What Are UTM Codes and How Do I Use Them?

As a marketer, you know that your marketing is driving traffic to your customer's websites, but do you have the data to prove it? On a customer call, can you show which exact tweets or guest posts generated leads, and which ones failed?

There is an old Peter Drucker quote – "what gets measured gets managed" – that is more applicable than ever to modern agencies. Unless you can measure the impact of your marketing, you can neither improve it nor use it as proof of your work.

This is where UTM tracking comes into play.

These special codes can be added to the end of any URL to track clicks and performance of marketing activities.

In this post, I'm going to help you understand UTM codes and show you how to use them to track your marketing performance.

What are UTM codes?

A UTM code is a snippet of simple code that you can add to the end of a URL to track the performance of campaigns and content. There are 5 variants of URL parameters you can track - source, medium, campaign, term and content. Dimensions you track via UTM codes show up in your analytics reports to give you a clearer insight into marketing performance.

UTM stands for "Urchin Traffic Monitor". This name comes from Urchin Tracker, a web analytics software that served as the base for Google Analytics.

A UTM code looks something like this:

http://yourwebsite.com/your-post-title/?utm_source=google

The part in bold starting after '?' is the UTM code. As you might have guessed, this particular code tracks who sent the traffic to the page (i.e. the source).

The UTM code itself has two components:

  • UTM Parameter - that starts with utm_. There are 5 separate parameters you can track: utm_source, utm_campaign, utm_content, utm_term (more on these below).

 
UTM_Source (overwrites Pardots default field).png
 
  • Tracking variable – a unique variable to identify the dimension being tracked (such as the name of the traffic source). This variable is preceded by the "=" sign. You can have only numbers, letters, hyphens, '+' sign and periods in the variable.

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 17.12.46.png

UTM codes can be long and complex. Take, for instance, this Inbound.org URL (from a Facebook post click):

This code tracks multiple variables, such as traffic source, traffic campaign, etc.

Adding the UTM code doesn't impact the actual page. You can very well delete the UTM code from the URL and the page would continue to load normally.

The code only serves one purpose: to help your analytics tool track the source of your visitor.

For agency marketers, this means that you can use these codes to calculate the impact of your campaigns. If you've ever struggled with marketing attribution, UTM codes will come extremely handy.

What can you track with UTM codes ?

There are five different UTM parameters. The first 3 are by far the most used parameters (Source, Medium, Campaign), but for additional insights you may also choose to track all 5. Here's exactly what you can track with each:

1. Traffic Source

The source parameter allows you to track where the traffic originated from. The parameter added to your url is utm_source. Sources you may track could be facebook, google, bing, inbound.org, or the name of an email list.

Example: &utm_source=twitter

2. Medium

The medium parameter tracks what type of traffic the visitor originated from – cpc, email, social, referral, display, etc. The parameter is utm_medium_

Example: &utm_medium=cpc

3. Campaign Name

The campaign name parameter allows you to track the performance of a specific campaign. For example, you can use the campaign parameter to differentiate traffic between different Facebook Ad campaigns or email campaigns. (See more on naming conventions below on The parameter is utm_campaign.

Example: &utm_campaign=example-campaign

4. Content

In case you have multiple links pointing to the same URL (such as an email with two CTA buttons), this code will help you track which link was clicked. The parameter is utm_content.

Example: &utm_content=navlink

5. Keyword Term

The keyword parameter allows you to track which keyword term a website visitor came from. This parameter is specifically used for paid search ads. The parameter is utm_term.

Example: **&utm_term=growth+hacking+tactics

 

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