You may have heard the term UTM and thought it sounded like a nasty infection… or you just thought it sounded like yet another marketing abbreviation but never really understood what it means. UTM tracking is actually quite simple but the concept can be a little complicated to get your head round at first.
We spend a lot of time at LMc educating clients on what UTM tracking is, why it’s useful, how to use it and measure the results. Here’s a (hopefully) useful guide on best practices for UTM’s.
What is a UTM?
UTM stands for ‘Urchin Tracking Module’ according to a quick Google search (11 years in marketing & don’t think I ever knew what it stood for so I wouldn’t worry about that). In human terms though, they are tracking parameters used by marketers to track the effectiveness of campaigns. A ‘UTM’ are a bit of text that you add to the end of your URL / website link to give Google Analytics more information.
Why use UTM tracking?
Google Analytics is relatively good at knowing where a visitor on a website has come from, whether that be from a Google Advert, organically on Bing or from Facebook or Instagram. However, it’s not clever enough to know whether a visitor has come from a certain Facebook Ad or an Instagram post. UTM tracking can be used strategically to track specific marketing performance & the success of it.
With every link you use with UTM tracking added to it, you’re gaining valuable insights for your business and have more context around your data to understand what is and isn’t working against your KPI’s (be that on-site engagement, leads or sales).
When you view an acquisition report on Google Analytics, like the one below. The source / medium / campaign data are prepopulated with the data that Google Analytics has but with the use of UTM links, this overwrites what Google thinks with what you know i.e you tell GA that it’s from a specific advert from Facebook and not just a Facebook referral.
How to use UTM tracking parameters?
Types of UTM Parameters
Firstly, let’s start with what different types of UTM there are. There are five different parameters that you can use:
Source – utm_source is used to identify whether it’s from a search engine, social media outlet or a supplier.
UTM source examples; Google, Facebook or Mailchimp.
Medium – utm_medium is used to identify the medium which is best thought of as the marketing channel whereas the source is the overarching platform.
UTM medium examples; email, paid social, cost per click (cpc), affiliates.
Campaign Name – utm_campaign is used to identify a specific campaign such as a promotional campaign or a product campaign. These are very specific to a business and the marketing activity that runs.
UTM campaign examples; July promotion push, red boots campaign, Spring offers.
Campaign Content – utm_content is used as a way to differentiate between ad types and creative tests.
UTM content examples; carousel ad 1, single image ad 2, text ad.
Campaign Term – utm_term is used to tell Google Analytics the keyword that drove someone to the website. It’s used less often now as both Google and Bing have auto tagging options which means you don’t need to manually ad utm tracking on every keyword.
UTM term examples; digital+marketing, new marketing agency, hire laura.
How to set up a UTM link?
You can either write the UTM code out yourself by adding each element after the URL or you can use a tool which generates this for you. My personal favourite that I use regularly is – https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/
The source, medium and campaign are required fields but content and keywords are not.
When to use UTM tracking parameters?
Whenever you add a link on an external website and someone can click back onto your own website, it’s recommended to add UTM tracking to the end of it. But only if it’s going to give you useful information and you’ll look at this in Google Analytics. Don’t use UTM’s for the sake of it.
Examples of when to use UTM:
- Facebook ads campaign – Source, medium, campaign name, targeting type (utm_keyword) and creative type (utm_content).
- Multiple links on a bloggers website – Use source, medium and content to state what the link is i.e an image, text link on a certain page, footer link.
- Affiliates campaign – Source, medium and campaign name to record the affiliates name.
- TikTok (or other social ads) – Source, medium and use campaign or content to record information about the post i.e the specific post or if it came from
How to see performance from the tracking set up?
This is all available in Google Analytics under an acquisition and source medium report. Then use a secondary dimension to look at campaign, content and keyword as below:
Then select secondary dimension of either campaign, content or keyword based on the tracking you’ve set up.
Advanced Tips for Using UTM’s
- Remember that your competitors can see what you’re using and could gain intel so try not to give too much information away i.e the specific targeting you’re using on Facebook, such as a 1% lookalike audience or broad targeting of males in UK, 25-45. I generally use a ‘code’ in my utm’s and have a master sheet of what they mean which leads me onto the next point…
- Set logical naming conventions for your UTM’s & be consistent i.e promo is always promo and not promotion or offer. Makes it much easier to search in the future.
- Keyword parameters could be used to track anything, not just keywords. Such as the targeting type; lookalike, retargeting.
- Get strategic! Think about how you can be clever with your use of utms. You may not add a UTM for every single social media post (as you know you’ll never look at the data), but instead look to use a UTM to group the posts into key themes i.e all promotional posts have content UTM of ‘promotion’ or influencers as ‘influencers’ – you get the idea.
How do you use UTM tracking in your digital marketing activity? Leave a comment below.