So much of digital marketing is analyzing and measuring the results. For example, if you’re running online marketing campaigns and tracking the traffic on your website, you need to be able to prove exactly which ads, tweets, or posts worked and which ones didn’t. There are many tools to use to help with this task, but today we want to focus on UTM codes.

In this blog posts we will give you an overview of UTM codes and how you can use these to track where the traffic to your website is coming from and why they’ve arrived.

What are UTM codes?

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. Urchin was a web analytics software company that invented the UTM parameters before Google came into play. They created these codes to help you understand who your website audience is and exactly where conversions are coming from, so that you can invest in channels that are successful.

A UTM looks something like this:

So let’s break this down even further…

The part after the ‘?’ is the actual UTM code and tells you where the traffic to your page came from, or the 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 to identify the dimension being tracked (such as the name of the traffic source). This variable is preceded by the “=” sign. You can have only numbers, letters, hyphens, ‘+’ sign and periods in the variable.

What can you track with UTM codes?

There are 5 UTM parameters to track, but Source, Medium and Campaign are the most common to start with. UTM codes can be long and complex, but if you’ve ever struggled with analyzing campaigns before, they are very helpful! 

  1. Traffic source. The source parameter will allow you to track where the traffic is coming from. This 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 tracks the type of traffic the person originated from like cpc, social, referral, display, email. It would look like: &utm_medium=cpc.
  3. Campaign name. This allows you track the performance of a specific campaign. So, if you wanted to differentiate traffic between a Facebook ad campaign or Google ad, this is great way to do it: &utm_campaign=example-campaign.
  4. Content. If you have several links in campaigns that link to the same URL, this code helps track which link was clicked. An example would be: &utm_content=navlink.
  5. Keyword term. This is used specifically for paid search ads and allows you to track which keyword term converted your visitor. It would look like: &utm_term=keyword1+keyword2

How to use UTM tracking

Now that you understand exactly what the codes can tell you, let’s see how you can use them. There are essentially three important things you should be learning from your UTM codes:

  1. Where your traffic is coming from
  2. Which links people are clicking on
  3. How to track performance across all social networks

Where your traffic is coming from

Using UTM parameters, you can track sources and understand referral and direct traffic even more specifically 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 will specify sources of traffic that would otherwise just show up as “direct traffic.”

Which links people are clicking on

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

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

How to track performance across all social channels

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

You’ll find this is especially helpful when doing analysis of traffic patterns and comparing traffic from search, social, email, referral and so forth.

Before you start implementing UTM codes, we recommend establishing a naming format, or design, and sticking to it. 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 one glance they would know what the code means.

And lastly, UTM codes can be long, but it’s ok to use link shorteners like or to create more shareable URLS.

Are you ready to implement UTM parameters? We can setup tracking and/or UTM’s

Call us today and we can get you started!

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