What is a UTM Code and How Does it Track Website Traffic?

Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) code

Digital advertising strategies for small businesses can seem overwhelming, because you have to account for so many details in each campaign. But if you do it right, you can learn a lot about what is working and what isn’t. With analytic tools, you can adjust your approach to targeting prospects with your campaigns.

Small businesses have a lot of tools to analyze their digital advertising campaigns. So, it makes data collection very easy. One of the best tools is the UTM code and its relationship with Google Analytics.

Table of Contents

  • What is the UTM code?
  • UTM Parameters
  • Using UTM with Google Analytics
  • Working with the UTM Code
  • Using UTM Data to Target the Right Audience

What is the UTM Code?

The Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) is a snippet of code that is added to the end of a link to track specific parameters about how someone interacts with the link. At minimum you can add the source, the medium, and the campaign name to a link. UTM code is a tool that you can use repeatedly to better understand where and who to target to get the best results.

UTM Parameters

The UTM code is named after Urchin Software, which originally developed the code. In 2005, Google bought Urchin Software and used the UTM code to launch Google Analytics. Since 2012, Google has incorporated UTM code into their own software.

To take a look into UTM codes at work, just find a link on an ad on social media or Google Ads on any website, and you will see the additional code added to the link starting with a question mark (?). After the question mark, the rest of the link code is there to track the link activity. You may even see the letters UTM in the code. Some marketers shorten the link code because it gets so long and ungainly with the tracking code added. If so, you may be able to see the complete code once you land on the website page.

There are six UTM parameters/tags/codes which you can add to the end of any link in any order.

1. utm_source (Campaign Source)

This code identifies the source of your traffic. You can find out where the person found your link, for instance, on a search engine, another website, newsletter, etc. It would look like this utm_source=google

2. utm_medium (Campaign Medium)

Campaign medium is the medium used to share your link, for instance, email, social media, cost per click ad, etc. The code looks like this utm_medium=cpc

3. utm_name (Campaign Name)

This code identifies the campaign name that you have assigned a particular campaign. You can use any name that represents the campaign, like a product, location, promotion name, or any name that identifies the campaign for you. The code looks like this utm_campaign=holiday-sale

These first three parameters are required by Google, but you can also add three more parameters.

4.utm_term (Campaign Term)

A campaign term is a keyword that is used to drive traffic to a page. This code is especially helpful when testing ad language. The code is utm_term=christmas-hat

5. utm_content (Campaign Content)

This code can tell you what content generated the link click even if you have several links pointing to the same page. For instance, you might have several links on an email newsletter or landing page. This code tells you which link was clicked. You can use this to run A/B testing or any content-driven marketing. This code is utm_content=CTA-button

6. utm_id (Campaign ID)

Google uses this code to identify a specific ad campaign so you can track it. This is used in the ad utm_id=999999

Using UTM with Google Analytics

Since Google owns the UTM code, it is easy to integrate it into any campaign that you’re tracking on Google Analytics. Google even gives you a Campaign URL Builder so you can practice building these tracking URLs to see how they work. This nifty tool is part of the Google Analytics Demos & Tools Resource, a relatively new collection of Google Analytics tools to learn more about how Analytics works.

You don’t have to do anything extra to use the UTM code along with Google Analytics. Once you’ve added the code to your URLs, Google automatically gathers these metrics for your reports. You do have to have Analytics turned on for your website.

Here’s how to view your UTM data in Google Analytics:

  1. Log into the Analytics account for your website.
  2. The default after logging in takes you to the Home screen.
  3. From the list of reports on the left side (on desktop), click on Acquisition.
  4. From the new menu under Acquisition, click on Campaigns.
  5. From that dropdown, click on All Campaigns.
  6. From the All Campaigns report, you can see the data compiled by the UTM code, and sort it by parameter.

Working with the UTM Code

Now that you understand how the UTM code works, let’s look at some examples. A retailer has a campaign for an annual wedding dress sale, and wants to see how much traffic the website received from paid search (CPC), social media, and their email newsletter.

  • Paid Search (CPC) – You can track the source ad and keywords from cost-per-click ads with a UTM code like this – www.example.com/page?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=wedding-sale&utm_term=bridal-dress

You can see that this code has UTM code for source, medium, name, and keywords.

  • Social Media – You can track your paid ad on Facebook that is directing traffic to your wedding sale using this code – www.example.com/page?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=paid-social&utm_campaign=wedding-sale

This UTM code includes source, medium, and name.

  • Email Marketing – This is trickier to track because email often has more than one link to your website. For instance, you may have links to the wedding sale from your logo, an image, and a CTA button. Tracking needs to be different for each one.
    • Logo – www.example.com/page?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=wedding-sale&utm_content=logo (source, medium, name, content)
    • Image – www.example.com/page?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=wedding-sale&utm_content=main-image
    • CTA Button – www.example.com/page?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=wedding-sale&utm_content=orange-cta

Using UTM Data to Target the Right Audience

Using UTM code to improve your results from digital advertising can help you discover which campaigns you should focus on and which just aren’t converting. You can track prospect and customer behavior for each campaign and how it stacks up. However, adding the UTM code to your campaigns might seem a little daunting at first. If you’re not familiar with UTM code, getting help from a digital marketing expert is the best solution. Learn more about the digital advertising strategies for small businesses and contact us.

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