UTM Tracking 101: What Is A UTM Code and How Do I Use IT?

Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes

It’s a daunting prospect trying to get people to your website.

With social media, guest blogging, video and content marketing. It can be so tough to know what (if anything is working).

Unless you know what is working and where all your website traffic is coming from.

It can be a complete scattergun approach. Nowadays with so much on your plate.

I would rather work out what 2 or 3 approaches are working. Focus on them and bin off the rest.

This is where UTM tracking comes in. UTM codes can be one of your biggest weapons when starting to market your product or service.

If you want to know more about website traffic stats. And how they tie together with all your other marketing data. Check out this post called What Is Marketing Analytics.

UTM Tracking 101 – What Are UTM Codes?

UTM stands for “Urchin Traffic Monitor“. Dull I know.

This is a web analytics software that was the original version of Google Analytics.

When a UTM code or codes are added to a website address they can look like this:

https://elementaryanalytics.com?utm_source=google.

In the above example of the website address. Everything after the question mark ‘?’ relates to UTM tracking using specific UTM codes.

The first part is the UTM parameter.

A UTM parameter allows you to track specific info about a marketing campaign. These parameters allow you to track 5 different things when promoting a webpage..

Whenever you use a parameter they must start ‘utm_’.

You can track the source, medium, campaign, content and term. I will go into each one of these in more detail.

The second part is where you set the value of what you would like to track.

In our example. I want to label the source of any traffic that came from Google marking as that. That could be from a Google ads campaign or organic traffic, like search rankings.

Don’t worry about adding UTM codes to your links.

Using UTM tracking doesn’t impact your website in any way.

The codes are only used by tools such as Google Analytics to help you review the UTM codes you have started using.

What Can You Track With UTM Codes?

There are currently 5 different parameters you can track using UTM codes.

Traffic Source

This parameter allows you to track where the traffic originated from.

The parameter added to your link is utm_source.

You can use this parameter to track if people have found your website on social media. Be setting the value to Facebook or Twitter.

Or if you’re running ads. Set to a provider like Google or the Bing network.

You can even use the name of your email provider.

Example: &utm_source=facebook

Medium

The medium parameter tracks the type of traffic the visitor originated from.

For example, for paid ads you could set it to ‘ad’ or ‘cpc’, ‘ppc’, even ‘display.

You can track whatever you like. I tend to use values such as ’email’ and ‘social’ when trying to promote new blog posts.

This is a great way to see if organic or paid traffic is working well for you.

Example: &utm_medium=cpc

Campaign Name

This parameter allows you to track the performance of a specific campaign.

More often or not you may be running a lot of campaigns. Paid and organic.

For example, if you’ve got a budget to run paid ads. And are using both Meta and Google ads to test which one gives the best ROI. You can use the campaign parameter to see traffic numbers from each platform.

Example: &utm_campaign=facebook-retargeting

Content

The content UTM tracking parameter can be a little confusing.

For me, it’s named wrong.

This parameter helps you determine what action was taken if more than one thing points to the same link.

Let me explain.

You have an email that you’re sending out. That has two buttons it in, both linking back to the same product.

Button one is at the top of the email. The second is at the very end.

You can set different content values for each button. So you know which one gets the most clicks.

Example: &utm_content=navlink

Keyword Term

I use this parameter when trying to see which keywords are showing my content.

The keyword parameter allows you to track which keyword phrase caused the search.

A lot of the paid search platforms will add this parameter for you. It’s a great way to see what terms work best.

Example: &utm_term=social+media+marketing

How to Use the UTM Codes

These codes can be used in any combination that you like.

It all depends on what information you want to record and analyse.

For example, I helped an email marketing tool called Outflash with an email campaign.

In the email, they offered free users and subscribers a discount if they signed up to one of their paid plans. The link looked like this:

https://outflash.xyz/special-offer-for-our-subscribers/?utm_campaign=february-sale-2020

This code allowed us to track the performance of the email marketing campaigns.

The data filtered down into their Google Analytics data.

You can then see how many people subscribed to their paid plan from the campaigns.

You can create a combination of the tracking codes depending on the information you want to see in Google Analytics.

There are 3 quick and easy ways to track how your campaigns are performing using UTM tracking in Google Analytics.

Here’s how.

Create a custom report under “Customization” > “Custom Reports”. Add Medium, Campaign, or Source as a dimension and the metrics you want to view.

Go to Acquisition -> Overview -> All Traffic -> Source/Medium to view traffic.

Go to Acquisition -> Campaigns -> All Campaigns to view traffic based on your custom campaign names.

Adding UTM Codes To A URL

The quickest and easiest way to create a URL that contains the UTM tracking codes is to use Google’s URL builder.

To use the URL builder. You need to enter the link that you will be sending people to.

The ‘source’ of the campaign, i.e. google, facebook, etc.

The medium that you will be using. That could be email marketing or paid ads, for example, email, ads, cpc etc.

You can then give your campaign a name. Or associate it with a promotion code.

Here is an example I used to promote that you can sign up for Elementary Analytics for free for a 14-day trial.

UTM Tracking: How to create URL with UTM codes with Google's URL builder

You can add more codes for terms and content if you need to.

Once you are happy. You can copy the URL.

There you have it.

Elementary Analytics’ guide to UTM tracking using UTM codes.

I would love to hear your thoughts on which metrics to track and if you found this post useful.

Thanks for reading.

Regards, Phil.

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