Digital marketing depends heavily on analyzing and measuring the success of your efforts. For instance, during an online marketing campaign, you need to be able to track the traffic on your website in a way that shows you which ads, tweets, or posts worked and which ones didn’t. There are many ways to accomplish this task, but this blog post will give you an overview of UTM codes and how you can use them to track the source of your website traffic, helping you be more efficient in driving that traffic in the future. 

What is a UTM code? 

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. Urchin was a pre-Google web analytics software company that developed the UTM parameters. UTM codes aim to help you understand your website audience: who they are and where conversions are coming from, so you can invest in channels that will pay off. 

A UTM looks something like this: 

Let’s look a little bit closer at the components: 

The first part of this web address represents the regular URL for your webpage, but the part after the ‘?’ is the actual UTM code. What follows tells you where the web traffic came from: its ‘source’. 

The UTM code has two components

  1. UTM parameter: starts with utm_. There are 5 parameters you can track including utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_content, utm_term. 
  2. Tracking variable: a unique variable showing what dimension you are tracking (such as the name of the traffic source). The tracking variable is preceded by the “=” sign. A variable can only include numbers, letters, hyphens, ‘+’ sign, and periods. 

What can you track with UTM codes? 

Of the 5 UTM parameters to track, Source, Medium, and Campaign are the most common. UTM codes can be long and complex, but they dramatically simplify your tracking!  

  1. Traffic source. The source parameter allows you to track where your traffic comes from. The traffic source is added as utm_source and could be places like Facebook, Google, Bing, or the name of an email list. An example would look like: &utm_source=twitter. 
  2. Medium. The medium parameter enables you to track the type of traffic associated with the person visiting your site. For example, it could be CPC, social, referral, display, email. It would look like: &utm_medium=cpc. 
  3. Campaign. Campaign is the most common UTM, and it allows you to track the performance of a specific digital marketing campaign. If you wanted to differentiate traffic between a Facebook ad campaign or Google ad, this makes it easy to do: &utm_campaign=example-campaign. 
  4. Content. If you have multiple links in different campaigns that link to the same URL, this code helps track which link a visitor clicked. An example would be: &utm_content=navlink. 
  5. Keyword term. Keyword terms are used specifically for paid search ads, and they allow you to get information about which keyword term converted your visitor. It would look like: &utm_term=keyword1+keyword2 

How should you use UTM tracking? 

Now that you know what UTM codes signify, here are some ways you can use them. There are three essential takeaways you should be getting from your UTM codes: 

  • Where your traffic is coming from 

Using UTM parameters, you can track sources and understand referral and direct traffic even better than you can in Google Analytics. For example, if you see that a bunch of traffic is coming from Quora, but you wrote several blog posts, you can add &utm_campaign=name-of-post to the end of your link on Quora, to see which posts generated traffic in Google Analytics. You can also add UTM links that specify sources of traffic that would otherwise show up as “direct traffic.” 

  • Which links people are clicking on 

If you send out an email or newsletter containing several links, you can use UTM codes to find out which links got the most clicks. For example, if you are a retailer and you have two different links for shoes and clothing, your codes would look like this: 

  • utm_source=constantcontact&utm_campaign=newsletter1&utm_content=shoes 
  • utm_source=constantcontact&utmp_campaign=newsletter1&utm_content=clothing 

If you are running campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, they show up as “social” on Google Analytics. However, you can add utm_medium=social to all links on a social channel and be able to track performance across all social networks. 

You will find that UTM tracking is especially helpful when doing traffic pattern analysis and comparing traffic from search, social, email, referral, and so forth. 

Before you start implementing UTM codes, we recommend that you establish a consistent naming format or design. For example, will your codes use underscores or dashes in campaign names, or will links use upper and lower case? 

Your campaign, content, and source links should also be easy to understand so that if someone took a quick look, they would know what the code means. 

Are you ready to implement UTM parameters? We can discuss how we can help you set up tracking to take the guesswork out of your business. 

Contact us today, and we can get you started!