The Complete Guide to Tracking Campaigns with UTM Parameters: Basics, Best Practices, & Examples
Emily Judds, Thu Mar 25 2021, 10 min
If you’re running any sort of marketing campaigns—whether that’s email marketing, paid campaigns on social platforms, blog posts, or anything else—you’ll want to get familiar with UTM tracking.
While knowing what channels your converting visitors come from is a great start, using UTMs to zero in on the specific campaigns, ads, emails, or posts that drive the most conversions will really help you boost your marketing results. Once you know exactly which ads or pieces of content perform best, you’ll know where to invest your budget and where to focus your marketing efforts.
Here’s a quick list of the scenarios in which UTMs are a must when it comes to correctly analyzing your results:
You run various Facebook & Google campaigns
You send any sort of automated emails
You post on social networks, like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
You send out a newsletter that refers visitors to your site
You’ve got links on a subdomain that refer visitors to your main site
This list is not exhaustive, but if any of the above items apply to your marketing—read on!
What are UTM Parameters?
UTM tracking is the most common way to enrich the data you collect about where your visitors come from. Using UTMs means you’re adding parameters to your links, which can be read by analytics tools in order to give you exact information about the source of the visitor. UTMs do not affect your links in any way, and they’ll allow you to see exactly where your visitors come from—in Oribi and in any other analytics tool.
Simply put, a UTM (which stands for Urchin Tracking Module, in case you were wondering) is a tag added to the end of a URL. So, when linking to your site in any given ad, email, or post, you can add certain parameters to the end of your regular link so that analytics tools can identify that ad as the specific source your visitors came from. You only need to add UTMs to your links once; after that, Oribi, Google Analytics, or any other analytics tool you’re using will show you much more data. Remember: adding a UTM to a link won’t impact the visitors or their experience in any way.
You’ve probably seen lots of UTMs. Usually, when you see a “?” in a URL, everything that comes after it is a UTM. Here’s what it looks like:
A UTM is usually separated into a few different segments, with each one representing a different level of information about the ad. The most commonly used segments are:
Source - the platform the visitor came from (Facebook, Google, Bing, email, etc.) Medium - the type of media (CPC, display, etc.) Campaign - the name of the campaign
(If you’re not quite sure what these segments mean or which you should use, no worries. We’ll get to that soon!)
To give you a better idea of what exactly UTMs are and what you can use them for, here’s an example scenario:
Let’s say you’ve got three new campaigns you’ll be running on Facebook. You want to be able to track which of these ads drives the most conversions. You create three different UTMs (one for each ad), and instead of using the regular link to your site in each one, you add the link plus its corresponding UTM. Now, when a visitor clicks on one of the ads and converts, you’ll be able to tell exactly which ad they came through!
Building & Using UTMs
Just glancing at a UTM, its structure can seem complicated—but don’t worry! UTMs are super easy to build. To get started with your own, here are the steps you’ll want to follow.
Decide on a naming system. The key to great UTM tracking is consistency. That is, following a consistent naming system will make it much easier to analyze your UTMs. This naming system can be whatever you want it to be, but we recommend creating a table in which you can first map out all the sources and mediums you are using (see the example below).
It’s important to note that UTMs are case-sensitive and need to be typed the exact same way every single time in order to be recognized as the same UTM source or medium. We recommend keeping everything lowercase and not using any abbreviations. Spaces will break the tracking, so use underscores if you need to separate words.
Use a UTM builder to create each link. Once you’ve decided on your naming system, it’s time to start building your UTMs! Oribi's free UTM builder makes this super easy. Simply enter the URL you want to link to, along with the source and medium for this particular UTM. Decide on a name for this campaign, and enter that into the ‘campaign’ space. It should look something like this:
Add these UTMs to all your links. Once the UTM tracking builder has generated your UTM, just copy and paste it into your ad or post. Try to add UTMs to every link you publish. Every element, whether it’s an ad, banner, email, or something else, needs its own UTM. If you’ve got an email campaign with multiple emails, be sure to create a separate UTM for each email in the campaign. Here’s an example list of the kinds of links you’ll want to add UTMs to: - any links you post on social networks
- any links you add to automated emails or newsletters - any links associated with coupon codes - any link that appear on your subdomains
It’s important to keep track of all the UTMs you create and publish. We recommend saving every UTM link in one document so that when it comes time to analyze your UTMs, you’ll always know which is which. To help you keep track of your UTM parameters list, we’ve created this snazzy template for you. Go wild!
Analyze your UTM results. Now comes the fun part! After you’ve started adding UTMs to all your links, data will be captured each time a visitor clicks on one of those links and you’ll be able to see which of these UTMs is responsible for bringing the most traffic or driving the most conversions.
There are a number of ways you can do this in Oribi, but a good place to start out is the Channels section. Once there, click on “UTMs” in the left side bar, and then choose the time frame you want to analyze for at the top of the page. Under the “UTM Values” heading, you may select which segment you want to view: Source, Medium, or Campaign. To view how a broader group of your UTMs are performing (such as all your Facebook ads, collectively), stick with source. To zero in on which individual ads are performing best, analyze by campaign.
In the leftmost column, you’ll see your UTM values for whichever segment you have selected. Follow a specific value across the row, and see how it contributes to any of your Magic Events, located across the top. For example, if you want to see which individual campaign brought the most revenue, click “By Campaign” under the header, find and click on your sales event, and then see which UTM is at the top of the list.
You can also use Oribi to filter your funnels by UTM source, medium, or campaign, view full marketing attribution for your UTMs, and see which UTMs lead users to click certain buttons or visit certain pages.
UTM Best Practices
There are a number of use cases for UTMs, but below are some of the main scenarios in which you’ll want to use UTMs, along with some best practices.
Email Marketing. Not only will you know which email campaign your converting visitors came through—you’ll be able to pinpoint the exact email that brought them. As noted above, it’s important to make sure that each of your email links has its own UTM so you can track these as accurately as possible. The following are a few example scenarios in which using UTMs for your email marketing can bring you valuable insight:
Weekly Newsletters - Let’s say you send out a weekly newsletter featuring an offer (which stays the same each time) and content that varies from week to week. By using UTMs, you’ll learn which of these weekly newsletters brings the most conversions, be able to analyze what was different in that particular newsletter, and make adjustments to future newsletters based on what you discovered. For example, maybe you discover your newsletter including a testimonial leads more people to convert. In this case, you’d want to consider adding testimonials to more of your newsletters.
Lead Generation - If you’re sending out automated emails to new leads, UTMs can be an invaluable resource for figuring out which of those emails convert the most users. Simply add a UTM to each CTA link in your automated emails, and you’ll have clear, concrete data showing which ones perform best.
Facebook & Google Campaigns. If you run any paid advertising campaigns, such as on Facebook, Instagram, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc., UTMs will help you track them with precision. Once again, making sure that each individual ad has its own UTM is the way to go. This way, you’ll be able to see which of your ads bring the best (or worst) results, and adjust your strategy accordingly. See the screenshots and links below for instructions on where to add your UTMs by platform:
On this platform, there is no specific section for adding UTMs. You can simply add them within the link you are using inside your email body.
Social Media Posts. That’s right—your content needs UTMs, too. Tagging every one of your social media posts with its own UTM will allow you to know exactly which posts, videos, or tweets brought which results. It’s also a great way to separate these visitors from other traffic. And, it’s super simple. You just need to copy and paste the UTM you created right into your post:
Note: if you’re using a long UTM and would prefer it to appear shorter, you can use a service like bit.ly to shorten the link.
Links on Other Websites & Subdomains. If a link on another site directs back to your site, UTMs are an easy way to keep track of the traffic that comes through these links.
Using UTM tracking consistently across all your marketing campaigns is a super easy way to learn more about how each individual ad performs. Pair these simple tags with Oribi’s set of powerful features, and you’ll have a complete picture of where your campaigns’ strengths and weaknesses lie.
So, put your newfound knowledge to work: start adding UTMs to your links, keep track of the parameters you use, and get ready for more illuminating insights.