UTM codes: track your marketing efforts with ease

UTM codes: track your marketing efforts with ease

Learn how UTM tracking codes are an excellent and free way to track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

Written by

Peter Dimakidis


11 August 2021





If you’re running multiple campaigns, you’ll know how tricky it can be to track and analyse all the data you gather. You can check out the analytics available within each platform, but combining and comparing all the results can feel like death by a thousand numbers.

Google Analytics (GA) can be useful for monitoring and tracking standard campaign activity. Still, it needs some guidance to do its job effectively when it comes to more sophisticated marketing efforts. Based on default grouping, GA understands that Google Ads are paid, for example. Still, there’s another activity it can’t grasp without some human help – like the difference between paid vs organic Facebook visits or if a site visit came from one mailing list vs another.

That’s where UTM tracking codes come into their own. They’re an excellent – and free – way to find out how users arrive on your website from various mediums and an easy way to track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. All you need is a little time, some structure and access to Google Analytics.

If you’ve investigated UTM tracking before, but the long and complicated-looking URLs have put you off, don’t be deterred. It’s a simple tagging system to implement, and the insights you can glean far outweigh the time to set it up.

So, let’s get started!

How to create a UTM tracking code

UTM tracking makes it easy to track which sources, mediums, campaigns, paid search keywords, or content performs the best (or worst!)

Here’s a rundown on the five parameters you can add to your URLs:

UTM_SourceThe platform the user came from, i.e, Google, ActiveCampaign, Facebook.
UTM_Medium The advertising or marketing medium, i.e, social, PPC, referral, organic.
UTM_CampaignThis one is specific to the campaign you're running. It could be a product or promotion name, for example.
UTM_TermA key word term being used for paid keywords and key phrases (only used in PPC).
UTM_Content Tease out which calls to action elicited action- was it the logo link, first site link, 'Buy Now' button? You can use this to A/B test, differentiate ads or track links that point to the same URL.

The end result looks like this:

indagodigital.com.au?utm_source=activecampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=UTM+article&utm_term =UTM+tracking&utm_content=first+site+link

The items in blue are the parameters.

  • utm_source: activecampaign
  • utm_medium: email
  • utm_campaign: utm article
  • utm_term: utm tracking
  • utm_content: first site link

You can use one or all of the parameters to create your UTM tracking URL but the more parameters you use, the more granular the data you collect will be and, consequently, the more meaningful the insights you can derive will be.

A great way for marketers to apply what they learn from UTM tracking is to use it to track the buyer’s journey. Using the example above again, the UTM parameters can show you which platform (ActiveCampaign) brought prospective customers to the site, which medium the source used to lead them there (email) and which hyperlinked content items ultimately led them to your proposition (first site link) within a campaign (UTM article). If I was using paid media to promote my UTM article campaign, and I had a primary keyword I wanted to track, I’d use the UTM-term too (UTM tracking).

Tracking tags give you a bird’s eye view of the buyer’s journey and create a simplified system to measure overall marketing effectiveness. This helps you concentrate more of your budget on high-performing links and sources when structuring future campaigns.

You can create UTM tags yourself, but it can be fiddly. To save you time and effort, here’s a builder you can refer to when creating your UTMs.

Here are some best practice tips to start you off on the right foot.

  • UTM tracking is case sensitive. activecampaign and ActiveCampaign would show as two different campaigns and eDM and edm would show as different mediums. Avoid this by chosing to write all your UTM tracking tags lower case.
  • It doesn’t work retrospectively, and it doesn’t aggregate same-but-differently-spelt options. If one department is creating UTM tracking codes that use email as the medium, for example, and another department is calling it edm, you’ll have two ‘same same but different’ mediums to consolidate as you can’t rename and combine them after the deed is done.
  • Standardise your URLs. Choose dashes, underscores or ‘+’ symbols (avoid ‘%’ as it can look messy) to use in place of spaces in the final URL. The builder we’ve included here will automatically use ‘+’ however if you’re creating manually, you’ll need to choose an option to create consistency.
  • Match your mediums to default channel groupings. Google has its way of grouping mediums into channels. If you don’t name it the right thing, it won’t go into relevant channel. You can consult Google Analytics for accurate channel metrics by reading the linked article and using the naming conventions Google understands.
  • It’s public! The words you use in your parameters can be seen by the people who click on them. Don’t use anything you don’t want your customers, client (or competitors) to see!

To help you keep track of your UTM parameters, store your URLs and remember the rules, we’ve created a BONUS spreadsheet.

Download here.

UTM tracking codes are your one-stop data organisation shop for consolidating results, reporting on campaign performance and pulling out insights that can level up your marketing and advertising game.

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Written by

Peter Dimakidis
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