UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. The name is a holdover from back in the day before Google Analytics (GA) was around. Urchin was a web analytics program acquired by Google back in 2005, which marked the beginning of GA.
UTM codes are simple snippets of code appended to the end of URLs that communicate with the GA code on your website. Essentially, UTM codes allow you to track where traffic to your site originated in GA.
Why you need them
Analytics is a powerful tool for marketers. Tools like Google Analytics give us detailed information about not only what sources are driving the most traffic to our site, but also the quality of that traffic.
This data can power big picture decisions like which channels you should be investing in, what changes to make to the site to improve user experience, and so much more.
Simply put, without proper tracking, you are flying blind. The key word there is “proper.” Simply having GA installed on your site isn’t enough. You need to empower the tool by setting up proper tracking parameters for all your marketing campaigns.
Where to use them
Luckily, Google AdWords and some other platforms like Bing Ads have built in functionality to tag your URLs without any extra work. It’s called auto tagging and I highly recommend turning it on for just about everyone. It massively simplifies things and works seamlessly with GA.
Just about everything else you do online requires custom tagging. For instance, Facebook and GA don’t play so nicely together so if you want to get detailed Facebook data in GA, you need to tag everything you post there–organic and paid.
Running email campaigns? Tag them.
Promoting on Outbrain? Tag it.
Tweeting about an upcoming event? Tag it.
It’s easy to set up. Just take the two minutes it takes to create these custom tags.
How to create them
Luckily, Google has created a very simple tool to help us out with this, because if you are like me, the idea of writing custom URL parameters is not the most comforting.
Use Google’s URL Builder.
Fill out this quick form and Google will generate a ready-made custom URL that you can literally copy and paste.
If Portent was promoting a blog post via Facebook Ads, we could fill out the basic required fields as follows:
Campaign Source: facebook
Campaign Medium: cpc
Campaign Name: 5 Inexpensive Ways to Grow Your SMB Online