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The What, Why and How of UTMs

Feb 10, 2020
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Your reporting is only as good as your data. Unfortunately, most data sets have multiple issues and errors are overlooked. In order for you to make smart data driven decisions, you must first have confidence in your data. In this video, I'll share the what, why and how behind UTMs and how leveraging them can make sure you have a cleaner data set for your marketing reports.

 

UTM Board

Build your UTMs with this tool: https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/

Video Transcript:

Hey, what's up and welcome to Hack my Growth. In this episode, we're going to be looking at UTMs; what they are, why they're important, and how we can use them to improve our marketing ROI. All right, let's go.

Hey, thanks for checking out this video. If this is your first time watching, or maybe you've been watching a while and you haven't yet subscribed, please do so now. We create new content each and every week to help you get the most out of your digital marketing activities.

As I said in the intro, we're going to be talking about UTMs; what they are and how we can leverage them in our marketing strategies.

So let's start with what. UTM actually stands for, Urchin Tracking Module. Now, for a lot of people, myself included, I used to think that these meant universal tracking measures, but that's not where they came from. They actually came from Urchin, which was the predecessor to Google Analytics. It was what Google bought in order to build the foundation for what we now know as Google Analytics. And these were tracking measures or modules that we could use to help us track the effectiveness of our digital marketing activities.

What is a UTM?  UTMs were parameters that they were using to help make sure that marketers were effectively tracking their campaigns, so you could feed in specific data into your analytics tools using a UTM.

So why are they important? Well, first off, it's going to help us understand which channels are performing better than others. If we structure our campaigns and we use these specific codes or these modules at the end of our URL strings, we can actually know where our traffic's coming from, what campaigns were effective, what keywords were used in searching us if we're doing paid search. So there's a lot of cool ways that we can leverage these to improve our ROI.

The second thing is we can't always rely on Google Analytics to place our traffic in the right bucket. If you watch one of our previous videos on direct traffic, we talk about how there's a lot of traffic that ends up in direct that could come from a variety of other sources. And using UTM codes effectively and strategically can help prevent that and make sure that you are tracking the effectiveness across all of your different sources and mediums.

So how do we do this? We can leverage them by using this simple tool called the GA Campaign URL Builder. It allows you to build these UTMs really quickly and effectively. There's a couple of things that are required and that's going to be source, medium and campaigns. And then there's some extra things that you can leverage, like if you're doing paid search, you can do keywords. If you're doing A/B testing, you can do content. This will allow you to segment your data and get a lot more out of it.

Let's take a look at how we do this using the Campaign URL Builder to make sure that our campaigns are the most effective they can be.

Here we are at the Campaign URL Builder. You can get to it at this very friendly domain here, which I'll make sure that we post in the comments, that way you can easily find it. It's pretty easy to follow, if you work your way down the list here. And this will allow you to create a UTM.

A couple of things that you're going to need, which are required, like the website URL, so what your site is. The source; so this is going to be something like Google or Newsletter. It's really the referrer. This is what you're going to be using here in the source.

Then the medium is going to be your marketing medium. This would be something like email, organic, cost per click, things of that nature. That's the biggest difference, is your medium that you're using to deliver and the refer is the specific referral. For organic you will have Google being Yandex, Baidu, something along those lines. That's the way you want to break it down. The medium is how it travels. The referrer is the specific channel.

Your campaign name; this is what you're calling your campaign. And then you can add down here if you're doing paid search campaign terms and contents.

If you drop a little bit lower in this page, you'll see right here it'll tell you a little bit more of what to do.

So what would a UTM look like? What we do is we can go ahead and type in our URL here. Now for a source, I probably wouldn't be doing something like organic because that typically is going to get pulled in. But what I would do like a referral source. We could say here "PR site", if we have a specific website that we want to track.

Now, you can put dashes in here. One of the things you'll notice if you have a space you don't typically want spaces in your URLs. Over here we can go "referral" because this would be a referral type traffic. And then we can do something like "guest post," so we know that we did a guest post on this specific site.

Now if you look down here, you're going to see this link. You can even build these yourself if you want to if you really want to get fancy. This just makes it a lot easier. So you'd see like my website right here and then UTM source and this is the PR site, UTM medium, it's referral, UTM campaign, and that would be guest post.

What that would do is when someone would click on this specific link that I would hyperlink and a piece of content, it would pass that information into Google Analytics, or if you're using HubSpot it should do the same or your other analytics platforms. But specifically we're talking about Google Analytics here. You'd be able to find it over here in your all traffic reports, so source and mediums and you can start breaking it down that way. But you can also look at specific referral sources.

So if you're looking at your campaign, you'll notice that a lot of traffic already gets put into buckets. Things like Pinterest, YouTube. AMP already does this with the AMP project, the CDN. Any of your other referral sources that you also could be getting traffic from would pass through here. Now as you see, Baidu isd a search engine. This is why having UTMs, especially when it comes to your campaigns is very important. That way you make sure that the traffic that you're tracking gets into the right buckets.

So if I go over here to my campaigns, we're not currently running any paid campaigns, but we do have UTMs working for a number of our different things that we're working on on our site. So our lead nurturing, emails have some, we have a lead flow, we've got a couple of different campaigns around our topic and content that we're doing. As you can see here, these are all set up with UTM. So we break down our campaign and we can even go into this lead nurture campaign and see specifically that is actually automated email from the source and the medium. We can start building in a lot of other factors here like the emails, the clicks that were actually driving to the site, the content around there.

But it all starts with making sure that your UTMs are built. This is a something that can take time to do, but it's really worth it if you want to make sure you can make sense of your marketing data and know what is actually producing the best results for your brand online.

Let me know if you have any questions about what we talked about in this video. Comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Anything that you guys want to share about how you've used UTMS, that would be awesome as well. And until next time, Happy Marketing.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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