Both UTM codes and digital marketing did not exist when John Wanamaker famously said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” more than 100 years ago.
Today, UTM codes can help solve that problem. A UTM code is a string of text that is added to the end of a URL so that marketing activity can be tracked, attributed and analysed in Google Analytics.
Most UTM codes look like this example, with up to five different parameters providing insight into where site visitors come from. In this case, traffic can be attributed to Google Ads.
As well as tracking where visitors come from, UTM codes make it possible to track how they behave. Do they download a whitepaper, request a meeting or exit the site in seconds?
What’s more, UTM codes can provide an insight into which campaigns, content, channels or messages are driving conversions. This can be very useful when managing paid media campaigns.
What Does UTM Stand For?
UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. It was invented by Urchin Software, a web analytics programme that was acquired by Google in April 2005 and ultimately became Google Analytics.
How to Create UTM Codes
There are many ways to generate UTM codes. If you’re just creating one or two, it’s easy to use Google’s free Campaign URL Builder or you can create them manually one by one by writing the text string and adding it to the end of a URL. Alternatively, many content marketing platforms now provide the functionality to create UTM codes when scheduling content to publish on social media.
If you’re creating lots of UTM codes, you can also use an Excel spreadsheet. By inputting all of the data for each parameter, you can use a formula to instantly generate all of the codes at once.
But regardless of how you choose to create your UTM codes, there are five different UTM parameters to consider, of which three are required by Google Analytics. It doesn’t matter which order you list the UTM parameters. However, there are a few things to be aware of:
- Consistency is really important. If you don’t use the same codes for all campaigns, it can make it tricky to track performance. For instance, Paid_Social and PaidSocial will appear in Google Analytics as two different mediums.
- UTM codes should not contain spaces. Instead, it is best practice to use an underscore or plus symbol. For instance, Streaming_Report or UK+Streaming+Market.
- UTM codes are case-sensitive. As above, consistency is important. If you use Google for one campaign and google for another it’s not the end of the world, but it will make tracking more complicated, as Google and google will appear in Google Analytics as two different sources.
How to Setup UTM Parameters
A UTM code is made of 3-5 parameters. Each parameter provides data about where visitors came from, so this can be tracked, attributed and analysed. These parameters include: