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UTM Codes – The what, how, and why

UTMcodes

Some questions get asked more frequently than others when we showcase the full potential of the Activity Stream system and the associated AS for Live Entertainment and AS for Sports industry solutions. When demonstrating the simple function of the easy-to-use link builder we usually end up providing a crash course in UTM tagging. The analogy we feel best explains the concept of referrer information and UTM-tags is comparing it to an old fashioned physical letter.

A web session is like a letter arriving at your website. Both have a stamp you can use to know the origin. The stamp on a letter will show when it was posted and where including the city and country. A digital stamp of a website session contains some similar information.

Return to Sender

When sending a letter, you would generally want to know if it didn’t end up in the hands of the person you mailed it to so by adding a return address or kind of tagging it with sender information the envelope can be returned to sender but also shows exactly who sent it.

So in a similar fashion, you can augment the unique resource locator (URL) to a web page by adding tags to identify who is visiting your site, where the traffic is coming from and why. This is especially helpful when you want to accurately measure the success of your campaigns.

The Google-owned and run Urchin analytics engine reads up to five tags in the UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) to help you track traffic in more details. Using just two of them can seriously improve the understanding of your audience:

Use a descriptive “Name” tag to put a name to a specific type of traffic or associate it with a marketing event like a sale, newsletter or special promotional effort. A great example of a descriptive name would be “Newsletter_20170615_top”
The “Source” is normally used to group links by their type, so “Newsletter”, “Facebook_post”, “Instagram_campaign”, or “search_engine_traffic” are typical. You can make them up, but it’s generally a good idea to be consistent, so you can analyze sources cumulatively.

It’s Easy

UTM tags are straightforward to implement. You just add them somewhere to the inbound link to your site that you’re posting. For a case where you want to link to “mywebsite.com” from a Facebook ad, targeted at people within your city, the URL could look like this:

http://www.mywebsite.com?utm_source=Facebook_ad&utm_campaign=City_Campaign

By analyzing web traffic based on the added “sender information” you now know exactly how many sessions, conversions or buys a particular campaign created. Use a URL shortener if long URLs are not your stick.

UTM tags are useful to:
Analyze Facebook traffic to know what comes from event pages (organic), posts (organic) and ads (paid).
Analyze website postings, blogs, and other content to see who creates traffic and conversions.
Track different banner ads placed on the same website.
A/B test ads.

There are three more useful UTM tags. The Campaign Medium tag is great to identify the medium the link was used in, such as email, banner ads or any different method of sharing. Campaign Term is an optional parameter to identify keywords for an ad. The auto-tagging feature in Adwords and Google Analytics can be used instead. Finally, the Campaign Content tag is also an optional parameter for additional details for A/B testing or ads which are content-targeted.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite articles on the subject in case you want more:

Campaign URL Builder: https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/
An introduction to UTM tags, using a lovely Star Wars example: https://blog.bufferapp.com/utm-guide
Some words on best practices: https://funnel.io/resources/google-analytics-utm-tagging-best-practices
How to use and how to track: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/how-to-use-utm-parameters/
Common mistakes: https://penguinwp.com/common-utm-campaign-url-tracking-mistakes-to-avoid/