In this guide to Google Analytics UTM Tracking, you will learn what UTM codes are, how to use them for marketing, and how to build them in Google Analytics.
If you’ve been following our series on Google Analytics, then you already know that Google provides an enormous amount of data that you can use to measure your website’s performance and help improve your online marketing decisions.
By default, Google will differentiate traffic to your website by different social networks and referring sites. This means that you can quickly see how much of your incoming web traffic is being delivered from Facebook, Twitter, or other websites.
But what if you wanted to be more granular? What if you wanted to run a marketing campaign for your site? If you launched a new Facebook campaign you might see an increase in Facebook-sourced traffic on your Google Analytics reports, but how would you know which percentage of that increase was from the marketing campaign and what was simply driven from Facebook organically?
Related Post: Essential Google Analytics Reports for Marketers
Introducing your new best friend, UTM tracking.
A UTM tag gets its name from “Urchin Traffic Monitor”, a website analytics software that was purchased by Google in 2005 and became the basis of the Google Analytics platform that we know and love today.
That’s great, but what does a UTM tag do?
When you properly set up a UTM tag, you can receive valuable data through Google Analytics such as how much traffic your campaign generated, the total number of conversions and much more!
A UTM tag is a piece of tracking code that is added to a URL on your website. At its most basic, it looks something like this:
HYPERLINK “https://yourwebsite.com/your-post-title/?utm_source=google” https://yourwebsite.com/your-post-title/?utm_source=google
In practical use, though, you have a maximum of five parameters to add to the tracked URL. The more parameters you use, the more exact your tracking can be.
To create a UTM tag, use Google’s Campaign URL Builder:
You’ll notice that there are only 2 required fields. Remember, the more fields you use, the more accurately you can track your campaigns.
Website URL – This is the destination address where a user ends up after clicking the link. It might be the homepage of your website (HYPERLINK “https://www.myawesomesite.com”HYPERLINK “https://www.myawesomesite.com/newoffer”www.myawesomesite.com/newoffer).
Campaign Source – This is an individual site that originated the click. If someone sees your ad on Facebook and clicks it, then the source IS Facebook. Think of the source as to where your ad is posted to the masses.
Campaign Medium – Think of the medium as a channel. If Facebook is the source of the traffic, what exactly is it on Facebook that the user sees to make them click? Is it a banner? Is it a paid link?
Campaign Name – This is the name of the specific campaign that you are running. You should use a name that makes sense to you and is easily distinguishable from your other campaigns. Christmas2023 would be readily identifiable from other campaigns, even other Christmas ones.
Campaign Term – If you want to track specific paid keywords, you would place those keywords here. This is not as relevant as it used to be, because Google Adwords has its own tracking and integrates with Google Analytics.
Campaign Content – This field could be used if you had more than one link in the same campaign and wanted to differentiate between them. You might have 2 links in an email and want to see which is more effective. This level of detail might be more granular than most people need, but it’s there if required.
Let’s say that we are creating a marketing campaign for our new client, The Dishwasher Dude. One aspect of this campaign includes embedding an advertisement within their monthly newsletter. We also plan to use Facebook ads, and Instagram stories as part of our campaign. Because we want to be able to compare how effective each of these channels is, we need to differentiate incoming traffic based on the source.
If we look at the UTM link created for the newsletter, we can see that the source is a newsletter, and the medium is email.
The UTM link that is created is going to be:
When we create the UTM link for our Facebook campaign, we change the source to Facebook and the medium to banner.
The UTM link that is created will look like this:
When it comes to naming conventions, there is really only one rule that must be enforced: consistency is key. These fields are generally open for interpretation. While someone might think that banner is the best choice for the medium field in a Facebook campaign, someone else might want to use social, as it is all-encompassing of social media. Neither is wrong, but interpreting your data begins to get more complicated if you have different naming conventions for the same thing. To make matters worse, UTM tags are case-sensitive, so banner and Banner will report differently. To avoid confusion, it’s best to create a UTM tagging spreadsheet detailing your naming conventions and stick with it.
Lastly, it’s obvious that the UTM tagged URLs quickly become unwieldy due to their length and seemingly random characters between parameters. Because of this, you will probably want to consider using a URL shortening such as bit.ly. (Google shut down their link shortening serviceGoo.gl in March)
Google Analytics is a fantastic free service provided by Google to help make sense of the web traffic coming to your site, but with a little fine-tuning, you can make it even better. Properly implementing UTM tags is only one of the ways you can improve your Google Analytics reports and give some much-needed clarity to your business’ online performance.
Interested in learning more about Google Analytics UTM tracking and how it can help you increase your business online presence? Learn more about my 1-on-1 Digital Marketing Coaching