Every online marketeer should be familiar with “UTM codes”. Actually, it’s not about knowing the term – it’s about applying it in your daily work routine. In a nutshell, it’s about making sure every online activity that you execute to drive traffic to your website is visible in the Google Analytics dashboard. No, Google doesn’t do it for you, you’re in control here. Just take a look at this screenshot from my Analytics:
In order to see (almost) every click to your website and grouped per channel as here above, you need to use UTM codes in every online campaign or channel that you’re using. What is the “code” exactly and how to use it? I’ll show some examples below however the basic principle is to add a short text to the end of your website link, no matter what page you’re on. It can be your homepage or even Contact Us page, however if you’re using it on any other external online platform or sharing it with someone, make sure you will know where traffic is coming from.
What does UTM mean exactly?
UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module and it’s named after the format that Google uses to track and provide the most accurate measurements of your unique website visitors.
For businesses looking to get a deeper understanding of their online visitor behavior, the UTM is an extremely valuable technology that combines the best of client and server side information while letting you control the data.
Do I need to install a program to use it?
The answer is no. It works as simple as just adding a snippet of code to any website link of your own. There are a few parameters that you are able to add, however three most important ones are:
What are the parameters and what do they stand for?
Campaign Source (utm_source) Required parameter.
Use utm_source to identify a search engine, newsletter name, or other source that drives traffic to your website. A source is part of something greater, i.e. a medium.
Example: utm_source=google or utm_source=facebook
Campaign Medium (utm_medium) Required.
Use utm_medium to identify a medium such as email or cost-per- click. A medium has a number of different sources.
Example: utm_medium=cpc or utm_medium=social-media
Campaign Term (utm_term) Used for paid search.
Use utm_term to note the keywords that have been used for this ad.
Campaign Content (utm_content)
Used for A/B testing and content-targeted ads. Use utm_content to differentiate ads or links that point to the same URL.
Examples: utm_content=logolink or utm_content=textlink
Campaign Name (utm_campaign)
Use utm_campaign to identify a specific product promotion or strategic marketing campaign.
Example: utm_campaign=spring_sale or utm_campaign=video-ad
source: Google Support
How does it work in practice?
Let’s use an example to illustrate what I mean. I’ve recently sent out my weekly newsletter with this article as “Editor’s Choice”.
If you’re interested to read more on this topic, click through to land on full article. The website opens up with this article and look how the URL changes:
So, you’re coming from my first newsletter whilst clicking on the main banner or the Editor’s Choice article, as I call it. I also shared this article as a Facebook post:
Click through to the website and notice how the URL changes this time:
As a reader, I might be aware of how I got to the website, however as a website owner I have no clue. I also don’t know where someone comes from, which country or city, or how long did he or she stay on my website. Go back to Google Analytics to see all of that:
If I haven’t used the UTM codes and shared the URLs “just as they are” in the newsletter and on Facebook, I would see them back in my Google Analytics HOWEVER tracked under the channel “Direct”. This means that people typed in my website URL directly to enter my website, which is not correct. Secondly, as seen above, there are big differences in the quality of traffic between newsletter and Facebook – not tracking it with UTM codes results in seeing all of the sources in one and not being able to distinguish between them.
How do I have to track my website with UTM codes?
There are several ways – one is to add them simultaneously to your URL or using online tools to help you. Typing in the entire line of UTM codes manually might cost you a lot of time and especially for beginners, sometimes mistakes.
That’s why I recommend using tools that can help you out. The first one is Google’s URL’s builder. Just fill in the utm parameters that you’d like to use and it will generate a ready link for you. I also use an extension for Chrome, so it allows me to enter the fields from a desired website directly:
You need to enable Google Analytics Campaign Tracking within Buffer and a Google URL builder appears directly in Buffer app. If you’re using Buffer already, this might be very handy:
My URL looks very long and ugly, shall I still post it?
The answer is not always. In some platforms you will be asked to paste the destination link and the link you want to display. Here, I would paste the long link (with UTM codes) as a destination link and the domain name as a link to be displayed.
For the rest, sharing a very long link doesn’t look estethically pleasing and your readers might not understand what you mean exactly by showing all that information. This is why the URL Shorteners are for. Just choose one of the shortener platforms, paste the long link, and it will generate a short link for you, e.g. I used a very short bitly link:
I’m going to write about Bitly and how to customize your short links in a separate blog post. Check those services that shorten your URL for free:
So that’s all you need to know about how to track your own website! Impress your boss by showing him stats per channel or per marketing campaign. Let me know if this post was helpful. Excited to hear what you came up with!