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What Are UTM Tags and Why You Should Use Them?

We know that Google Analytics is by far the most used analytics tool. BuiltWith.com estimates that in 2022, more than 84% of all websites worldwide use Google Analytics for measuring their website usage. 

Unfortunately, many of the people who rely on Google Analytics for measuring their website traffic lack a good understanding of how it works and have not set up their UTM tracking codes accordingly. Having an efficient Google Analytics setup (with proper UTM parameters) is the cornerstone of a successful marketing campaign.

This article focuses on defining UTMs, their benefits, and why you should use them to ensure the traffic you acquire to your site shows up correctly in Google Analytics.

What are UTM tags?

According to funnel.com, “UTM” means “Urchin Tracking Module”, although some in the digital marketing industry still refer to it as the Urchin Traffic Monitor. Whichever name you use, it comes from Urchin Tracker, a web analytics software that served as the base for Google Analytics. UTM tags can be added to the end of regular URLs to track the performance of campaigns and content as well as give Google Analytics specific information about that link. A UTM tag always contains the Source, Medium, and Campaign Name parameters.

What Are UTM Parameters and Benefits of Using All 5 Parameters

Carlos Silva defines UTM parameters as short pieces of text that you add to links. The UTM parameters are the coloured snippets that start after the last slash of the URL. The parameters convey information about the link’s placement, purpose, and content, making tracking clicks and traffic from a specific social media post or campaign easy.

The best part? UTM parameters are unaffected by changes to or opt-outs of cookies and third-party tracking pixels such as the Meta pixel. They also merge with analytics tools like Google Analytics, Tableau, Mixpanel, and Hotjar.

There are five main UTM parameters according to Hootsuite.com which are source, medium, campaign, term, and content. The first three are required for tracking in Google Analytics, while the last two are optional. Let’s dive in!

  1. Campaign Source (required)

This parameter tracks the traffic source, such as a social media platform, search engine, or blog. The utm_source tag in a URL allows website owners to track where a link was clicked before leading to a website visit.

  1. Campaign Medium (required)

This parameter tracks the type of channel where the link is placed, such as organic social, paid social, cost-per-click ads (cpc), or email.

  1. Campaign Name (required)

This parameter tracks the campaign with which the link is associated. The campaign name could be a product name, contest name, advertising campaign theme, specific sale or promotion name, influencer’s username, or more—if you know what it means.

  1. Campaign Term

Use this UTM tag to track search keywords or key phrases. This parameter is most commonly used in paid search ads.

  1. Campaign Content

Use this UTM tag when you have multiple links pointing to the same URL, such as when running numerous creatives within the same ad set. You can use this parameter to A/B test different social media ads or posts.

If you want to be able to track the performance of your marketing efforts on the campaign level, then you need to use the source, medium and campaign tags. If you want to be able to track performance to the ads level, then you need to use all five dimensions. The two crucial dimensions out of the five are source and medium. In fact, they are so important that they deserve a section of their own.

UTM parameters provide three essential benefits:

  • Measuring the ROI of social media posts
  • Providing precise tracking for conversions
  • Allowing A/B testing of different links or creatives

Anytime you add links to your social media posts, you should add UTM parameters. 

Dimensions you track via UTM codes show up in your Google analytics reports to give you a clearer insight into marketing performance.

Why UTM Parameters Matter

With all this information we’ve acquired about UTM parameters, the one question we should ask ourselves is, why do UTM parameters matter? We know that one of the most complex parts of a social media manager’s role is proving the impact of their work. Luckily, UTM parameters make that burden slightly easier. We’ll explain five reasons according to Hootsuite, why they matter below.

  1. Accurate Attribution

Using UTM parameters, you can give accurate credit to your website traffic sources. This information is valuable in determining which platforms or channels bring top-of-funnel growth to your business.

For example, you can compare whether more visitors come from social media ads, Google ads, email newsletters, or social media posts.

  1. Measuring Campaign Performance

UTM parameters enable you to measure the performance of your marketing campaigns across multiple channels, including social.

Within analytics tools, you can analyze metrics like total goal conversions, bounce rate, and average time on-site for each campaign. This analysis can help you to understand how your campaign performed across different platforms.

  1. Calculating ROI

By pinpointing the traffic and conversions generated by each channel, you can calculate the ROI of your social media marketing.

For example, you can group data by utm_medium and calculate the value from all conversions contributed by organic and paid social.

You can also group by utm_source and see which platforms drive the highest traffic volumes.

By combining both, you can demonstrate the reach and impact of social media.

  1. Audience Segmenting

UTM parameters allow you to segment your website visitors based on the traffic source. This segmentation helps you understand which links or content resonate with each source. You can tailor your content to each platform’s audience based on these insights.

  1. Data-driven Decision-Making

UTM parameters provide precise and objective data that can help you improve your social strategy.

You can identify underperforming campaigns that need adjustments, allocate your ad budget more effectively, and create more content for platforms that drive the most valuable traffic.

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