UTM Codes: The Basics
When you have multiple channels funneling web traffic to your website, UTM Codes let you control with precision how that web traffic is represented in Google Analytics. Here, look how slick this is…
So an ad tagged like this:
Will appear like this in your Google Analytics:
How it works is super simple: Google Analytics is already set up to “Listen” for your tags–you do not need to do anything in Google Analytics.
Useless Fun With UTM Codes
So YOU can push any data you want through the codes…literally anything, so for example, if you wanted to toy with your co-workers:
Will appear in your Google Analytics like so:
When Are UTM Codes Useful?
- They are an absolute must for Email campaigns. If you don’t tag links in your email newsletter, any clicks from the newsletter will report the “Source/Medium” as a mess of dozens of separate sources like “gmail”, “not set”, “search.mail.com”. This will happen because technically, the mail service is the referral source. The UTM Codes are the way to override this behavior.
- You can also tag ads in obscure 3rd party networks.
- You can UTM tag ads from social media campaigns. Facebook ads, for example, will appear correctly in Google Analytics as the source “fb”, but no campaign name, no ad name will populate, unless you tag each ad with a UTM Code.
- If you are running a social campaign through an agency and they are not tagging your ads, you should not use that agency, you should use Austin-based digital marketing and SEO agency, TastyPlacement.
Let’s Dive in and Tag Our Links w/ UTM Codes
Before we start, here are a few key parts to remember:
- Everything MUST be lowercase. Information that is passed to Google Analytics is case-sensitive so November-2019 and november-2019 will appear as different campaigns in Analytics.
- We recommend only using dashes or underscores in tag names. No spaces, commas, periods, etc.
- Most importantly, keep an organized naming convention!
This will save you the headache and mistake of having duplicate data in Google Analytics.
Example: Black Friday Sale Promotion
One of our e-commerce clients, Neurobiologix, sends monthly newsletters to their client base announcing promotions and deals they offer. In today’s example, we’re going to be sending out a newsletter promoting a Black Friday Sale.
Let’s go to Google’s Campaign URL Builder and fill out all of the appropriate fields. It will look like this:
Now, let’s break down the image above.
Website URL – Place the full URL of the page you are sending users to on your site.
Campaign Source – This is literally the “source” of website traffic. Is it a newsletter? Is it an ad? For social ad campaigns, this will be the web property that generates the traffic: fb, pinterest, etc. Keep in mind that you may already have organic traffic from, say, pinterest in your analytics. You want to use the same spelling, down to the capitalization so when you do a “Source” analysis, you want have Pinterest as one source and pinterest.com as another source. Just go look in your analytics account to be sure.
Campaign Medium – The medium is a well-defined channel in Google Analytics. These really are classes from which you should not stray:
- cpc for paid ads
- organic for organic traffic
- referral for referral type traffic
- email for referrals from email newsletters
- direct for direct visits, but never use that in a UTM tag because by definition it means the source is largely unknown
Campaign Name – This is how you decide how you want to organize the data that comes in. Here at TastyPlacement, we like to analyze the data by month, but you can also do it by quarter, season sale, etc. This is wide open, it’s up to you. “summer_promotion”, “march_2019_newsletter”, that sort of thing.
Campaign Term – This is the keyword you are using to identify your ad. We often leave this one blank.
Campaign Content – Now this part is optional. Use this field if you want to further filter out traffic for a specific occasion. In this example, Neurobiologix has already sent out a November newsletter early in the month. So in order to be able to distinguish the data between the first November newsletter and this Black Friday Sale promotion, we are going to use the Campaign Content field to track the data for this specific holiday newsletter with “black-friday-sale-2018”.
After filling out all the fields above, a link is automatically generated for you:
And that’s it! You are now ready to use this link to share with your users and be able to track where your campaigns are coming from.
Avoid Polluting Your Google Analytics Data w/ UTM Codes
UTM Codes appear permanently in your Google Analytics data–at least in that view. Remember that “matthew_smells” joke we did before? I could look that up in 20 years, and it will still be there.
If you are using these links in a monthly newsletter or ad campaign, make sure to replace the tagged URLs with the most current Campaign Name (aka time frame you want to track) in order to keep track of any conversions coming in during this period.
Tagged URLs can be reused through the same month unless the landing pages change in the newsletter
If you are tracking monthly traffic, the URLs must be changed each month in order to keep track of any conversions coming from the newsletters during this period.
Estibaliz Sanchez is a search analyst and film enthusiast. She has produced, written, and directed several short works and enjoys subjecting people to cringey dad-jokes.