Traffic Monitor, is a parameter that allows you to accurately track traffic from outside sources, making them extremely useful when it comes to tracking the success of your digital marketing campaigns. 

UTM parameters are extra pieces of information that you can attach to the end of the links used in your ads and campaigns. Armed with this, you’ll be empowered to make highly-informed, data-driven decisions for your marketing campaigns and ROI. 

Naturally, you must be thinking that they sound great. So, why isn't their power taken advantage of by all marketers?

Well, simply put, it is because they are considered difficult to use. However, that's only if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

We’ve put together a comprehensive UTM guide that'll prepare you to use UTMs in your campaigns and unlock performance metrics. 

Why You Should Use UTM Parameters

You may be thinking: my direct traffic is great! Google Analytics says so. So, why should I worry myself with UTMs?

Well, unfortunately, these results can get muddled pretty easily because, in reality, direct traffic comes from a range of sources such as your website’s address, bookmarks, email, messengers, and much more. 

Meaning, if you’re not actively using parameters to differentiate between traffic sources, by using UTMs, you’ll only see a fraction of what you actually could when it comes to determining which sources and campaigns are driving the best results. 

UTMs allow you to collect more segmented data about the results of your campaign, as well as differentiate site visitors from various sources, such as paid campaigns or organic ones, ads, newsletters, and more. 

Overall, they provide Google Analytics with crucial information about the source of the click and provide you with an opportunity to collect data you wouldn’t be able to without monitoring individual links - a tedious and time-consuming task. 

More specifically, they provide you with three key benefits:

  1. Help you track the value and effectiveness of your campaigns
  2. Provide precise data on traffic and conversions
  3. Enable users to A/B test specific posts and campaigns

And that’s only scratching the surface. With UTMs, you can dive deeper into the effectiveness of your campaigns to discover not only which external source brings the most traffic, but also which banner design, size, color, and types are hitting the mark. 

In other words, with just a few inputs, you can unlock a level of accuracy and detail about your traffic that you can't without manually tracking each link. 

How to Use UTM Links 

UTM parameters may seem technical and scary, but before you run away, know that in reality, they’re simple - even for not-so-very tech-savvy individuals. 

It doesn’t take much to build them, and we’ll show you how. But before, let’s understand what they can track. 

There are five parameters that you can use in UTM tracking. Some are required, while others are extras, and offer you the chance to track data that is unique to your campaign goals:

  • Source*: this is the platform where traffic originates (Facebook, Website, Google, etc.)
  • Medium*: this is the medium where the link appears (paid search, email campaign, social media, etc.) 
  • Campaign Term: for tracking keywords
  • Campaign Content: if you’re running multiple campaigns, this is a useful way to A/B test and differentiate links that point to the same URL.
  • Campaign Name*: the name of your broader marketing campaign

*required parameters.

So, now that you know what you can track, you’re probably wondering how to build them.

To create a UTM, start with the main URL then add as follows:

  1. A question mark, to separate the URL from the tracking parameters
  2. “utm_” - the name of the parameter, for example, “utm source”
  3. “=title” - the title of the parameter
  4. Place an ampersand (&) between each parameter

Here is an example of what a link may look like for a Facebook ad in our hypothetical personalized content campaign.

https://www.ranky.co/growth-hacking-and-inbound-marketing-blog/how-to-upgrade-your-marketing-game-with-personalized-content?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=personalized-content

To streamline the process, tools such as Google URL Builder, UTM Builder, or even built-in tools on Social Media Management Platforms such as Hootsuite can help you generate links based on your input.

Easy, right? So, what’s the catch?

If you want UTMs to work properly, they must be formatted correctly. When a visitor clicks on a link containing UTM parameters, Google Analytics will attribute that session to the traffic source mentioned in said parameters. This means something as simple as a typo or variations in the parameter names could greatly impact your results, and your efforts would have gone to waste.

So, unless you’re a seasoned UTM builder, we recommend you stick to using the tools. 

What’s more, UTMs do come with some other problems. For example, if a user were to copy your link, the parameters don’t automatically change to match the different medium. Meaning, any clicks from this copied link would still show up in your Analytics and alter your results. 

With that in mind, allow some room for error, as like everything in life, UTMs aren’t perfect.

UTM Builder

(Source: Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder)

UTM Best Practices

Now that you’ve nailed how to build them. There are some best practices you should keep in mind. 

Create a consistent naming convention

From the get-go, you must determine a naming convention and remain consistent. For example, if you create a UTM link, which includes uppercase letters, and then another with only lowercase, it's easy to become confused between the two and lose track of your work. So, make rules and stick to them. For example, use only lowercase letters and dashes (rather than mixing underscores and other signs and symbols).

Review data in Google Analytics

Google Analytics tracks and measures referral traffic and user behavior associated with each and every link. Meaning, once you set up your site with Google Analytics, you’ll unlock a treasure trove of data relating to the effectiveness of your campaign - down to the visuals placement and design. Therefore, you’ll be able to design future campaigns and make data-driven decisions based on what you know works.  

Track your UTMs in a spreadsheet

Besides reviewing and analyzing your data, it’s a great practice to keep track of your links. You’ll probably run many campaigns, with many links. So keeping them all organized in a separate spreadsheet helps manage your work. You could also include your naming conventions and particular performance metrics that were successful. 

Shorten your links

Long URLs don’t make for great user experience. After all, you don’t want to come across as spammy. Easy-to-use tools, such as Bitly and Ow.ly, are great ways to hide long links and neaten your work.   

The links are visible

If you didn’t know, these links are publicly visible - yes, even if you shorten them. So, don’t include anything you don’t want customers to see. 

Create Smarter Marketing Campaigns

Overall, UTMs are an excellent way to evaluate your marketing efforts, determine what elements of your campaign are most effective, identify new growth opportunities, and design more successful campaigns.

Give it a try! Trust us, it’ll be worth your while.

Topics: Digital Marketing Optimize Traffic Performance