Know What Marketing Campaign Is Driving Traffic To Your Site With UTM Parameters

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You can use UTM parameters with Google Analytics to find out what’s really working

It is so rare that we actually get to understand what another person is thinking. And in the world of e-commerce, it can be even harder because we don’t see our customers face-to-face. We can’t tell when their eyes light up or when they start getting curious - we only see the end result of whether or not they made a purchase.


Well, sure, if you’re not using data analytics properly.

Google Analytics can tell you a lot about the exact moment your customer decided to start digging through your website, including what campaign brought them to you and what they bought. But don’t stop there. You can set up UTM parameters to find out exactly which headline, which banner, which referral, which keyword, which promotion or which image brought them to your site. This kind of information is incredibly valuable when making data-driven decisions about marketing.

UTM parameters use cookies to track behaviour

A UTM, or Urchin Tracking Module, is a way of counting what people were clicking on to get to a specific place. This is what allows you to track your return on investment for any marketing campaign, when you’ve set up your Google Analytics with e-commerce tracking.

Here’s how it works. Every campaign you set up, you can connect with a specific URL that has some extra stuff on the tail end. The extra stuff is a series of letters that act as a flag. When Google Analytics counts them all up at the end of the day, it will tell you exactly how many people are being directed to that URL, and thus how many people interacted with that campaign. From Google Analytics reports, you can see the campaigns stacked up against each other (as in, how many people came to your site because of a particular photo or banner or video? How many of those people bought anything, compared to other campaigns?).

What parameters can I set up?

Straight to the Source (utm_source)

The Source parameter is required, and identifies where your viewer was looking. For example, sources could be email newsletters, organic search, Facebook, a specific sales channel, or a referral.

Finding a happy Medium (utm_medium)

The medium is a required parameter, and refers to the marketing material someone was looking at before. Product reviews, blog posts, videos - these are all mediums you can track engagement with.

What’s in a Name (utm_campaign)

Another required parameter - this is the name of the marketing campaign, such as “wintersale” or “annualdrive”. Putting in a name allows you to measure the ROI of one marketing campaign against another.

Coming to Terms (utm_term)

This one tags specific keyword terms you’ve used in paid ads. You can skip this step if you’ve connected Google Analytics with Google AdWords, because it already does this for you.

Feeling Content (utm_content)

A Content parameter is optional, and can be used to track how different kinds of content do against one another when released at the same time - otherwise known as A/B or Split Testing.

How do I set up and see a UTM parameter?

  1. Create a URL using Google’s URL Builder (and mask it or shorten it if you want)

  2. Connect your new URL to any marketing campaign you set up - for example, a click-through link on a video, email campaign or product review. 

  3. Track how they measure up using Google Analytics. It may take up to 24 hours for data to come through. View your results by logging in, then clicking Aquisitions >> Campaigns. Clicking on each campaign will give you more details about ROI.

Some great places to put UTM campaigns

Your social media

It takes a lot to foster a community on social media (though it can be done! Check out this post we wrote a while back). It can be mega helpful to know whether your memes are working better than your heartfelt stories or the other way around.

Paid ads

Of course, you want to know how effective banner or any Cost Per Click ad is. Setting up a UTM link can help you find out if paid ads are worth the money, or if ads in certain places are more effective than others.

Guest blog posts and affiliate or influencer marketing campaigns

If you want to see how much return on investment you’re getting from having New Boi make a video and post it on their Instagram, UTMs are the perfect way to do that. Be sure to give anyone who features you on their own site a URL to include.

Tips for setting up links

Get conventional

It’s helpful from the beginning to set up some naming conventions that you and everyone in your company follow for the sources, names mediums and content you want to track.

They’re sensitive

Case Sensitive, that is. If you are putting up a UTM parameter for a keyword, you may want to include multiple Cases Of THOSE words. Or just make sure everything is lowercase (probably easier).

They’re visible

Remember how your sixth grade teacher told you not to make your email address “hot_girl_9_xoxo@yahoo,com” because that would bring an embarrassment to your family’s honour and a blow to your college applications?

In a similar vein, here’s a warning that your tags are easy to see in your URLs. Be normal with what you call them.

The Getaround: Shortening and Masking URLs

If you don’t know this handy trick, it’s the best way to Rickroll someone. (Don’t get it? Here you go).

There are a few sites you can use to make one long and clunky URL look like another. This can be a great way to take a long UTM-filled URL and turn it into something a little cleaner. Note that usually shortening a link also masks your branded domain name, which can be a big tradeoff for many folks.

Here are a few link shorteners to use right away.

Ready to get tracking?

Elkfox loves tracking stuff. We’re foxes after all. Get in touch if you’re curious about learning how to max out your data analytics skills and work toward understanding your e-commerce ROI better using Google Analytics.