Updated: Apr 29
Imagine sending a letter to a friend, you write down their address in the middle, you put on a stamp and finally your own address at the top left. If you do all of this then your friend can tell exactly who sent the letter before even having to open it.
Without using UTM tags, your online identity is just like a letter with only the destination and a stamp. In terms of our letter, this means you can see that the letter was sent from Iceland, but not from the Activity Stream head office. If you want more precision in what your website can tell you than relying on Google Analytics alone, then you need to add a return address.
This is where UTM tags come in.
What are UTM Tags?
Instead of just seeing which website a visitor has come from (like on Google Analytics) UTM tags can be used to tell if a visitor has clicked on a specific campaign, call to action or got to your site through your newsletter or social media posts. This allows you to understand exactly how successful each of these approaches is in getting people to your website, enabling you to spend more time on what works.
UTM tags work by bringing you to a different version of the same webpage dependent on where you came from. You can see this in the URL for this page. The original URL for this page looks like this:
However, if you came through our twitter post you’ll see this:
And if you got to this article through our newsletter you’d see this:
The UTM tag doesn’t change what you actually see on the page but allows for Google Analytics to distinguish more accurately between different sources of traffic. This means that you can easily organize your data around these tags, pinpointing exactly how different groups are reaching your site.
The 5 Types of UTM Tag
There are 5 types of UTM tag which you can use to collect different types of data about visitors to your site:
Campaign: The campaign tag is the unique identifier that you create for each link.
Source: The source tag refers to where your link was shared.
Medium: The medium tag refers to the type of link that was shared.
Term: The term tag is used to find out which search keywords sent the traffic to your site.
Content: The content tag is about which specific piece of text or CTA sent the traffic to your site.
4 Top Tips on How to Use UTM Tags
The simple way to use UTM tags is to simply start putting them in links that you post. If you use Google Analytics already it will be able to read these and organize them into categories. However, there are some top tips that you should follow to both reduce your workload and improve the impact of using UTM tags.
Identify best categories
The first thing is to identify the categories which will give you the most useful information. As an example, you could label traffic from a campaign as either:
“?utm_campaign=facebook_oct1” or “?utm_campaign=facebook_oct”.
As you can see, the first tag shows that the traffic came from a campaign that was posted on October 1st, whereas the second shows that the campaign was from October in general. If you are using multiple posts for one campaign, then being more specific in this way can give you more actionable information like when it’s best to post.
Have a system
Another vital thing to do when using UTM tags is to have a defined system and stick to it. This is especially important when you have multiple people using the UTM tags. This means that if one person uses “?utm_source=Facebook” and another uses “?utm_source=fb” then they won’t be shown together by analytics. It’s also worth eliminating upper case letters, which is another common problem when different people design UTM tags.
Use a UTM builder
In order to make this even easier, it’s always best to use a UTM builder in order to ensure consistency and speed. This means that all of your tagging will follow a similar pattern and you won’t be left typing out new UTM tags every time you make a post.
Don’t share links with UTM parameters
Lastly, sharing a link with multiple UTM parameters can look messy to people. As a result, it’s best to use a branded link which doesn’t show all of the UTM tags. You can do this by using Google Analytics’ URL shortener for links that you post.
Find Out More:
Check out these articles if you want a more detailed insight into how UTM tags work, or how they can change what you do: