UTM codes stand for Urchin Tracking Monitor and was created by Urchin Software in 2002. Their purpose was to give marketers insight into the marketing campaigns they were running to show if there was a good return on investment (ROI) of a given marketing campaign. UTM codes quickly grew in popularity after Urchin Software was acquired by Google for use in Google Analytics and later in Google Ads (formally Google AdWords).
With the use of UTM codes you are able to truly see where your marketing dollars spent are working. This change is huge to a business used to the old marketing of spending money, having employees ask where they heard of X, and hoping that information gets relayed for marketing purposes. With UTM codes you can have some pretty accurate methods of how people are reaching you. They also can be used beyond just paid ads to see what links are helping you grow your business. We’re going to not only dig into what UTM codes are but how you can use them and how to create them (easily with tools from Google).
If you care about marketing and knowing if you are getting a return on your investment (ROI) then you need to be using UTM codes! If you don't care about your money or tracking what works/doesn't work then don't use UTM codes. It truly is that simple. It takes work to do but the work done can create some truly great results to help you grow your business.
With so many channels for marketing from search engines, to other websites, to social media the question of who is coming to your website is only one of the key questions to ask. Yes, it’s good people are coming. It’s even better if they convert and become customers (that’s what we all want). It’s also good to know where they are coming from so that you know if your organic campaigns or paid campaigns are performing the best for you. You may find that your organic campaigns are performing better than your paid marketing campaigns. This is where UTM codes come into play and help you make sound, educated, and informed decisions to grow your business.
UTM codes are simple parameters you add to your website URL (e.g. https://www.businessyeti.com is an untouched URL). An example of a longer URL would be https://www.businessyeti.com/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign= Plan+Services+July&utm_term=Valparaiso+web+design&utm_content=bluelink. To generate this UTM URL we went to Google who gives you this magical “secret sauce” or “pixie dust” for you. After a while you may find that you can create this information without the tool. We use the tool as it makes certain we don't miss a step. They want you to use it as they know, like all good companies, that knowledge is power and the more knowledge you have the more you will use marketing (and they hope Google Ads).
Our example: utm_source=Facebook
The source is where the information is coming from. This is often Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Newsletter, Twitter, website, etc. This lets you know at a high level where everything is coming from.
Our example: utm_medium=cpc
How is this being used. CPC stands for cost-per-click. The other used command is email. You can use whatever you want but remember to have some consistency. We often use the following mediums when we are marketing:
Note 1: Although we have mediums such as magazine and newspaper you do not want to have a user type in these URL’s. You use these on links people would click, not type in.
Note 2: When having a link in a newspaper, magazine, etc. that someone would type use a URL Shortener (more on this later) so that your visitors don't have a long URL to type.
Our example: urm_campaign=Plan+Services+July
What is the name of the campaign. If you are running ads for specific services or products this is what you will use.
Our example: utm_term=Valparaiso+web+design
The term is the keyword phrase that you are using for a specific URL. If you are running the same ad for multiple keyword phrases you should have different URL’s for each of the phrases.
Our example: utm_content=bluelink
Often when you run a campaign you will do what is called A/B testing. With A/B testing you break it into sub-categories (or campaigns). This allows you to have bluelink, redlink, or textlink if you were running three campaigns. The first with a blue button, then a red button, and one that just had a text link. By doing A/B testing you can see what is truly working and what isn’t working.
Often in a newsletter we will use all the same information and change the utm_content to match the link in the newsletter. Rather than using the same URL for every link we will use utm_content=link1, utm_content=link2, etc. where link1 or link2 are descriptive to where they are within the newsletter.
Note: A great way of using the campaign content parameter is to include the post ID or page name that you are using if you are linking to a blog.
Whether you are marketing the business yourself or someone is doing it for you when it comes push to shove you are a marketer. Marketers need to know what is driving traffic to your site. You need the data to prove it and that data needs to be as accurate and understandable as possible.
Google has created a UTM code generator and it's entirely free. This Google campaign builder can be found at https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/. This takes all the work out of generating your UTM code and makes certain that it complies with all of the UTM code standards.
Imagine having a URL that is super long like the one below:
This URL on a newspaper or magazine ad/article is just insanely long and asking for someone to mistype or even just say it's not worth their time. Now with a URL shortener like bit.ly you can take that same URL and change it to:
If you're like me, and most people, the second one is a lot more palatable to type. You do have to type it "Exact" but it's still a lot easier to type in.
Now that you're sold on the use of UTM codes you need to be able to pull some reports to find out how they are performing for you. This is where you're Google Analytics account comes into play.
Note: If you don't have a Google Analytics account you will want to create one (they're free!!!!) and add the Google Analytics code to your website.
Once logged into your Google Analytics account you will click on Acquisition, expand All Traffic, and then click on Source/Medium to see where your visitors are coming from. Your UTM code items will show up here along with any other source. In our example, we have the source as Blog and the medium as Email. The information doesn't appear in real-time but normally will appear within 30 minutes of the link being clicked. Often it is faster but don't expect real-time results.
Any marketing campaign you do whether it be print or digital should use UTM codes so that you can gauge the effectiveness and return of your marketing campaign. Often it is good to use everywhere that you want to track the success of a campaign.