Most marketers are familiar with the famous quote by John Wanamaker, “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half!”
We might think in this age of data accessibility, with granular-level analytics available on every dollar spent, that this phrase is rarely uttered in the workplace. But, the truth is that many companies today still do not actively report and measure on the essential metrics that can fuel their marketing campaigns.
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
The good news is that there are incredibly underutilized tools at our disposal today to help optimize marketing campaigns and efficiently manage spend. One such tool is UTM tracking.
UTM tracking delivers an unparalleled level of accuracy when identifying where your traffic is coming from. When setup correctly, UTM parameters allow marketers to see whether a visitor came from a particular Facebook post, article, ad campaign, email and more. Marketers can measure attribution, A/B test content and optimize spend with UTM parameters by seeing who is engaging with your brand and from where.
So, why aren’t marketers leveraging UTM tracking every chance they get? If their experience is anything like mine, it can feel time-consuming and tedious to add UTM parameters to every link you’d like to track. But, after understanding the benefits and best practices, it began to feel like a natural addition to my content checklist.
Here’s a brief description of what UTM parameters are and how you can gain immediate value from them:
What are UTM Parameters?
Often called UTM codes, tracking or tags — UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. In 2005, Google acquired Urchin Software Corporation and rebranded to what we now know as Google Analytics (GA). A UTM code is a snippet of text appended to a URL and is recognized in GA as another dimension, similar to average time on site or number of pages viewed. This added text string allows for the tracking of a URL through different channels and tools.
To understand UTM parameters, let’s breakdown the components of a URL to see how they fit in:
There are four basic components that make up a URL: the protocol, domain, path and parameters.
*The Protocol: *Http or Https. This fundamental component of the URL shows the framework being used to transmit data between the server and the browser. URLs ending with an “s” indicate that this transferred data is secured. A semicolon and slashes define the end of a protocol as such “://”.
*The Domain or Hostname: *In the example above, www.woopra.com is the domain. This can also include a subdomain. For example, info.woopra.com or blog.woopra.com would be a subdomain of www.woopra.com.
The Path: Also referred to as the stem, this is the most important component of the URL. It tells the server where to locate the information that you’re looking for.
The Parameters: Here’s where you can have fun with UTM tracking. The query parameters are key value pairs that serve to send extra information to the server. They’re completely customizable and the server can use them for any purpose-such as tracking and identification. UTM tags are simply parameters with particular names that an analytics tool can use to determine which campaign was responsible for driving engagement.
Why are UTM Parameters Awesome?
If you spend a significant amount of time posting to social media, running AdWords campaigns or sharing content — you’re driving traffic from hundreds of different URLs a day. But, how do you know which social media posts drove the most traffic? Can you quickly see which campaigns drove the most conversions over time? Using UTM parameters, you can compare the performance of campaigns from different mediums and channels and measure it over time.
When done correctly, a UTM parameter, combined with an analytics solution like Woopra, will be able to tell you:
Where are my visitors are coming from?
How are they finding me?
What happens after they engage with my campaign?
This works by combining the elements within a UTM parameter and feeding those key variables as events to your analytics solution. So, what are these key variables? Let’s discuss!
What’s in a UTM Parameter?
There are different types of standardized UTM tags that you’ll encounter. Here are some of the most common and what they can include:
Campaign Name (utm_campaign): This is the name or theme of the campaign that the content is associated with (e.g. Beta Community, Customer News, Product Qualified Lead, Consolidated Data)
Campaign Source (utm_source): Where is this content published/referral source? (e.g. Twitter, Huffington Post, Blog, YouTube)
Campaign Medium (utm_medium): What is the marketing medium for this content? (e.g. Paid Ad, Video, Email, Social Media Post, Article)
Campaign Content (utm_content): Under the umbrella of the campaign name, here’s where you can specify the sub-category related to the specific piece of content (e.g. V12 Beta, February 2017 Customer News, Mastering PQLs, Seamless Data Integration)
Campaign Keyword/Term (utm_term): The keyword or term is strictly for search advertising purposes and is related to the keywords a user is searching for when they reach your content. Google AdWords can automatically inject identified keywords to the end of the UTM parameter, helping to identify what keywords are driving campaign clicks/conversions.
Pro Tip: Because UTM parameters are so customizable, the most important part of using them is maintaining consistency with naming conventions across the organization. Create an internal document outlining the UTM tags and definitions to help with tracking and attribution accuracy across your reporting. I love this piece by Jared Polivka that’s filled with helpful tips to get naming conventions right!
How to Write UTM Parameters in Your URL
Google Analytics has a free, quick and easy UTM campaign builder. After establishing naming conventions, you can access this tool to create UTM tags in seconds! Woopra completely supports GA’s UTM tags and has cloned them into what we call “woo” tags. They work exactly the same as UTM tags and Woopra will recognize both when pushed into the platform.
ProTip: Don’t forget — UTM tags will appear in the browser address bar so be careful not to use anything that you wouldn’t want your users to see! Also, UTM parameters are case sensitive so if you use “SearchOptimization” for one utm_campaign tag and “searchoptimization” for another — be aware that they will show up as separate campaigns within Woopra!
How Should You Use UTM Parameters?
Now that you understand what a UTM parameter is and how to write UTM parameters within a URL, it’s time to discuss when to use them and how to leverage their tracking and attribution capabilities.
In “How to Configure Campaign Tracking” we break down how Woopra categorizes the different UTM tags as event properties within the platform. These event properties will automatically begin loading into Woopra when you use the tags. You can then pull reporting to identify what users came from which campaigns and what happened next.
For example, I wanted to use UTM tags on a content syndication campaign to understand who was clicking on certain articles and what they did after. I syndicated an article with the campaign name “Data Roll Call The Quest for a Data Driven Culture.” When logging into Woopra, I navigated to Reports > Campaigns > Campaign Name. Searching by the campaign name, I was able to see that 947 people had clicked on the URL with the UTM tag I had identified.
To see what happened next, I could pull a Funnel Report to see how many people came each campaign and the actions that followed. For example, the below funnel report shows me users coming in from different campaigns, identified by the UTM campaign name, and the actions they took next.
Leveraging Woopra’s Labels, you can measure attribution using UTM tags for any campaign you’d like to run. We like to use UTM tags for:
Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn Ads
A/B Testing Landing Page Content
Because UTM parameters are so customizable, there are hundreds of ways that you can bring them into reporting to optimize marketing spend and attribution. We’d love to hear how you’ve integrated UTM parameters into your marketing!