why-use-utm-tags

Let’s start at the beginning. Why are UTM tags such a big deal?

As I prospect new customers and interview marketers who are actively managing digital marketing campaigns, the conversations typically start out with this question:

Do you use UTM tags?

The response to this question steers the next series of questions I ask.

Response A: Yes.

If the marketer is using UTM tags in their campaign links, they immediately understand why oogur exists. To date, each marketer I’ve encountered is using a spreadsheet to manage all the campaign links and UTMs they have built. They know that the process is a pain to keep up with – especially if they are managing multiple clients.

Response B: No.

If the marketer is not yet using UTM tags, the opportunity to educate the marketer presents itself. Often times, a marketer has heard of UTMs, but they either aren’t really sure of how to use them, they feel that the process is too time consuming, or they just haven’t seen the value to convince them to take the time to add UTMs to their campaign building and tracking process.

Which one are you?

This post will be most useful to those that are not currently using UTM tags or are just beginning to use them.

First, remember this: You cannot manage what you do not measure.

What is a UTM tag?

UTM is an acronym for Urchin Tracking Module. Urchin was the name of the software company that Google acquired back in 2005. Their software was the basis of Google Analytics. It seems like it should be GTM rather than UTM, right? I digress…

UTM tags are additional lines of text that are appended to the end of a URL that tells Google Analytics more about your website visitors. I’ll explain more throughout the article.

Take notice

As you are visiting web pages, take a look in the address bar of your browser over the next few days. You’ll begin to notice additional characters in the query string of the URL you’ve clicked on. For example, if you’ve been scrolling through Twitter and you click on an article of interest, you’ll probably see something like this at the end of the URL:

/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=sa-editorial-social&utm_content=link-post&utm_term=sustainability_blog_text_free&sf187410215=1 (this came from this article from @sciam on Twitter)

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Why you should use UTMs

Before we begin telling you what each UTM means, it is important that you understand why you are using them.

  • Are you using Google Analytics?
    • When you look at your data, have you noticed that you see a lot of “Direct Traffic” showing up?
    • Does that seem odd to you?
    • Direct Traffic appears for a few reasons:
      • Someone has typed your website’s URL directly into the browser address bar.
      • Someone has clicked on a link to your website from an application like Slack or another IM client.
      • A user has clicked on your link from some other source that Google just doesn’t recognize as a referrer so it drops it into a bucket called “Direct Traffic”.
  • Would you like to provide better reports to your team about how your marketing campaigns are performing?
  • Are you hoping to run marketing experiments and want to ensure that the winning segment is tracked and fully engaged?
  • Is your client or management requesting detailed information on how their budget is being spent?

Using UTM parameters in your campaign links will help you with all of these requests.

Let’s break it down – What each UTM means to you

Source – a.k.a. utm_source (aside from the base URL, this is the only required UTM field)

When properly used, the source field is used to identify the source of the referring traffic. Using the example of the query string shared above, the utm_source is Twitter. That just tells the Google Analytics data analyst that the user session came from Twitter. When adding UTM tags, this one is a required field.

Medium – a.k.a. utm_medium (not a required field)

The utm_medium is the field you’ll use to identify a bucket of sources. As an example – if you are building links for a campaign that you’ll share on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, these are all types of social traffic. You’ll need to decide whether you’ll use “social” as your medium or if you want to call it “social media” or however your team refers to these types of sites in your organization.

Campaign Name – a.k.a. utm_campaign (not a required field)

It feels slightly out of order, but the utm_campaign is the third UTM in the order of the link building form. You’ll undoubtedly be creating your links to support a current marketing campaign. Before you begin building your links, decide what you’ll name the campaign. It can align with what you’ve named the campaign in Salesforce or another marketing and sales tracking platform. This will be the displayed in Google Analytics as the campaign name.

Ask yourself: Is the campaign going to be centered around a certain product? Is it for a seasonal sale that you’re going to promote on social? Whatever it is, just be sure that you are naming it something easy to recognize.

Campaign Term – a.k.a. utm_term (not a required field – only use if you are creating the link for a paid AdWords campaign)

For organic or unpaid campaigns, you’ll not need to use this field. If you are creating links to share in your AdWords campaign, you’ll add the paid keyword(s) to the utm_term field.

Campaign Content – a.k.a. utm_content (not required – great for A/B and multivariate tests)

When you are creating links, you’ll often times be publishing content that has different graphics or locations representing your CTA. If you are going to be creating a link to share your blog post that you plan to add simply as a hyperlinked line of text in your email signature, you can name that here as “email signature text link”. Maybe you want to create unique graphics that will be shared in different geographic locations. You could create a graphic specific to Indiana and add “indiana” as your utm_content parameter and the other link will represent “illinois”. See the flexibility?

UTM Tag Housekeeping

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Consistency is key. Over time, the results you will see will be much clearer if you stay the course: 

If you decide to use “social” to represent your social media traffic, please always use “social” as your utm_source.

As a best practice, use all lowercase letters in your UTMs

It may feel odd to you at first, but it just takes one link to drive you crazy when analyzing your campaign results in Google Analytics. If you use “facebook” for one link and “Facebook” for another, it doesn’t just create a separate line in your report, it will also jeopardize the accuracy of your attribution reporting. Why does that matter? The ultimate goal is to see the ROI on your campaigns. If the data is skewed, the reporting will be difficult to accurately track.

As tempting as it may be, do not tag content internally on your website. 

UTM tags should only be used in links that you are building to share on sites that are not your domain. If you use them to link internal traffic, you are overwriting the REAL source of traffic to your website. This completely defeats the goal of tracking in the first place.

Tools to use

In your searches for UTM tags, you will likely see a lot of URL builders that have been built for you to use. Google also has their free builder.  These tools are all easy to use, but where they fall short is the management and memory of the links you build which also leaves room for consistency to fail.

You’ll see a lot of blog posts recommending that you use a spreadsheet to either build the links and/or keep track of all the UTMs you’ve used. I’m not a fan of using spreadsheets for marketing campaign tracking. That’s why I started oogur.

Oogur isn’t just a link builder and shortener, but it also retains the memory of all the URLs you’ve built and the UTMs you’ve used. You don’t have to have several tabs open to complete your link building process. Oogur handles it all for you.

After you’ve had the chance to see the inefficiency in maintaining a spreadsheet to keep up with all the marketing campaign links, you’ll see why we decided to have this link builder and UTM tracking application built.

Sign up for an account! If you have questions, feel free to Tweet us @oogurit or drop us a question in the contact form.

Don’t just build it – oogur it!

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