Best Practices for UTM Parameters

UTM Parameters

One of the more beautiful aspects of a marketing campaign in today’s digital age is the ability to track where your website traffic is coming from. Thinking back to the golden age of advertising, where typical 1950s and 60s marketing campaigns targeted a wide array of audiences, marketers could generally determine where attention was coming from, but not at the granular level.

Fast forward to today, and digital marketing can track and measure clicks, time on site, and revenue associated with specific campaigns. Also, analysis allows for identifying activity from specific channels. The result is the ability to make smarter marketing decisions.

This is where UTM parameters come in. UTM, or Urchin Tracking Module, parameters are small components of code that can be connected to a URL, allowing marketers to track the effectiveness of their online campaigns. This comes in handy when implementing a Google Adwords campaign or any social media campaign.

Tracking using UTM parameters goes beyond simply targeting which channels provide what traffic and allows Google Analytics to know exactly what a prospect clicked that resulted in them visiting your site. It’s these tagged links that provide great information.

Using UTM parameters takes a little practice, but once you understand how to incorporate them into your online campaigns, you’ll be able to increase your measurement detail, including proper ROI attribution, significantly.

What are UTMs?

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, a UTM parameter is a bit of code added to a URL. Don’t worry; incorporating UTM parameters doesn’t require familiarity with knowing how to code HTML. Rather, it’s closer to a naming convention that assigns attributes depending on where you’ll deploy the URL.

An example of incorporating a UTM parameter is as follows:

  • Take a conventional URL: https://website.com
  • Add UTM parameters to it: https://website.com? utm_campaign=blogpost&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin

The explanation of the UTM parameter example is as follows:

  • The basic URL remains the same: https://website.com
  • The “?” indicates that the remaining information is helpful data, followed by “utm”
  • The “&” illustrates the next parameter of data
  • The campaign shows that it’s a blog that appears on your website
  • The medium is social media
  • The source, the platform where the traffic originates, is LinkedIn

You can also incorporate landing pages, partner sites and other sources into your UTM campaign. 

How to generate UTMs

Generating UTMs can be a little tricky, but it can become second nature with a little practice. A great tool to use in helping develop UTM parameters is Google URL builder. In addition, the Universal Conversion Tracking Pixel available through LeadsRx enables marketers to track data related to referring sources, including UTM parameters. Google’s URL builder is a form available within the Google Analytics help center that provides help for those setting up URLs. This form includes the five areas needed when creating UTM parameters:

  • Campaign Source
  • Campaign Medium
  • Campaign Term
  • Campaign Content
  • Campaign Name

Tips on using UTMs

When creating UTM parameters, there are several things you should keep in mind. Remembering these tips will help make your creations easier, as well as more effective.

  1. Be as specific as possible. Rather than use general terms such as social media, it’s best to use specific platform names such as LinkedIn or Facebook.
  2. Maintain lowercase letters. Using lowercase letters will simplify your UTM parameter writing. Changing between upper and lowercase letters will only confuse the tracking, and you’ll end up not getting the information you need.
  3. Be consistent in your naming. When using naming conventions, it’s better to be consistent. Consistency will allow you and your team to better track campaigns far into the future if you use the same names, words, and structure.
  4. Don’t use UTM parameters when sharing URLs. Everyone prefers clean, simple URLs when information is being shared. You can use a URL shortener, such as Bitly, Rebrandly’s UTM builder, or Google Analytic’s URL builder.
  5. Tracking your UTMs. When analyzing your campaigns’ results, you can be very granular in identifying the best ROI when using UTM parameters. During a single campaign, you can easily determine which platform not only provides traffic for paying customers, you can also determine which platforms are the best referrers for new customers.

UTMs and Tips for SEO

Using UTM parameters successfully doesn’t mean you have to disregard other valuable marketing practices such as SEO. While UTM parameters are not used for SEO purposes and don’t impact them, it’s best not to append UTMs to on-site URLs, as they can create duplicate content problems when there are multiple versions of a single URL. These approaches can be used together with a few things to keep in mind.

There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to discouraging crawling URLs featuring UTM parameters. While some suggest blocking the ability to crawl altogether, perhaps a better approach is to use noindex or canonical tags. This type of tag will tell Google not to crawl the URL featuring a UTM parameter.

The use of UTM parameters is of great value to marketers when it comes to accurately tracking individual promotions at the granular level and determining the best ROI across multiple campaigns. When used properly and consistently, you can take your marketing efforts and ROI measurement practices to an entirely new level.

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