UTM parameters (Urchin Traffic Monitor), also known as UTM tags or codes, are customizable pieces of text that allow analytics software such as Google Analytics and Autopilot to track campaign traffic. In simple terms, a UTM code is a snippet of text that helps you track the success of different content across the web. Attaching them to the end of a URL can help you answer questions like: What is the traffic medium? (E.g. Facebook, Twitter); Which keywords brought the visitor to your page? (E.g. **utm_term=growth+hacking+tips). In case you have multiple links on a page leading to the same URL, for instance a landing page with two CTA buttons, the code: **utm_content will help you track their individual performance.
Essentially there are five different UTM parameters:
These can be used in any combination, separating them with the ‘&’ sign. Once you create a code, you can track it in Google Analytics by going to Acquisition -> Overview -> All Traffic -> Source/Medium or just Acquisition -> Campaigns -> All Campaigns. It’ll look something like this:
If you’re like most growth hackers/marketers, you’re promoting everywhere: social media, email, paid search, to name just a few. Among all your company’s ads, blog, posts, tweets, some are top performers while others…well others are just draining your budget. That’s when UTM parameters come in handy. Top growth hackers are constantly evaluating what’s working and what’s not. Although, simply slapping tags onto URL’s isn’t enough to discover your highest performing channels. To make the most from your UTM tags, you need different combination techniques and most of all, a strategy.
UTM Parameter Guidelines – Simply tag your URL!
Just kidding. Not so fast.
The complicated part is what to do before and after you tag them. Inconsistent parameters will confuse whoever is trying to interpret the data in the best case scenario. In the worst case, they will actually send you the wrong data, most probably leading to painful mistakes. Here’s what you do:
Don’t worry, it’s 2018. There are plenty of UTM parameter generating tools out there for you.
Here are a few:
Google Campaign URL Builder
Google Auto-Tagging – Nifty feature. Manually turn it on from the tracking tab in your Google Analytics account.
A spreadsheet UTM generator
Yes we know you have questions.
No. It will not improve nor degrade your website’s rankings. Google and Bing know that we all use UTM parameters for tracking and ignore them when crawling websites.
Start by entering your tagged URL into your browser and seeing what happens. If those UTM parameters remain at the end of the URL, your information is probably being tracked. Another thing you can do is check the “Real-time -> Traffic Sources” report in Google Analytics to see if the test values you passed are correctly being picked up and reported with the right information.
- The most common reason is tagging campaigns with a redirecting URL and not the final destination URL. If you have server or 301/302 redirects, you’ll need to modify your server settings to pass all the tracking parameters. You might want to ask your web developer for help.
- Another possibility is that you left out a mandatory utm_source parameter. Be sure to add utm_source to your URL.
- Whoops…you don’t have a Google Analytics tracking code installed on the website. We won’t tell anyone #nothinghappened
By tagging internal links you overwrite the original referrer.
For example, say you get a visitor on your website from a Facebook link; Google Analytics will start a session and attribute it to Facebook. Now this user clicks on a banner you tagged on your homepage, Google Analytics will start a new session and attribute the traffic to your internal campaign. Consequently, you’re expanding your session count and screwing up a bunch more metrics.
To shorten things up, just don’t. UTM parameters are for external links only!
Yep. There are quite a few options:
- Use some GTM tricks to hide UTM parameters while still tracking traffic with Google Analytics. Use a feature in Google Tag Manager called the Lookup Table. Neat stuff!
- You can also use URL shorteners like bit.ly and goo.gl to hide tags.
Hide those ugly UTM’s and create the neatest, cleanest (Custom!) URL’s that don’t compromise on your tracking capabilities. Not many people know this so shhhh..
Create a Variable on Google Tag Manager.
Variable type – URL.
Component type - Fragment.
Step 2: Create separate variables for each UTM you want to track.
Create a trigger.
Trigger type – Pageview
Trigger fires on – Some pageviews (assuming you don’t want to track all page views)
Create a GTM tag.
Tag type – Universal Analytics
Track type – Pageview
Set your Google Analytics settings to “GA Tracking ID” for the specific GA property you want to track.
Click “more settings”, click on “Fields to Set” and select the variables you set in step 2.
Set the trigger to “Pageview” on the page you want to track (the trigger you created in step 3)
Using UTM parameters properly in your campaigns will give you a huge advantage in tracking their success. In conjunction with a proper analytics foundation to track conversions, UTM’s become extremely powerful. Often though, UTM parameters tend to be underrated, and adding them to every campaign seems tedious.
However, failing to do so is a huge mistake. While UTM’s may seem minorly important campaign add-ons, they be the difference between understanding and not understanding what worked, failed and why.