UTMs are parameters that you can add to a link that provide additional data about that link. A common application of UTMs is in an email, to track the clicks on those links. UTMs push data about your link clicks into your Google Analytics. They allow you to create a consistent structure so that you can compare from month to month, or email newsletter to email newsletter and even compare types of links that are getting clicked.
A consistent hierarchy and structure in your UTMs means that you will have consistent data about which links get clicked the most and which sources are driving traffic to your website from a campaign. This data, when consistently structured, can easily be analyzed in Google Analytics.
Here is what a typical URL with UTMs looks like:
The first part (https://www.peakinboundmarketing.com/what-are-utms/) is your URL. This one points to an article about what UTMs are. You’ll notice that the next character is a ?. That tells Google Analytics that we are sending data along with the URL that will help us better understand where that link click came from.
The next section of the parameter (utm_source=newsletter) defines the UTM source as “newsletter”. The ampersand that follows indicates that there is another piece of identifying data, in this case, we are defining the UTM medium as “2019-02” (utm_medium=2019-02). That is the year and the month so that we can tell this link click came from the February 2019 issue of our newsletter. The last UTM in this link is the campaign. Here we are defining the campaign as utm-article. So when you put it all together, this is a link in our February 2019 email newsletter and the link is to our UTM article.
The most important thing is keeping the structure of your UTMs the same every time you use them. You can set them to whatever you want. But if you want to compare data over time you need a consistent structure.
So for example, you could set the source as the high-level info about the link click. Did it come from a newsletter, an article, a tweet, an ad? You should try to think of the most likely sources and keep a list so that you are consistent. You don’t want to call your newsletter one month then call it e-newsletter, or email or blast another month. Pick one and stick with it.
As you get lower in the hierarchy, you can get more specific. For example, we always use the campaign UTM as the description of the link so that we can understand it when we see it in Google Analytics reports. You don’t want codes or convoluted descriptions. Use something short that simply describes the link.
Here are the available UTM parameters and their hierarchy:
Campaign Source – This is the only required parameter
While all of this may seem a bit complicated, Google actually has a super easy to use tool to build your URL with UTMs. It’s called the Campaign URL Builder. You can find it here.
Unfortunately, you still have to put some thought into how you will structure your UTMs so that they are easily readable in your Google Analytics reports. But once you lock that down, you will be rewarded with easy to understand reports that show you which links are the most successful for you.
So how do you see all of this awesome data? Open up your Google Analytics and head to Acquisition then click Campaigns and All Campaigns.
After you click All Campaigns you will see a screen like this. By default, the report will show you data only showing the Campaign Name. That doesn’t give us all the data. So you want to click Source / Medium which is at the top of the data table in blue text.
After you click Source / Medium, you’ll see both the source and medium fields combined in the first column like so:
As you can see we are using “newsletter” for our source and the date the newsletter was sent as the medium. You’ll also note that there is google / cpc at the top of this column. The data from Google Ads will also push into your campaigns. You can easily filter out the cpc data from this report.
First, click advanced. Then select Exclude and lastly type the source / medium you want to filter from this report. Finally, click apply.
Next, we are going to add the names of the links by adding the Campaign as a secondary dimension. Click Secondary dimension, then Commonly used and select Campaign. This will add a new column with your name parameter from your UTMs.
This will then give you a report that shows each link that was clicked and which issue of your newsletter it came from. You can then sort the report by simply clicking on any column heading and of course you can easily export the report in a variety of formats.
UTM’s can be a powerful tool that helps you understand which of your content efforts are driving the most traffic to your website. They definitely help you make data-driven content decisions.
If you need help with an effective UTM strategy, reach out to us at Peak Inbound Marketing (973) 770-4668. We’re happy to help.