UTM Parameters – Your 2019 Guide To Success


The beauty of any digital marketing campaign is the ability to track every user action, right?

The truth is, a digital campaign is only as trackable as the data available to measure its success.

Take your digital marketing campaign’s into account, do you know which medium is generating the most amount of traffic and more importantly conversions for your business?

Yes, the basic Google Analytics (GA) grouping and reports allow you to monitor the various referral sources. Have you ever noticed that those stock groupings don’t always seem to batch the sources you’d expect them to? 

That’s where you can take control of your analytics before a user even visits your site with UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters. Fun fact for all the history buffs out there, Urchin refers to the predecessor Google Analytics, Urchin, which was purchased by Google in 2005 and came off of the marked int 2012.

Tagging your URLs with UTMS, allows you to get a better understanding of how visitors interact with your website by overwriting the standard data collected by GA.

This is how UTMs would appear when attached to a UTL:

To the average person, this added text on the end of the URL would probably mean nothing. 

**Pro-Warning**

Once you add a UTM parameter to a URL, it will be permanently attached to the link regardless if you share it on another source or medium.

An example of this would be if you added a UTM parameter to URL that you share on Twitter and then later shared that same URL on Facebook. All of the activity on that link would be attributed to Twitter because the UTM will not dynamically adjust. 

This can be somewhat problematic when you’re sharing content across different social media platforms. Not only do you need to make the manual adjustments to your UTMs, but if you’re creating valuable content that people are excited to share, then your UTM will remain stuck to the URLs people are sharing across their favorite social media platforms unless they’re scrubbed first. 

There are some URL cleaning solutions that make stripping the UTM codes at the end of a URL an automatic process. However, this can also lead to some issues if the cleaned URL is shared on a closed network like email, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger. 

This is a problem referred to dark social traffic, which is essentially the untrackable traffic that is being driven to your site. 

Don’t get discouraged just yet, although UTMs are not the infallible solution you may have hoped for, they will help create clarity around the performance of your content to make informed marketing decisions.

Custom URL Campaign Generator (UTM Best Practices)

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a standard tool to create a URLwith UTM parameters?

I introduce you to Google’s URL builder.

This is a Google Analytics developer tool that uses a templated form to foolproof creating your UTM tracking codes.

Here are the 5 form fields that you need to complete:

  • Campaign Source – The platform (or vendor) where the traffic originates(i.e. Facebook, Twitter, email newsletter, or a referring website)
  • Campaign Medium – You can use this to identify the medium like Cost Per Click (CPC), social media, affiliate or QR code. The default channel groups in your Google Analytics account are defined by google here. We like to add a medium for things like Paid Social Media to break out and track that traffic separately. 
  • Campaign Term – You’ll use this mainly for tracking your keywords during a paid AdWords campaign. This is also a good place to identify specific targeting from your display and other ecpm campaigns.
  • Campaign Content – This is a great place to define variations of your ad when running an A/B test. This is also a good way to segment links from different sources pointing to the same name. 
  • Campaign Name – This will group all of your data by campaigns, which you have defined.

UTM Parameters Best Practices

Here are 3 best practices that you must follow for tagging your URLs. It will help in easy identification of your traffic.

1. Create a naming convention for your UTMs

Staying consistent when naming your campaigns will relive a lot of confusion when developing your UTM strategy.

Pro-Tip: Use dashes instead of spaces or other symbols. The reason for this is because it will protect you against any potential penalties. 

Second, stay consistent with lowercase throughout all of your campaigns (i.e. utm_source=LinkedIn is different from utm_source=linkedin)

Analytics tools will group your data differently based on capitalizations. In order to avoid any potential mistakes or typos, it makes it much simpler to use lowercase throughout.

Third, keep your URLs clean, descriptive, non-redundant and easy to read.

Pro-Tip: After creating your data-rich URLs, using a tool like bit.ly or Google Link Shortener will help improve user experience. Remember, UTM parameters are visible to end-users in their address barm, so don’t include any information you don’t want them to see.

2. Track your UTM links inside a spreadsheet

Keeping a record of the tagged links will ensure that your marketing team stays on the same page. Here’s the UTM parameter spreadsheet our advertising agency uses to track UTMparameters for our clients.

3. Do more with your UTM system

Traffic is great, but more importantly, to any business is revenue and ROI.

After you get ahold of the UTM systems that work for your business, think about ways to connect your data with your businesses CRM. This allows you to get a clear picture of how your various marketing channels are contributing to your overall ROI. 

3 ways you can implement UTM Parameters to your Digital Marketing Strategy

1. Insert UTM parameters on every link you share on social media.

UTMs can help you analyze your social media referral traffic and identify your top-performing platform.

Consider this with Twitter, there are 4 places for you to add trackable links – a regular tweet, a  promoted tweet, the website field, and the profile/bio description.

With the exception of a profile link, which is excluded because it only shows the hostname, you can add tracking elements to provide attribution to each of these links clicks separately.

Especially for organic tweets, you should shorten your links, using one of the shorteners we talked about earlier. This will save you some of those precious 280 characters.

2. Track clicks in your Email Newsletters

Email is still an incredibly powerful tool to use in your omnichannel marketing approach.

By appending UTMs to your URLs, you can measure how each element of your newsletter is contributing to your website’s traffic.

If you’re a larger sales company, you can add UTM parameters to the links of each of your sales executives email footer to measure the impact of their 1:1 sales efforts on the company’s overall web traffic.

3. Use UTMs to Track the Performance of Your Display Advertising

Whether it’s Facebook Ads or a retargeting display campaign, you can track the effectiveness of your ad variations via UTM parameters. More than just changing the call to action in an ad, you can tag each URL with the dimensions of the ad to identify which ad format drives the best traffic to your site.

Take Control With Your Campaign Parameters

If you haven’t implemented UTM parameters as a way to generate actionable insights about your traffic, you are missing a treasure trove of information about your audience. Once you have implemented UTMs as a part of your marketing strategy, you can begin to identify top performers and refine your marketing efforts to generate maximum ROI.

Author: anthony taylor

Anthony is the leader of the Mean Joe Advertising digital marketing department. Outside of work, he is a passionate sports fan and athlete.