build utm links

Why UTM Links Are Key To Your Online Marketing Efforts

If you haven’t heard of UTM links then it’s highly unlikely that you’re using them… and that would be a mistake… and if you do know your UTM from your GMB and are not using them, well shame on you. Today, we are talking UTM’s and more importantly, showing you how to use them and telling you why you should.

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module and although that may not sound very pleasant, UTMs are actually really easy to use and can make the world of difference when trying to analyse your digital marketing results. UTM parameters are pieces of code added to a standard URL and are used by Google Analytics to identify traffic sources.

But Google Analytics Already Tracks Traffic Sources Doesn’t It?

Yes, Google Analytics might very well track traffic sources but if you want to drill down in to which campaigns have been the most successful or even which Instagram posts or individual Google ads have been giving you the greatest ROI then you need UTMs in your life.

Essentially, Using UTM links will provide you with a more sophisticated and advanced tracking system than standard links.

What Do UTM Links Look Like?

UTM links always start with your base link – in other words, the link you want to send people to. So if we wanted to link to our ‘about us’ page it would look like this to begin with:

To add UTM parameters to this link we need to understand the syntax. There are five different types of tracking codes we can add and they are as follows:

utm_source – this is used to identify the referral source of your traffic – e.g. Facebook, Email, Instagram etc.

utm_medium – the medium is used to identify the medium – e.g. CPC, Newsletter etc.

utm_campaign – this allows us to identify specific campaigns – e.g. bank holiday sale, Valentine sale etc.

utm_term – a less commonly used UTM parameter that can be used to add keywords to your Google Ads. This is not required if you have your Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts connected.

utm_content – This is useful if you want to specify certain pieces of content such as CTA’s that are performing best. E.g. you send an email with a link in the copy and a button at the bottom and you want to know which performs best. You can use different utm_content links for both of these to identify which performs best.

Understanding and Building Your Own UTM Tags

Building UTM tags manually is very straightforward once you understand the language and creating them manually is the fastest way to create multiple UTMs. We will also provide you with two other options to create these without writing the UTM tags yourself.

All UTM codes begin with a ? after the base URL and then includes the syntax we showed in the previous section followed by the = symbol to identify the source, campaign, medium etc. You then continue the string with an & symbol and continue.

So for our ‘about us’ link example, lets say we wanted to create a UTM code for an email campaign to our general subscriber list for a campaign that went out on August 1st. We also want to track from button clicks and the in content link clicks.

These two UTMs would look something like this:   

How To Auto Generate UTMs?

If you are nervous about using UTMs then a good place to start is the Google UTM Campaign Builder. This generator allows you to enter the tracking words for the various components of the UTM string and then it will create the whole tag for you. This is great if you are creating one or two UTM links but if you need to create 10 or more then learning how to change these manually will be much more time efficient.

The second option to generate UTMs is to use the Google Analytics URL Builder Chrome Extension. It is down to your personal preference as to which is better but for us, we prefer to create them ourselves.

Why Bother With UTMs?

UTMs take your tracking game to the next level and if digital marketing has one advantage over traditional print and screen advertising it is that it can be tracked and analysed. The deeper you can go with that analysis the more you can be confident as to the impact of your marketing efforts.

You could be spending 50% of your marketing time and budget on email campaigns but 80% of your results could be coming from one PPC Instagram campaign. Knowing this you might decide to double down on your Instagram marketing and spend much less time and effort on your email marketing. Or perhaps there are images within your emails that generate more sales than button clicks – maybe adding an extra image instead of that button would pay dividends. The point is, UTM tracking allows you to analyse, test and then re-analyse the impact of what you do.

You should also ensure you are keeping a track of your UTM links so when you are diving in to your traffic data you can look for those UTMs and identify any that are underperforming or just work at certain times of the week/month/year. A simple Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet is usually ideal for this.

UTMs and SEO

UTMs are not new in the world of internet marketing but there has been much debate recently around whether you should be using them within your website. In February 2019,  Google’s John Mueller stated that adding UTM links to your internal linking was likely to cause confusion to Google with regards to the link.

Our take on this is that adding UTM links between pages on your website is not worth the possible loss in internal link equity and the potential upside of tracking internal links using UTM is not worth it.