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A Simple Guide to UTM Variables


Being able to measure and analyze where your traffic is coming from is a critical part function of online marketing. If you don’t know which campaign or link is converting your visitors into customers, then you won’t know where to focus your marketing efforts.

By correctly tracking your traffic, you can understand where your users come from and what action drives the visits. You can even test the effectiveness of different Call to Actions or which newsletter was the most effective in driving sales.

So how do we do this?

Fortunately for us, we have UTM variables.

 

 

What are UTM variables?

A company called Urchin Software Corporation that was acquired by Google developed UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) tags or parameters. This software has become what we today know as Google Analytics.

Simply put, a UTM variable is something you add to the end of your link, which gives Google Analytics information about where your traffic is coming from. You can view this in Google Analytics by going to:

  • Acquisition > All Traffic > Source Medium

  • Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns

How do UTM variables work?

UTM variables are generally comprised of four elements:

  • Source – this parameter is used to describe where your traffic is coming from. For example, you would use “twitter” or “facebook” if you placed your link on Twitter or Facebook. You could use other tags like “newsletter” or “google” for non-social links. Example: utm_source=facebook

  • Medium – the medium parameter is used to describe the marketing method from where the traffic originates. You will want to use “social” for any social media traffic. Other examples for non-social mediums are “email” or “blog”. Example: utm_medium=social

  • Content – this is an optional parameter that is used to differentiate different ads. For example, if you’re running a Facebook ad campaign with different copy, you can use the content UTM parameter to track which one is more effective. Example: utm_content=promo2

  • Campaign – the campaign parameter can be used for different promotions and different advertising campaigns. There’s a lot of flexibility here. Example: utm_campaign=fall2016launch

The key to having accurate analytics is keeping your UTM parameters consistent. You wouldn’t want to change “social” to “social media” because it would distort the data in analytics. Additionally, it’s recommended to use all lowercase and use dashes instead of underscores.
An example of a URL with a UTM code:

 

How do you create UTM links?

Luckily, Google has created a URL builder tool that lets you easily create links with UTM tags. Simply go to the Campaign URL Builder and add in the website URL. There’s also this cool Google Sheet (created by EpikOne) that lets you organize and create hundreds of links quickly. You can also download this handy PDF guide that you can save and view at any time.

Example of a UTM link using the Google Campaign URL Builder:

 

Author Bio:


Prateek Agarwal is a digital marketing strategist who specializes in content marketing. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or his personal website.


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