I clicked on a link and I noticed that it took me to something that look like this:
I decided to investigate what all this meant and if someone was trying to get access to my credit card information by using these extra things on the end of my website address…
I discovered it was all kosher. Breaking this web address down, it appears you can append up to five different UTM parameters to your links:
- UTM source: Captures the source of your traffic and is usually the website on which you shared the link. Common examples of UTM source parameters include Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Salesfusion.
- UTM medium: Covers the marketing medium, which typically depends on your source. For instance, if your source is Google, your medium might be AdWords. But if your source is LinkedIn, your medium will be social and if your source is Salesfusion, your medium might be email or landing page.
- UTM campaign: Highlights the campaign in which you shared the link. This field can be whatever you want it to be, such as “Prospect Newsletter,” “Persona 1 Nurture” or anything else.
- UTM term: Typically only used in paid advertising, the UTM term is an optional parameter that captures the term you bid on for sharing the link. For instance, if you ran an AdWords campaign in which you bid on the term “marketing automation” (per above), “marketing automation” would be your UTM term.
- UTM content: Another optional field usually used to determine which piece of content received engagement when multiple links point to the same destination. This parameter is most useful if you are A/B testing or running multiple versions of the same ad (in which case two links would be exactly the same and the UTM content parameter can help differentiate between them).
Why Should You Use UTM Parameters?
Once you share a link appended with UTM parameters, you can track all of those details through Google Analytics or other marketing systems that can capture these parameters, such as your marketing automation platform.
This tracking allows you to see how many visitors came from a certain source, medium (or source/medium combination) or campaign. If you use the optional parameters, you can also see how many people engage through certain keywords (UTM term) or with different versions of ads (UTM content).
In particular, there are three primary benefits that come from using UTM parameters:
- Tracking cross-channel traffic: Great news: Your latest blog post or landing page is on fire! Visits are piling up every day and your team continues to promote it across channels to build on that success. But which efforts are really paying off? What if all of that traffic is actually coming from just one channel? Wouldn’t you want to know that so you can double down on that channel? Of course, you would, and with UTM parameters, you can gain exactly that insight for both individual assets and long-term trends. By viewing the source and medium parameters for traffic, you can easily determine where traffic comes from. In turn, this view makes it simple to identify your most effective channels (where you definitely want to keep the status quo and potentially increase your efforts) and your least effective channels (where you may decide to discontinue your efforts or revamp your approach).
- Attributing traffic to different campaigns: You know you have eBook gold on your hands because that piece of content has steadily attracted traffic over the past eight months and prospects who read it usually become customers. As a result, you use that eBook everywhere. While identifying the channels that bring prospects to the eBook is a great first step, you also want to dive deeper because you’re currently using the eBook in four different email campaigns and two social campaigns. Or let’s say you want to take a long-term view and understand how each different email campaign contributes to overall engagement on your site. Once again, it’s UTM parameters to the rescue. All it takes to determine how effective one campaign is compared to another is tracking the UTM campaign details. From there, you can take what works well from one campaign and consider how you might bring that into lesser performing campaigns or retire those lesser performing campaigns to devote more resources elsewhere.
- Understanding the impact of A/B testing: Ah, A/B testing — if it’s your idea of a fun day on the job, you’re not alone. But it’s not all that fun if you can’t determine the winner of your tests. One of the simplest ways to do so is through UTM parameters. Let’s say you run an A/B test on the colour of a banner ad. Since both ads point to the same link, you need a way to differentiate traffic that comes from the yellow version versus the green version. Using the UTM content parameter, you can do just that. In this case, all of your parameters would be the same except for that last one, which might read “yellow” and “green.” Simple enough, right? With that difference noted, you can easily compare engagement with each of those links to determine whether your target audience responds better to the yellow banner or the green one.
I guess knowing the benefits of UTM parameters is all well and good, but how does one actually create those crazy-looking links?
It appears it’s not as hard as it might seem! In fact, you can use a simple URL builder to make the process quick and easy.
All you need to do is put in the original URL, add information for each parameter as needed and the tool will append the link with UTM parameters for you.
Wow! Now that is easy!
Armed with the knowledge of what UTM parameters are, why they’re important, there’s nothing left to do but to start adding them to your links so you can better understand engagement.