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UTM Tracking Codes: What Are They and How To Use Them

Digital marketing can take many forms, with almost unlimited channels, strategies and tactics to choose from. When you are running a complex omnichannel marketing plan, how can you measure which of your tactics is providing the biggest return on investment? 

Enter UTM Tracking Codes. UTM is an abbreviation that stands for Urchin Tracking Module, and are special bits of code you can add to the end of any URL to track the performance of your individual marketing activities. If you’ve ever struggled with attribution, UTM codes are important. 

The History of UTM Tracking Codes

In the initial stages, Urchin Software Corporation developed Urchin as a web analytics software that could be used to track how website visitors behave. Google bought the software in 2005, thereby creating Google Analytics that has now become the most popular data analytics tool on the web. Marketers today use UTM tracking codes to measure the impact their marketing strategy has on the target audience. This is also an efficient method of measuring performance.

UTM is made of variables or modules that are often called “tags.” They can be added at the end of links that you intend to analyze or track based on traffic sources. The biggest advantage of UTM tags is that they show you which channels bring the highest amount of sales conversions to a website.

Campaign names, mediums, and sources can be tracked by attaching a simple UTM code to a custom URL forwarding it to your main domain. They help you find out where your users come from and what campaign served as a driving force leading them to you. 

Other values can also be added to a UTM code to monitor specific content and any paid term such as “handbags,” “gym shoes,” or other specific keywords that you are targeting. Content, on the other hand, can be monitored by two different ads implying the same message but written in a different text. You can then find out which one performs better among visitors.

Example of UTM Code

Here is an example of a UTM code:

The UTM code is for an ad on the Chicago Tribune website in October for a PC sale. Down the line, it would be easier for the advertiser to change the month and the focus of the sale.

Google Analytics now provides marketers with an option to track their offline campaign without having to build a separate website. In the sources tab under the Standard Reporting section and Traffic sources, you can click on Campaigns. This will help you see how well your ad or strategy is doing accurately.

What Do UTM Codes Track?

There are 5 variants of URL parameters you can track with UTM codes – source, medium, campaign, term and content.

1. Sources

Marketers need to figure out where their visitors are coming from. The traffic could be coming from Google, Instagram, Facebook, or any other source. Your UTM code can track specific websites and monitor how much traffic they are driving to you. This way, you can focus more effort on the sources that help you pull the most traffic or drive the most sales to continue to grow your business.

2. Medium

A UTM code enables marketers to identify specific medium and where a particular link is featured. There are four categories of mediums:

  • Organic: These are unpaid traffic sources and are algorithm-driven. The results are mostly seen on search engines like Google and Bing.
  • Paid: Paid mediums include Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising and other forms of ads that require a certain amount of investment. Paid mediums are used in the case of a highly targeted audience.
  • Referral: Referral mediums drive traffic to your website by specifying a link that leads visitors to your page. Google Analytics can also show you how visitors were referred to your website.
  • Social media: Social media such as Facebook or Instagram can drive traffic to your page.

3. Terms

UTM codes can track specific terms or keywords that drive the most traffic to your site. You could specify the keyword you are targeting in the UTM code to ensure that it can be effectively tracked. Tracking specific keywords can help you rank better.

4. Content

A UTM code can be written to track specific content. This helps in finding out where the traffic is the highest and whether or not there are identical links on one page. If you are A/B testing specific messages or landing pages, this is where you can track the performance of one against the other.

5. Campaign

With the use of a UTM code, you can track campaign traffic and get detailed analytics on the same. Multiple contents can be grouped under one campaign to make the analytics more accurate. You can also break down campaigns into different categories for detailed analysis.

How Do I Build UTM codes?

Building UTM Tracking Codes is simple. The easiest way is to the URL builder by Google, enter your website and your other parameters, and then click on “generate URL.” 

UTM codes are flexible and easy to create, so you can easily collect as much information as needed to help evaluate the efficacy of your marketing efforts. To understand how your campaigns are performing, check out the “Other Campaigns” tab in Google Analytics, where each campaign is broken down by medium and source.

The Bottom Line About UTM Tracking Codes

UTM codes are an efficient way of tracking how well your campaigns and advertisements are doing, and which activities are driving the most traffic to your website. They help marketers identify which sources and channels work best to drive results and grow your business, so you can use these insights to adjust your future marketing activities. 

Looking for more help with targeted advertising? 

AUDIENCEX is the leading independent trading desk, offering unified programmatic, search and social advertising campaigns to help you find more customers and grow your business. Our campaign experts would love to talk to you about how they can use UTM codes to help identify which channels, platforms, or targeting tactics work best for your business. Contact us to set up a quick call to learn more. 

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