You're settling down after a nice evening with the family and you think to yourself: "Self, I wonder how that latest campaign is performing? I think I'll go check out my fancy Google Analytics dashboard and see how its worked!".
So you head over to Google Analytics and all your enthusiasm to dive into super valuable metrics and data dies as you see all this traffic from 'direct' or 'other's sources with no possible way of understanding what all these visitors clicked on, or what image, post or offer text works best for you.
Does that sound familiar? If yes, then there is relatively simple and easy way to improve your traffic data that won't cost you a single penny! If not, well, then you might want to head back and watch the rest of that Jake Paul video.
So we're going to talk about UTM codes here:
Urchin Tracking Modules - better known as "UTM codes" are passive URL parameters. What does that mean?
Let's break it down:
"Passive" means that the URL performs exactly the same as it did before. It goes to whatever web page or link you want it to.
The URL is the link. For example www.mesmero.net is a URL.
The 'parameter' is extra text that is 'coded' onto the end of the URL. For example, for this blog post, I'll add extra parameters that identify any clicks from this blog post.
A URL with this additional UTM code looks like this:
What does that mean? It means that your customers/visitors click on the link and visit the page that you identified as you always have, however, the extra parameters that YOU define that allows analytical tools like Google Analytics or Google My Business to classify the traffic with more precision than the default categorizations used by these and other analytical tools.
I'll start with a free resource where you can start playing with these codes yourself: Google's Campaign URL Builder tool.
You'll notice a field for your URL or website link, and then below that several subsidiary fields where you enter the information you want from your analytics.
The graph below illustrates and summarizes the five sources.
Using the above URL with UTM codes as examples, you can see where I added the following terms:
Source = blog
Medium = post
Name = 1220urchin
Content = link
There are some general best practices that you should follow when using UTM codes:
Develop and stick to a consistent method for entering code. The terms you enter are case sensitive, so if you list a medium as 'organic' and then 'Organic' Google Analytics will separate these terms into two different sources (which makes analysis more difficult!).
Understanding what a 'source' is versus a 'medium' can also be tricky, there are no set rules for how to do this, however, it is possible to break an accurate collection of data if you list the 'medium' as 'google' and the source as 'organic' which is the opposite of the default approach Google considers in this hierarchy. The resulting 'source' you may get could likely be the unhelpful 'other'!
What's the value?
Well when you drill into 'Campaigns' in your Google Analytics dashboards, you'll be able to see more insightful metrics associated with your campaigns than you would if you hadn't used UTM codes (if your Google Ads / GMB accounts are connected to each other, Google does a decent job (but not perfect) of attributing clicks from those campaigns at some level, however, for non-Google traffic, its often lumped in with 'referral', 'other' etc...).
In the example below, your Campaign view now aligns the click data information that you defined using the UTM codes, clearly providing much more valuable insights into your copy, conversion rates, offers, images, landing page performance, and so on.
The best way to learn how to use UTM codes is to start. It can be a bit ambiguous at first as you navigate the right sequence for different platforms and elements and how to best label them in your UTM codes, but practice will help you to develop a consistently useful method for this. And even if you do it in a way that isn't helpful, it won't effect the experience for your web visitors at all, so there's very little actual damage to be done to your marketing.
I hope this brief introduction helped! If you have more questions, would like some help with tracking or measurement, please feel free to drop me a line at any time!
Your buddy, MESMERO.