Utm tracking explained
Posted on: February 21, 2023
Reading Time: 8 minutes
Category: B2B marketing
UTM tracking explained
What UTM codes are, how they’re used, and how you can use them to make the most of your marketing campaigns.
To be a great marketer, it’s important to know if your activities are working. You want to do more of the good stuff, and you need the right tools to do it.
In this blog, you’ll learn about all about the magic of UTM codes and how to use them to track your marketing success.
What are UTM codes?
Urchin Tracking Modules – known as UTMs, might sound like underwater alphabet soup, but it’s actually pretty simple. A UTM is a code that can be added to the end of of URL to track clicks and performance, showing you exactly where your website traffic is coming from.
So if you made a social media post and included a link with a UTM tracking code. From that code, you’d be able to see exactly how many people came to your website from that specific platform.
What are UTM tracking codes used for?
UTM tracking codes help you understand where your visitors are coming from and which of your marketing channels are driving the most web traffic. For example, if you’re running an advertising campaign on both social media and and search engines, you can use UTM tracking codes to see which campaign is getting more people to your site.
UTM tracking code example
Here’s an example of a web link with a UTM code at the end:
Everything before the ‘?’ is the web address of the page you’re going to. The question mark is just a signal to your website analytics program that a UTM code is coming up.
After the question mark, you’ll see three different UTM codes:
- The first one, “utm_campaign,” is for the marketing campaign the website visitor clicked on – in this example, it’s a blog post campaign.
- The second one, “utm_medium,” is for the channel the visitor came from – in this case, social media.
- The third one, “utm_source,” is for the specific website the visitor came from, which in this example is LinkedIn.
UTM codes don’t change anything on the web page itself. Just think of it like a secret code that helps you understand your best-performing marketing channels.
How does UTM tracking work?
As explained above, there are different parts of a UTM code that help you pinpoint what’s working. And there are 5 ‘parameters’ when it comes to UTM tracking codes.
These parameters explain what you can track using a UTM: Campaign, Source, Medium, Content, and Term.
- Campaign: Tracks a specific campaign or promotion.
- Source: Tracks the specific website where the traffic is coming from, i.e. Facebook, Google, Instagram etc.
- Medium: Tracks the general origin of the traffic, i.e. social media, email, or paid ads.
- Content: Tracks the kind of content people clicked on, such as images, sidebar links, or menu links.
- Term: Tracks the specific terms and keywords people use to find your page.
All this information can help you make improvements to your campaigns, and assess which channels are performing best compared to others.
How to create a UTM tracking link
You don’t have to be a coding wizard to get started with UTM tracking. In fact, you can easily create your own UTM code using a URL generator.
There are three different URL generators for different kinds of links: one for websites, one for apps on the Google Play Store, and one for apps on the Apple App Store.
Follow the relevant links below to start creating yours:
- For websites: Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder
- For apps on the Google Play Store: Google Play URL Builder
- For apps on the Apple App store: iOS Campaign Tracking URL Builder
Where do you find your UTM tracking code results?
Once you’ve created your UTM codes and set them live, you can monitor their performance in Google Analytics. There are a few different reports you can look at:
View a custom report
You can create a custom report by going to “Customization” and then “Custom Reports.” You can choose to see the medium, campaign, or source, alog with the metrics you want to see.
To see website traffic, go to “Acquisition,” then “Overview,” and then “All Traffic”, then select “Source/Medium.”
To see traffic based on your custom campaign names, go to “Acquisition,” then “Campaigns,” and “All Campaigns.”
UTM best practices
Now you know how UTM codes work and how to build them, here’s a few best practice tips to help you get the most out of it.
1. Keep your names consistent
Before starting a campaign, make sure everyone on your team uses the same naming conventions for UTM parameters. Even small differences in capitalisation or spaces can split one campaign into two, creating messy analytics.
You should set these naming rules from the outset, with rules such as dash or underscore usage, or using only lowercase letters (it’s generally best to use all lowercase in UTM links).
2. Use simple names
A well-named UTM code should be descriptive and provide useful information about the source, medium, and campaign associated with the URL it’s appended to. Here’s an example of a well-named UTM code:
This code provides clear information about the source (Facebook), medium (social), campaign (spring_sale), and content (carousel_ad) associated with the URL.
On the flip side, a badly named UTM code is vague, misleading, or just doesn’t provide enough information to be useful. Here’s an example of a badly named UTM code:
This code is way too generic and doesn’t provide much information about the source or medium associated with the URL. “Ad” and “marketing” are very broad terms that could refer to any number of campaigns or sources. The campaign name is also just a number (12345), which doesn’t provide any useful information about the campaign itself.
Keeping codes consistent and organised across different campaigns is the aim of the game!
3. Keep it short
It’s important to strike a balance between being descriptive enough to track your campaigns effectively and keeping your codes concise and easy to use. Shorter UTM code are better because:
- They’re easier to read and manage, especially when you have multiple campaigns running simultaneously.
- They’re less likely to contain errors, particularly if they’re manually typed.
- They’re overall better for user experience. Long, complicated UTM codes can look messy and unprofessional in your URLs, and can put users off from clicking them.
4. Don’t use UTMs for internal links
UTM codes are used to track website traffic from outside sources like social media profiles or emails. If you try to track internal links within your website (such as how much traffic a blog post sends to a landing page), it can cause real problems with your analytics.
Using UTMs for internal links can lead to tracking errors in your analytics platform distort your data, making it difficult to differentiate between real marketing campaigns and internal activities. This can make it harder to accurately track the performance of your marketing efforts and analyse your data. So save your UTM magic for external stuff to keep your data clean and accurate.
5. Track your tracking
We know how busy a marketer’s day gets. And when you’re running a number of different campaign and activities at once, it can be struggle to keep on top of everything. You should keep a log of all your active UTM codes. That way, you can keep track of your naming conventions, review code performance, and avoid making the same links twice.
6. Act on what you learn
You’ve done a great job with your UTM codes, and now you have lots of useful information. But all of it’s for nowt if you don’t actually put your learnings into practice. Using the data from your UTM tracking codes, you can discover things like:
- Which marketing channels send the most traffic to your website
- The ROI of your ad spend
- Which webpages engage your audience the most
- Which campaigns resonate most with your audience
- Which marketing channels drive the most leads
By comparing the performance of your different channels, you can make informed decisions about where to spend your time and money.
Using UTM tracking codes in your sales outreach
Using UTM tracking in your email outreach is a great way to figure out the ROI on your campaigns, and find exactly where your leads are coming from. The Sopro portal has clever tools that go one step beyond web analytics. You can integrate UTM tracking links into your outreach, and get alerted when one of your leads is close to making a purchase, such as:
- When they’re browsing your pricing page
- If they’re repeatedly visiting your website
- When they come back to browse after being away
Your team can then do what they do best, and start a sales conversation with a customer who’s warmed and ready to buy. See if Sopro is right for your business.