Using UTM tags to improve your online marketing campaigns

One of the things that differentiates online marketing with traditional marketing is the ability for measurement, especially when using UTM tags. In this blog post, we’ll learn a bit more on how we can start tracking (to measure) our other online marketing activities and campaigns. 

Here is an example.

Let’s say you have run a Facebook Page that supports your blog or online marketing business. You use it frequently to post and share latest content on your blog to drive traffic back to your website.

Alongside these organic (unpaid) social media posts, you also invest a few spondoolies (money) on paid Facebook ads. Your organic posts are performing great, but you’d like to compare them with your paid ads to determine your future social media strategy.

How do you start differentiating one organic post to another paid ad? 

This is where UTM tracking comes into play.

One of the things that I constantly encourage people to do is to track their online marketing activities using UTM tags. Applying a UTM tag to links can help show you where your website traffic is coming from, and which creative or graphic worked best (or worst) in more detail. 

Having information or data like this can be valuable in several ways. It helps:

  • Inform which content is and isn’t working well 
  • Highlight the channels that are working best for your business
  • Group your online marketing activities into an umbrella campaign in Google Analytics
  • Saving you time when you are delving deeper into reporting and analysis

After this post, you will:

  • Have an understanding of what UTM tags are
  • Know how to create UTM tags
  • Learn best practices on how to structure your UTM tags

Ready? Let’s get started.

How to use UTM tags
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What are UTM tags?

So what on earth are UTM tags? UTM tags are effectively a series of coded tags added on to your website addresses or URLs. In its entirety, they are referred to as UTM parameters. 

Geek fact: UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. Why Urchin? It comes from the original web analytics company Google acquired more than a decade ago, Urchin Software Company.

Adding these tags to your URL effectively tags your website address thereby allowing you to track them. Creating and employing UTM tracking links correctly and religiously will let you eventually determine:

  • How well your social media strategies or email campaigns are running
  • Which social channels are working best (or worst) to grow your blog traffic
  • If there is any specific type of post that is working better (also known as A/B testing)

Don’t worry, while these tags are codes, there is no need for you to have any prior coding knowledge. I’ll show you later on how to generate these codes in a super simple way.

So what do these UTM tracking links look like?

Just like the example below.

http://www.yourwebsite.com/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=email-incentives&utm_content=ebook-1 

Breaking it down: Understanding UTM tags 

There are 3 main parts that make up the UTM parameters:

  • Source
  • Medium
  • Campaign

The source, medium and campaign tags form the minimum parameters (or information) required to make a tagging link.

These pieces of information are crucial for you to identify and make sense of where your traffic is coming from (source), which form (medium) it was in, and what activity group it belongs to (campaign).

For better results on measuring your blog promotions or digital marketing campaigns, you can even add optional tags, known as the content tags.

Adding content tags to your UTM tracking links allows you to differentiate the various versions or types of promotions you’re running.

A UTM tracking link with the optional content tag would look like this:

http://www.yourwebsite.com/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=email-incentives&utm_content=ebook-1

See how there’s an extra utm_content tag at the end of it?

That indicates that the above UTM tracking link will track the additional component you have defined, which is content.

Testing what works better using UTM tracking links

As an example, let’s say you want to test to see which type of Pinterest image attracts more click-throughs and conversions on your website.

To do this, you create 2 different versions of pins for Pinterest.

Then you schedule these 2 pins on a Pinterest automater (like TailWind) and then give each of the pins a different tracking link.

It would probably look like this: 

  • Version 1 > Links to:
    http://www.yourwebsite.com/?utm_source=pinterest.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=lead-magnets&utm_content=ebook-v1

Now you have 2 tracking links out there in the world. Whenever either of these links get clicked, this information will be sent to Google Analytics allowing you to analyse which version of Pinterest pins got the best click-throughs.

From this knowledge you are then able to create similar looking pins for Pinterest in the future.

Cool, right?

Creating Your UTM Tracking Links

So how do you start creating these UTM tracking links? Adding these UTM parameters to your URL is super easy. Which means you do not need to remember how to write them.

Using Google’s Campaign URL Builder

The first method is to use Google’s Campaign URL Builder. This service is free and easy to use. Here’s how:

Let’s say you want to create a tracking URL in a Facebook organic post (unpaid) promoting your latest lead magnet.

Example of Google's Campaign URL Builder
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  1. Head over to Google’s Campaign URL Builder
  2. Type in the destination URL – the web page where you want your customers to land on – into the Website URL field. For this example, I’ve used https://demo.michellechee.com
  3. Enter in the Campaign Source. For this example, I’ve used facebook.com
  4. Enter in the Campaign Medium. For this example, I’ve used referral.
  5. Enter in the Campaign Name. For this example, I’ve used spring-2021.
  6. Enter in the Campaign Content (a description to identify the version or content). For this example, I’ve used welcome-new-subscribers-v1
  7. Scroll down the page to find the section ‘Share the generated campaign URL’. The Campaign URL Builder will automatically generate the following result:

Example of UTM tagged URL
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  1. Copy the URL and use that URL for your Facebook post.

That’s it!

Maintaining consistency for your UTM tracking links

It’s really important to be as consistent as possible when generating these UTM tracking links.

What do I mean by consistency?

Remember to keep track of the parameters you’ve used. 

This is because UTM tags are case-sensitive. If you use facebook in one tracking link and Facebook in another, it will be tracked by Google Analytics as 2 different sources.

This is especially important for the campaign names.

Should you have one campaign name as Spring and another as spring (both being the same campaigns) you’d have to look in two separate areas for the same campaign, meaning a few extra clicks and calculations. 

For ease, you can use a simple spreadsheet to help you generate UTM tracking links. This spreadsheet can also serve as a library to store all the links you’ve created.

The spreadsheet also has a simple function to build the UTM tracking link – so all you need to do is simply fill in the blanks, then copy + paste the tagged URL into a URL shortener and away it goes.

Get your UTM tagging spreadsheet here

Best practices on how to structure your UTM tags

Over the years of using UTM tags and Google Analytics, I’ve learnt the cleanest way to manage the reporting side is to ensure my tag naming techniques match Google Analytics’ default grouping. ‘

By doing so I’m able to have a tidy report and don’t end up confusing myself.

You see, the source tag gets categorised in a certain way, especially for social media networks – facebook.com, twitter.com, linkedin.com, pinterest.com. Then, it categorizes the medium as either referral, organic or cpc. 

To determine if our blog traffic is growing organically or due to active paid promotion, it is important to differentiate them.

Specifically for social network traffic, google analytics labels any traffic coming from social networks as referral traffic. 

Now, we can choose to leave it as is but when looking to dive deeper into the data, it would be difficult to identify which traffic was a result of paid promotion versus organic growth.

For the purpose of maintaining consistency, I’ve developed a drop down list (which I add to) in my tracking spreadsheet that I can choose from when creating a UTM tracking link.

Basically, here’s what I do:

  • Label source as the domain, ie. facebook.com or pinterest.com 
  • Label medium as social for any active promotions

Get your UTM tagging spreadsheet here

Checking Your Tracking Links Performance

Once you have set up your UTM tracking links and set them out in the big world of the internet, you check on how it’s doing by going into Google Analytics > Acquisition.

You can find the report under Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns.

Remember the campaign parameter you would have created when creating a UTM tracking link?

Highlighted below.

http://www.yourwebsite.com/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=email-incentives&utm_content=ebook-1

This is the campaign name that will show up. This reporting page will display an overview of all your campaigns that you have created tracking links for.

Some examples of useful UTM tagging

Now that you know how UTM parameters work and how to create them, where would you use them? Here are some specific ideas you could start with:

Email Signature

If you have a custom email signature on your uh, email then this the perfect place to put it. Create a UTM tracking link, and use that as the hyperlink.

Social Media Profiles

Add a UTM tracking link to your personal or business social media profiles. Doing this will also give you an idea which social media profile works harder to as a traffic driver.

Social Media Posts (Paid or Organic)

Do you use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram a lot for your blog? Create a UTM tracking link for each of the posts! Remember, you can always use a URL shortener like bit.ly or goo.gl to reduce the lengthy UTM tracking links.

Email Campaigns

Most email marketing software like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor already offer a Google Analytics integration. Getting them set up is very easy and usually takes about 5 minutes (no coding required!). 

Content Upgrades/ Lead magnets

Does your blog offer ebooks, downloadable PDFs or printable as content upgrades? This is the perfect place to place a UTM tracking link! By using UTM tracking links, you’re able to determine which product of yours are performing to send traffic back to your website.

Don’t miss it: Get your UTM tagging spreadsheet here!

How to use UTM tags
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Hi, I'm Michelle

Hi, I'm Michelle

I’m a former corporate suit wearer turned creator and entrepreneur. I traded suits for smiles in 2020, and now help small business owners, and everyday people with a dream achieve success online. Sign up to my mailing list to receive unlimited access to my resource library. Also, let’s be friends 🙂

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