How and Why You Should be Using UTM Codes

By Charlie Craine

So what in the world is a UTM code? A UTM (Urchin Traffic Monitor) tracking code adds some elements to the end of your URL to trace specific information back to Google Analytics. This helps to identify specific ads, links or campaigns.

Why do you need a UTM code? Because most marketing efforts have a broad range of sources, campaigns and mediums. We’ll explain these later.

The great thing about UTM tracking is that it helps tell you where a user of your website came from, what triggered them to come to your website and what they did on your website after they arrived. There is no better way to track ROI for web-based campaigns.

The simplest way to explain UTM codes is really to show you how they work.

Let’s say your website is fakesite.com, and you run an email newsletter ad in Cool Magazine’s email newsletter. If you don’t use UTM codes, then evaluating the performance of this ad via your own Google Analytics account will be more difficult. The inbound links might be named according to Cool Magazine’s email software, such as Constant Contact. Or, if you ran the daily or weekly, you might see when visitors came to your website via the ad, but you won’t see which edition of the enewsletter triggered their visit.

Even worse, what if you used different ad creative to send people to the same page because you wanted to test the audience’s response to different message? This is a great idea, but discerning how the different ads performed will be very difficult without UTM codes.

See how valuable that data would be to have? UTM tracking codes gives you all of that data.

Creating UTM codes is free and easy to do. Here is how:

  1. Go to: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033867?hl=en#using_the_url_builder
  2. Add your url
  3. Now I’ll add Campaign Source, which in this case is: cool magazine newsletter
  4. Now I’ll add the medium, which in this example is medium rectangle
  5. And finally, Campaign, would be a bit descriptive based on your campaign: cool guy aftershave

 

This is just one example – many ways exist for creating UTM codes. You want to be consistent and use the same format every time. But you want to be able to sort them smartly in Google Analytics. So, if you created a “cool guy aftershave” UTM as well as a “Cool Guy Aftershave” UTM, you would see two different campaigns in Google Analytics, which wouldn’t like work well. See screenshot example at the bottom of this page

So again, be consistent and create your own internal rules for each: source, medium and campaign.

What is a Source?

This refers to where the ad is hosted – it could be Google or a website / enewsletter in which you advertise. If you’re tracking the results of a social media campaign, the source would be Facebook or Twitter, for example.

What is a Medium?

The medium is the platform type. If you used Facebook or Twitter, the medium would be “social” or “social media.” If you ran an ad on Facebook you might change it to “cpc” for cost-per-click ad campaign.

What is a campaign?

Let’s continue the Facebook example. If you posted an article on Facebook, the headline would be your campaign, such as “cool guy aftershave.”

The payoff for using UTM codes occurs after you run an ad campaign – go into Google Analytics select Campaigns and “All Campaigns” to see the data. Now you can easily sort the click-through visits to your website by Source, Medium and Campaign (not to mention doing a deeper dive into conversions and important metrics like bounce rate, pages per session, etc.). No more wondering which digital ad campaigns performed the best for you – now you’ll know.

Charlie Craine is the Director of Digital Media for Meister Media. He can be reached at 440/602-9129 or ccraine@meistermedia.com.

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