What Are UTM Codes? How Do They Work?

How do you track the performance of your content and your campaigns? How do you derive the data from showing that your marketing effort drives traffic to your website or your client’s website? How do you analyze your marketing results in real-time? How do you determine where your leads are coming from? The answer to all these questions, and more, is UTM codes. This post will explain what UTM codes are and show you how to make them work for you.

What is a UTM code?

The acronym ‘UTM’ stands for ‘Urchin Traffic Monitor’. A UTM code is a portion of simple code that you add to the end of a URL that enables you to track the visits to the URL and the performance of the content on the webpage. Whatever you track with UTM codes shows up in your analytics reports to give you greater insight into the performance of certain content pieces and campaigns.

If you want to know where your traffic is coming from, UTM codes are your answer. They will tell you if your marketing effort is driving traffic to your website or if the traffic is coming from a different source.

What does a UTM code look like?

Here’s an example:

http://yourwebsite.com/your-post-title/?utm_campaign=social%20media

The text after the ‘?’ is the UTM code.

A UTM code has two parts:

The UTM Parameter: this starts with utm_.  I will discuss parameters further in this post.

The Tracking variable: this is a unique element added to determine the tracked parameter (like the campaign analysis). This element always follows the ‘=’ symbol. There can only be letters, numbers, hyphens, periods, the ‘+’ sign,and ‘%20’in the element.  UTM codes tend to be long and complex.

Here is another sample of a UTM code:

http://yourwebsite.com/your-post-title/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=twitter%20span>

Why are UTM codes important?

A UTM code is important because it helps you determine the source of your traffic, the channel through which your traffic comes, the specific campaign that makes you get the traffic, and any other information regarding your traffic. It also helps you determine your content and campaigns’ impact, which is very important for marketers who struggle with marketing attribution.

What can you measure with UTM codes?

UTM codes tell you where your web traffic is coming from, how your web traffic is getting to you and why your web traffic is coming. These codes can be attached to every link you publish to measure the performance of each of the links. One benefit of this is that that you can measure the success of each of your links, that is, each of your blog posts, web pages, and campaigns.

You can track your links using UTM codes in diverse ways. The UTM code can track the general information of the link or the small details of the link. All that is required is the determination of your UTM parameters.

What are the 5 UTM parameters?

Campaign: This parameter is usually set to determine why your web traffic is coming to you. It tracks a specific campaign that you are running. You can use this parameter to determine the traffic from an email campaign or a Facebook campaign. You can fill this parameter with names that easily identify promotional campaigns, emails, posts, and product launches.

This parameter begins with ‘utm_campaign’, and the tracking variable is added after. An example is ‘utm_campaign=autumn%20sales’.

Source: The source parameter tracks the source of the web traffic. It shows the referrer of the traffic. The general source of your traffic could be Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other platforms. However, this parameter usually measures the individual site within your referrer’s platform. For instance, if your source is email, you will need to define the list you send the email. Also, if Facebook is your source and you paid for promotion, you have to label Facebook as a paid source.

This parameter begins with ‘utm_source’, and the tracking variable is added after. An example is ‘utm_source=google’.

Medium: The medium parameter tracks the medium or channel through which the traffic gets to you. For most social links, the medium parameter will be social: Facebook, Google, Twitter, and so on. However, the medium could also be Paid, Organic, Email, and Affiliates.

This parameter begins with ‘utm_medium_’, and the tracking variable is added after. An example is ‘utm_medium=email’.

Term: This parameter is rarely used these days. It tracks specific terms (for paid organic campaigns) that drive traffic to a URL. However, you will not likely need to use this parameter because Google Analytics works together with AdWords to track keywords. 

This parameter begins with’utm_term’, and the tracking variable comes after. An example is ‘utm_term=growth+beauty+tips’

Content: This parameter is also rarely used. Most marketers see this parameter as an unnecessary detail, but this parameter can help differentiate multiple links pointing towards the same URL. This parameter can help you track the link that was clicked.  

This parameter begins with’utm_content’, and the variable is added after. An example is ‘utm_content=navlink’.

How to create a UTM code

To create a UTM code, you first have to create a content set with an original URL. If you fail to do this, it means you will have nothing to build your UTM code upon and nothing to track. After you have created your content and your original URL, you add parameters to your URL whenever you put your URL on any external site (a site that is not yours). So, once the traffic lands on your site, you get all the information you want to get about your web traffic.

You can create a UTM code using any combination of the parameters as long as you separate each parameter with the ‘&’ symbol. Also, spaces cannot be put in a URL, so you use %20 instead.

An example of a standard URL without any tracking parameters is ‘www.yourwebsite.com/your-landing-page’. If we add a parameter to this standard URL, here is what it will look like: www.yourwebsite.com/your-landing-page/?utm_campaign‘. This UTM code is not complete as is. A tracking variable is to be added to the parameter. That will look like this: www.yourwebsite.com/your-landing-page/?utm_campaign=summer%20sale%202021‘.

An example of a UTM code with multiple parameters is: ‘www.yourwebsite.com/your-home-page/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=summer%20sale&utm_content=bikini_ad&utm_term=bikini+hot+sexy’.

Creating a UTM code is very easy. You do not need to be a coding genius to create a proper UTM code. You can even give your information to the Google UTM generator,and it will produce a ready-to-use URL for you. This is also good because the Google UTM generator syncs with Google Analytics.

UTM code examples

Here is an email sent by Upwork:

The large green button towards the lower right corner uses this URL and UTM parameters:

https://www.zdnet.com/article/upwork-unveils-new-work-marketplace-for-freelancers/?utm_source=responsys&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20210513_AH_FL_NL_EM4

Here is a Youtube post by the Bible Project:

The link uses this URL and UTM parameters:

https://bibleproject.com/audience-survey/?utm_medium=YouTube&utm_source=social&utm_campaign=survey&utm_content=yt_community

Conclusion

UTM codes are essential for every marketer to determine the performance of their marketing effort. UTM codes provide total transparency regarding what is going on with your posts and promotions. They give you the upper hand in marketing management. You can start using UTM codes to track a few of your URLs to get the hang of the whole process and to see the benefits UTM codes bring. Eventually, you will get acquainted with UTM codes, and you will never want to stop using them. I assure you that what works and what does not in your content production and promotion will become apparent to you as you implement UTM codes.

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