UTM Parameters: Best Practices for Better Campaign Tracking

UTM Parameters Best Practices for Better Campaign Tracking

Anyone who’s ever used UTM parameters knows how difficult it is to organize all of your URLs and keep track of them. It can get messy very easily. Especially if you’re running multiple campaigns. For those who haven’t use UTM parameters, even just the thought of creating one can be overwhelming. That’s why some people put off using them and have an incomplete idea of how their campaigns are performing.

In both of these cases, understanding the best practices of using UTM parameters can help you overcome the biggest challenges. It will help you organize your UTM tracking efforts and neatly sort all of your links and results. Check out the following best practices of using UTM parameters to track your digital marketing campaigns more accurately.

#1: Identify the Best Opportunities for UTM Tagging

Having a clear idea of when to use UTM parameters is one of the crucial best practices if you want to get the most out of your tracking efforts. The “referrer” data on Google Analytics gives you some idea of how people end up on your site, but it doesn’t give you the complete picture. That said, it can still provide you with all of the information you need for some of your links.

Oppertunities for UTM Tagging UTM Parameters best Practices

Image Source: Stack Exchange

 So you want to make sure you’re focusing your UTM tagging efforts on links that actually need UTM tagging. This would include your email and social campaigns, as these links sometimes don’t have the referrer information set. You should also use UTM parameters to track the performance of your offline and affiliate campaigns.

However, you should avoid using UTM parameters for your internal links and natural referrers. The Google Analytics “referrer” information is more than enough to understand how those links are performing.

You don’t need to use UTM parameters in organic search either as Google Analytics will give you a clear idea of which keywords people used to find your site.

#2: Understand the Different UTM Parameters

One of the crucial best practices of using UTM parameters is to understand all of the parameters you can set for your campaigns. This will help you understand which parameters will be relevant for which campaign and get an accurate picture of your campaign performance.

Let’s take a look at the five different UTM parameters:

  1. utm_medium – This will track which medium a visitor used to land on your site. For example, social, email, CPC, etc.
  2. utm_source – This will track the specific source of traffic and contain the exact domain name or social network that’s sending the traffic. For example, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It could also be a website or advertiser.
  3. utm_campaign – This will track the name of your marketing campaign. For example, drip _email, launch, anniversary_sale, etc.
  4. utm_content – This will track which text or call-to-action sent the traffic. For example, learn more, download now, etc.
  5. utm_term – This will track which paid search keywords sent the traffic.

You will typically use all of these UTM parameters in your campaigns, except for utm_term, which is reserved for tracking paid search campaigns.

For example, let’s say you’re running a paid search campaign with the target keywords “black boots for sale” and “women’s black boots.” You can use UTM parameters to track which of these keywords drove the most traffic and contributed to your revenue.

In other words, you’ll be able to find out which of these keywords are the most profitable and deserve more investment. The rules would be utm_term=black_boots_for_sale and utm_term=womens_black_boots.

Let’s take a closer look at an example of UTM tagging for social campaigns to understand exactly how you can use UTM parameters. Naturally, your medium is social so the rule would be utm_medium=social. While you can also use “social_media” or “social_network,” “social” is clear and concise.

You’ll be setting the utm_source value as the name of the specific social networks you’re tracking. For example, the rule for Facebook UTM tracking will be utm_source=facebook. This gives you a clear picture of which social media platforms are the most successful and profitable for your business.

There is no strict rule for utm_campaign value, but the general rule is to make it specific, concise, and readable. If you’re running a giveaway campaign for Mother’s Day, for instance, the rule would be utm_campaign=giveaway_mothers_day_2019.

You can use the utm_content parameter to test different captions and calls-to-action for your social media campaigns. Let’s say you’re going to test two different captions for your Mother’s Day giveaway campaign. The first is “win a free trip for your mother” and the second is “send your mother on a trip that she deserves.”

Here, you can either get specific and use values like “win_free_trip” and “send_mother_trip.” Or you could even use “caption1” and “caption2” to track how each of these calls to action is more compelling.

Now the URL tagged with these UTM parameters will look something like this:

abc.com/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign= giveaway_mothers_day_2019&utm_content=win_free_trip

Take a look at this tagged URL from Social Media Examiner, for example. Based on the UTM parameters used, you can understand that the site is trying to track traffic coming from Facebook for the SME Week 2019 campaign.

Different UTM Parameters UTM Parameters Best Practices

Image Source: Social Media Examine

#3: Choose the Perfect UTM Builder

Simplifying and organizing your campaign tracking workflow is essential if you want to save time without sacrificing data accuracy. That’s why using a good UTM builder is one of the best practices that will improve your campaign tracking efforts.

Of course, you may be adept at creating UTMs manually. But it’s going to take a huge chunk of your time, especially when you’re running several campaigns and have to create multiple tags. Plus, you risk tagging inconsistencies if different team members are in charge of creating tags, as they may not have the same understanding of your tagging parameters and rules.

A UTM builder will speed up the tag creation process, helping you save a lot of time while maintaining consistency in your tags. It’ll make it easier to keep track of your tagged links and record your UTM parameters as well.

UTM.io, for instance, lets you create and save UTM templates so you can maintain tagging consistency by following the same template rules. This way, there wouldn’t be any confusion even when different team members have to create tags. You just need to customize the templates by changing the values.

Perfect UTM Builder UTM Parameters best Practices

#4: Manage Your Tagged URLs to Stay Organized

As mentioned earlier, your UTM records can easily get messy, especially if you’ve been using them for a while. Keeping track of all of your UTM parameters and tagged URLs is one of the best practices to help you stay organized. You can maintain a spreadsheet with a separate tab dedicated to each campaign.

Within each tab, you can have columns to organize the tagged URL, parameter definitions, and destination URL. You can also keep track of the live status of each tagged URL as well.

Aside from an Excel spreadsheet, UTM.io is also a great tool to organize your tagged links. You can easily keep track of all of the links you’ve created, who created them, when they were created, and more.

Final Thoughts

These UTM tagging best practices will help you organize and track your campaigns more effectively. You should have a clear understanding of all of the UTM parameters you can use, when you should use them, and which ones you should use in your campaigns. Make the most of these tips to accurately track your next campaign.

Got any more tips to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

Dan McGaw

Dan McGaw is an award-winning entrepreneur and speaker. He is the founder and CEO of Effin Amazing, a marketing technology and analytics agency, and the creator of UTM.io, a campaign management and data governance tool. Named one of the godfathers of the marketing technology stack and one of original growth hackers, Dan has decades of experience in digital marketing, technology, and analytics. (His team won’t let him take this out even though he says it makes him sound old.)

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