Social Media

What Are UTM Codes and Why Should You Use Them?

Written by Katie Smith on 19th January 2018

What are UTM codes and why should you use them?

A UTM code is a simple piece of code that you place at the end of a URL to track where your website traffic is coming from. This piece of code is used by Google Analytics to categorise where the visitor has come from, the campaign that sent them and even which advert caught their attention.

If your business has a website then it’s likely your marketing activity is driving traffic, but do you have the data to determine what activity is working? Are you able to determine which channel has driven sales, and which ones haven’t?  UTM codes can help you do all of this!

What are UTM codes?

This is where UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) tracking comes into play. This simple piece of tracking can link your campaigns to your Google Analytics and give you a bigger picture.

When setting up UTM tracking, you are adding parameters to the end of an existing URL, it’ll look a little something like this:

Website URL – This is the website page that you want to send users to, this needs to be on your own website

Source – This is where you are placing the URL so Google analytics will know where the user came from

Medium – This is the channel type of the traffic, for example it could be ‘paidsearch’ or ‘display’. For all social channels it should be ‘social’

Campaign – This is the campaign you want to assign the traffic to. Select the subjects you are going to talk about on social & create them accordingly

Additional Parameters that can be used:

Content – This is how you can identify multiple links that are pointing to the same URL (such as campaign that has multiple adverts), including this code will track the performance of each advert

Keyword – This is how you can identify the keyword that generated the website visit (mostly used in PPC)

TOP TIP: Don’t place spaces between words, include a dash or create just one string of words

These parameters tell Google Analytics where visitors have come from based on the information that you have set. You should keep your tracking consistent across campaigns so that you can build up a bigger picture of how your marketing is performing.

How can you view the results of the UTM tracking?

There are five different UTM parameters that can be added to your URLs. You can use any combination of these parameters to track your ongoing activity. Once you have created your UTM tracking links you can view the results in Google Analytics:

  1. Log in to Google Analytics
  2. Select ‘Acquisition’ from the left-hand menu
  3. Click ‘All Traffic’, ‘Source/Medium’

This report will identify the traffic that is being tracked by Google Analytics and how it is being categorised. If your campaigns are driving traffic you will see the source and mediums within this report. If your Google Analytics has been set up correctly, you will also be able to identify the conversions and revenue driven by these visitors.

What can you track with UTM codes?

  1. Printed Adverts

We can even track your offline activity using UTM parameters. Of course, we don’t expect you to print long complicated URLs in your next print advert. Instead, you can create a short vanity URL that redirects the user to the full URL you have created.

You can then test different publications so see which ones are providing the highest results. This can be done by altering the medium:

  • http://www.website.com/?utm_source=print&utm_medium=magazineA&utm_campaign= productlaunch
  • http://www.website.com/?utm_source=print&utm_medium=magazineB&utm_campaign= productlaunch
  1. Marketing Banners

If you’re using banners or other images to promote your business, then you will wantto track each one. Let’s say that you have three different versions of the banner, using varied UTM tracking for each one will let you know which one performs better.

You can do this by simply altering the content parameter:

  • http://www.website.com/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=productlaunch&utm_content=greenbanner
  • http://www.website.com/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=productlaunch&utm_content=bluebanner
  1. Social Media Activity

You may be able to see which Social Media channel is creating the largest buzz on channel but do you know which is driving the most sales? We can determine this with UTM tracking.

You can do this by altering the source:

  • http://www.website.com/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=productlaunch
  • http://www.website.com/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=productlaunch
  1. Email Newsletter

You can track any link from your email newsletter to determine how much traffic it is driving overall, and which ones are highest performing. This means that you can identify whether users are clicking on buttons vs hyperlinks vs images. This information can help you determine where to place future content.

You can do this by altering the URL and content parameter:

  • http://www.website.com/blogpost?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=junenewsletter18&utm_content=button
  • http://www.website.com/products?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign= junenewsletter18&utm_content=contentlink

How do you create UTM codes?

  1. Manual method

Creating UTM codes isn’t particularly complicated and they can easily be created manually. It is as simple as typing in the parameters at the end of a URL. It’s not something we would recommend doing for every campaign as UTM links can get pretty long and you can end up making errors.

  1. URL builder

We have built a handy tool that you can use to build your UTM links.

To use it, simply enter your website address and the parameters related to your campaign. The tool will then produce a link that you can place within your campaign to track your activity.

Why should I bother with UTM tracking?

We know that setting up UTM tracking on each URL that you’re putting out in the world can be time consuming. However, the rewards far outweigh the hassle. Imagine if you could determine the sweet spot in your email newsletter, the perfect placement of a banner or prove which publications work for you.

UTM tracking will provide you with the insight to understand what marketing activity is working for you. Once you identify which channels are driving the highest results, you’ll know where to concentrate your resources.