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UTM Management 101

Shae Henrie

Content Strategist @ AdRoll

UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes are a fundamental tool for anyone looking to analyze and optimize their online marketing efforts. For beginners diving into the world of digital marketing, understanding and implementing UTM codes can be a game-changer, offering valuable data on website traffic sources, campaign success, and user behavior. In this guide, we’ll explore the basics of UTM codes, why they empower marketers to make informed decisions to enhance their online strategies, and how to manage and implement codes in your campaigns. 

What are UTM Codes?

UTM codes are snippets of text added to URLs designed to track and measure the effectiveness of campaigns across various marketing channels. These codes contain five parameters: source, medium, campaign, term, and content, providing specific information about the link’s origin and purpose. For example:

  • The source parameter identifies where the traffic is coming from, whether it’s a specific website or social media platform. It would look something like this: &utm_source=Facebook

  • The medium parameter specifies the marketing medium, such as email or social.

  • The campaign parameter distinguishes different campaigns from one another, such as: &utm_campaign=influencer_jan_2024

  • The term parameter tracks which keyword your website visitor found you with.

  • The content parameter tracks which link drove the most traffic from multiple links within the same campaign, source, and medium.

Combining all these parameters into one URL link lets you know exactly where the visitor came from. Give it a shot and try to determine some parameters using the example below!

Best practices tip: don’t use special characters or spaces in your URLs. It can be messy and create issues for future filtering and monitoring. 

Why You Need to Use UTMs

UTMs provide unparalleled insights into the performance of different marketing channels, offering a detailed breakdown of traffic sources and user interactions. UTMs enable accurate tracking of your campaign’s success by attributing website traffic and conversions to specific marketing efforts. This attribution is crucial for assessing various campaigns’ return on investment (ROI) and optimizing future strategies. 

UTMs also facilitate A/B testing and allow marketers to compare the effectiveness of different messages, creatives, or offers within a single campaign. For analytics purposes, you do not want to track internal links. Your UTM codes should only be for external sources coming to your landing page. Do not put UTM codes for a landing page on your website to another landing page on your website, as it could potentially duplicate sessions and misattribute conversions and purchases. 

Ways to Manage UTMs

Effective management of UTM codes is crucial for tracking and analyzing online campaign performance. There are several ways you can incorporate UTM codes into your existing processes. 

  • UTM builder tools are life savers for both beginners and experts. There’s a variety of UTM builder tools to choose from, including one from Google or AdRoll’s UTM Link Builder. Our dashboard gives you a holistic view of your online marketing activities and their effects on your conversion and revenue metrics. Using UTM codes, AdRoll can identify and deduplicate the conversion and revenue numbers from each channel.

These tools provide a user-friendly interface that allows marketers to effortlessly create and organize UTM parameters without requiring manual input or complex coding. These tools also ensure consistency and reduce the risk of errors since they typically guide users through the process of generating UTM codes. 

  • It’s essential to keep a centralized and well-organized document or spreadsheet that records each UTM parameter used, along with relevant details about the campaign, channels, and variations. We recommend using a spreadsheet. You can start with a free template or create a comprehensive list of campaigns, sources, mediums, and terms associated with your UTM parameters. Either way, it’s important to use separate columns for each element to maintain clarity and assign a unique UTM code to each combination to ensure consistency and avoid duplication. 

Having a standardized naming convention will also be very helpful, especially when collaborating with a team. For example, for any paid campaigns, use “paid_” as a prefix for the name so there’s no confusion between paid and organic campaigns. It also makes it much easier to filter through when checking on results.

You should also include additional columns for campaign details, start and end dates, and any relevant notes. It might also be helpful to incorporate color coding for better visual organization. 

  • Now that the challenging part is over, it’s essential to regularly review your performance and update your UTM documentation to align with your evolving campaign strategies and objectives. Periodic audits help identify and rectify any discrepancies or outdated parameters, ensuring the accuracy of your data. You can leverage analytics tools, such as Google Analytics or AdRoll’s Cross-Channel Performance Dashboard, to understand what’s happening across your entire marketing stack, by channel, and by campaign at a glance. These tools allow marketers to track key metrics, understand user behavior, and accurately attribute conversions. Marketers can then identify which efforts are driving traffic, conversions, and engagement, guiding them to informed decision-making and allowing for the reallocation of resources to the most effective channels. 

Start Tracking!

By incorporating UTM codes into URLs, marketers gain a powerful tool to dissect their online efforts, analyze the success of various initiatives, and fine-tune strategies for optimal results. UTMs will be even more relevant with the end of third-party cookies, so it’s best to get ahead of the curve. AdRoll put together a free guide if you’d like to learn more ways to manage UTMs and measure your performance!

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