What Are UTM Parameters?

What are UTM parameters? They’re extra “tags” that you add to a URL to help you track and analyze traffic on your website.

Although the term may sound technical, UTM parameters are simple and easy to use, while containing immense analytical power.

In this article, we’ll explain what UTM parameters are in more detail and then show you how to use UTM parameters to uncover meaningful insights about your website and marketing channels.

What are UTM parameters?

UTM parameters are tags you add to a URL. When someone clicks a link with those UTM parameters, Google Analytics logs that information and lets you analyze the activity of visitors who have clicked that exact link. For example, you could use UTM parameters to track visitors from a link that you placed in a guest post on another site.

So what do UTM parameters look like? Here’s a simple example:

https://themeisle.com/?utm_source=facebook

Here, the UTM tag is utm_source=facebook and is used to track a possible source of traffic. In this case, the source we are interested in is Facebook.

You can also add more tags to track additional data, like a specific post that you made on Facebook. For example:

https://themeisle.com/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=what-are-utm-parameters-post

More on what all these UTM parameters mean in a second.

UTMs can be used to see which marketing platforms or campaigns are working best for you, and to track the value of social marketing campaigns. You can also use them on your own site. For example, you could see how well specific blog posts work at converting visitors into customers.

This means you can generate precise data on where your traffic is coming from. You’ll also be able to see what avenues users take to convert. Furthermore, you can more easily compare posts (akin to A/B testing) to better know what’s working for you and what isn’t.

In addition, with UTMs you can measure return on investment (ROI), refine your social media strategy, track influencer marketing, and much more. We’ll discuss these in more detail below.

How to use UTM parameters (in 4 steps)

At this point, you might be worried about potentially causing a search engine optimization (SEO) problem by tweaking your URLs. Fortunately, you don’t have to attach UTM parameters to your links manually. Instead, you can use a UTM generator to ensure your links are error-free and optimized. Let’s take a look!

1. Set up Google Analytics

The first step is to create a Google Analytics account so that you can log and analyze UTM tags.

The good news is that we’ve talked about this previously, and have also given you a walkthrough of the interface. If this is your first time using Google Analytics, these guides will come in handy – especially if you’re overwhelmed by the screens you see.

Once you’ve set up your account, grabbed your tracking ID, and linked your analytics with your WordPress site, you’ll be ready for the next step. To make this last aspect easier, and help you better integrate analytics data with your WordPress website, we recommend installing a plugin such as MonsterInsights.

2. Add UTM parameters to your links

Now you’re ready to create your UTM parameters. Fortunately, Google has a handy tool to help make the process as simple as possible – the Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder.

Once you navigate here, you’ll see several fields enabling you to input the website URL you want to track and your parameters. The first four fields are required information…

The UTM parameter fields.

…and there are five different UTM parameters you can choose from. Let’s quickly go over what they are:

  1. utm_source. The source identifies where the click has come from (i.e. the referral website), and is required.
  2. utm_medium. This states whether a link was within an email, was a cost-per-click (CPC) link, and more. Again, this is a required field.
  3. utm_campaign. This required field helps when carrying out keyword analysis. It’s simply an identifier for the campaign. For example, a specific social media post or the title of a guest post.
  4. utm_term. You’ll only use this parameter when conducting paid search campaigns, and lets you state a keyword term (such as wordpress+themes.)
  5. utm_content. Finally, this parameter is used when multiple ads or links point to the same URL, in order to help differentiate them.

Once you’ve filled in your information, the tool will automatically generate the properly-tagged URL for you:

This is the link you’ll use in your social posts or other promotional channels. You may want to shorten it for aesthetic or administrative reasons using a service such as Bitly. As users interact with this link, the data will be sent to your Google Analytics account – which is where we’ll head to next!

3. Track campaigns with UTM parameters

Google Analytics provides practically all of the information you need to analyze your campaigns. Within your dashboard, head to the Reports section, then navigate to Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns:

The Google Analytics Acquisitions screen.

You’ll see a list of campaigns, and a selection of other data, grouped by Acquisition (which breaks down the numbers further by users, new users, and sessions), Behavior (drilling down to Bounce Rate, Pages Per Session, and Average Session Duration), and Conversions.

Here, you’ll see different columns based on the Goals you’ve set within Google Analytics. However, there will usually be a Conversion Rate percentage to look for. This essentially gives you almost everything you need to assess a given campaign – ‘footfall’, where the traffic has come from, and whether they’re captivated. The final step is to dig into these figures.

Step 4: Analyze the data the UTM parameters provide

The last step is perhaps the most important: analyzing your data. After all, it’s why you want to add UTM parameters in the first place. While you could simply do this via the Google Analytics dashboard, you may find it easier to export this information as a PDF, Google Sheet, Excel spreadsheet, or .csv file. You can do this in Google Analytics, via the Export link:

Exporting a report with UTM parameters in Google Analytics.

Once you’ve retrieved your data, you’re afforded some flexibility with it. For instance, you can use UTM parameters to measure the ROI of your social media posts, because you now have explicit data showing which social strategies are most cost effective.

The data can also give you a clear picture of which social media posts drive traffic to your site. Furthermore, you can use it to calculate the cost to acquire a lead or customer by tracking the ads and campaigns users click, and the overall number that end up converting.

UTM parameters are also an effective way to track influencer marketing results. By attaching UTMs to your affiliate links, you’ll be able to tell if an influencer’s efforts are paying off on an individual basis. Or, you can use UTM parameters in links to your site that you insert in guest posts, or your author bio at a guest post source.

Finally, the last thing we’ll mention about analyzing your data is split testing. Using UTMs in two different social posts provides an effective way to compare their effectiveness. You can then tweak them to improve results – for example, trialing how video impacts the conversion rate, and how your audience responds to it.

Conclusion

UTM parameters provide you with precise data on where your traffic and conversions come from. They can be implemented to measure the performance of your content, and to see which marketing platforms are working best for you.

In this piece, we’ve shown you how to track your content using UTM parameters. Let’s quickly recap the four steps:

  1. Set up Google Analytics.
  2. Add UTM parameters to your links.
  3. Track campaigns with UTM parameters.
  4. Analyze the data the UTM parameters provide.

Do you have any questions about UTM parameters? Ask away in the comments section below!

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