Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful and free tool that tracks data relating to your website’s traffic. It will help you understand who your visitors are, how they land on your website, and what they do when they get there. If you’re running any kind of marketing campaign where you’re directing traffic to your website, you’ll want to track your results in detail. How many of your website visitors came specifically from your campaign? What form of marketing drove them to your website? Google Analytics can help you with this.
A quick, easy, and free way to collect more detailed data on your marketing campaigns is to use UTM parameters attached to your website URL. When anyone clicks on your website URL, with the parameters attached, Google Analytics will collect and sort the data to help you understand your results. Here is an example of what a website URL looks like with the UTM parameters included:
In this example, this URL string tells me that this visitor was a newsletter subscriber, that they clicked on a link in an email to visit my website, and that they came from my campaign, “Free Marketing Resources.” Below, I’ll explain how each of these parameters work.
There are five standard parameters you can use. The first three are required by Google, with the others being optional if you choose to drill down your data even further. The example terms noted under each section are commonly used, but you can use any term that is appropriate and makes sense to you.
Five Standard UTM Parameters
Required. Think of this as a channel. What stream of marketing have you used to publish this campaign? How is this traffic coming to my website?
Example terms: paid, social, email, referral, banner
Paid: use this term if you are running paid ads on Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads, etc.
Social: use this term if you are posting about your campaign on any social media network. This is for organic posts only, not paid ads.
Email: use this term if you are including a link in an email broadcast about your campaign.
Referral: use this term if you are posting a link back to your website for this campaign on a third-party website or blog.
Banner: use this term if you have placed a banner ad on a third-party website.
Required. This tells GA where (what website or platform) your visitors came from. Where is this traffic coming from?
Example terms: facebook, instagram, newsletter, name-of-email-list, website.com
Facebook/Instagram: use the name of the social media platform that your campaign is being posted. This can be the name of any social media or other platform.
Newsletter: use this if you are sending your campaign to your newsletter subscribers
Name-of-email-list: Similar to Newsletter, but you’d use the name of your specific email list if you are sending your campaign to a specific segment of your subscribers as opposed to the entire list.
Website.com: this can be used if your campaign is being advertised through a specific website, such as an affiliate. Use the actual website domain here.
Required. This is an important parameter that sorts your visitor data by your specific campaign. What campaign has your website traffic come from?
Example terms: summer-2022-sale, 90-day-social-media-planner, buy1get1free, pre-registration-special
This parameter should be named the actual name of your campaign. Use dashes to separate words, or combine into a single word, whatever makes it easier to read for you in Google Analytics. Never use spaces in a website URL.
Optional. This is used when you want to specify a certain keyword you’ve used for your campaign. For example, if you are advertising via Google Search Ads, you would enter the keyword you are targeting for this specific ad.
Samples: best+puppy+treats, marketing+companies+edmonton, blue+cowboy+boots
Optional. This is used when you have different ads or posts going to the same URL. Typically, this is used when you’re doing A/B split testing to see which component performs better. This can track differences in copy, different link positions within the content (if you have two calls-to-action in one email, for example), or any other comparison you wish to track.
Examples: top-link, bottom-link, red-cta, blue-cta, copyA, copyB
This parameter is not commonly used, but is useful if you are split testing and wish to see detailed results through Google Analytics.
How to Put the URL Together
Let’s take another look at the URL we saw at the beginning of this post:
The first section of the URL is the website address we are directing our visitors to. This can be any page within your website, such as a blog post, a landing page, or whatever page you want your campaign visitors to land on.
Immediately following your web page URL is a question mark. This starts the row of parameters, and is required.
Then we add our first UTM parameter, which in this case is utm_medium=email. The parameters can be placed in the URL in any order, they will all work the same way. It is recommended that you follow a pattern for every URL you create so that you can easily read it yourself.
For any subsequent parameters, we must include an ampersand (&) in between them. This helps break out the individual components so Google can place the data in the right area in Analytics.
Another UTM Parameter Example
Let’s say you’re using Facebook paid ads to direct people to your online schooling programs, and let’s say you’re running two different ads to the same landing page on your website. Each ad should have a unique URL based on the UTM parameters you choose.
You’ll want to track how many people visited your website from these ads, and which ad they came from. Here is how you’d do it:
Do you see the subtle difference between the two? Everything in each URL is the same except the utm_content section, which distinguishes between the two ads.
Using a UTM URL Generator
You have the option to type your UTM parameter URL manually, or you can use a generator tool that creates your URL automatically based on the parameters you specify.
If you choose to use a generator, you can use Google’s own Campaign URL Builder. Simple enter in your base website address in the first field, and enter your individual parameters in the remainder of the boxes. The tool will generate the URL in real time at the bottom of the form. Simply copy and paste the URL into your campaign media.
Where to Find the UTM Data in Google Analytics
Now that you’ve put together your campaign URLs and launched your campaign, where do you find the data in Google Analytics? Here are the data locations:
These two parameters are in the same place within Google Analytics:
Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium
This section will break down your traffic based on both the source and medium from all traffic to your website, not just your campaign. To break the data down by campaign, see below.
This data can be found under Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns.
Here you will see how many people visited your website from each campaign you have run, as long as you have included the utm_campaign parameter in the URL.
To drill down the UTM source/medium, terms, and content for a specific campaign, click on the campaign name on this page in GA to see the data.
Source/Medium is the default data displayed, but you can change to any other parameter data you are collecting by changing the Primary Dimension just above the table in the middle of the page.
When to Use UTM Parameters
These parameters are invaluable when it comes to tracking any type of website traffic coming from an outside source. Use UTM parameters in your URLs anytime you wish to track specific website traffic data in your marketing. The only time it doesn’t make sense to use them is in internal links, or links on your own website that point to other content within your own website. Outside of this, using these parameters is helpful to break down your website traffic data.
Use these parameters to create unique URLs for every individual element of your marketing campaigns to break down the data by post, advertisement, split testing, media, etc.
Using UTM Best Practices
When creating your URL, remember that spaces cannot be used in a website address. Instead, use dashes in terms containing multiple words. Underscores should ONLY be used in the UTM parameter itself, such as utm_source, utm_medium, etc. The plus sign used in utm_term tells Google the multiple words used in your paid keyword is one single search term, or search phrase.
Using UTM parameters when running a marketing campaign can provide you a tremendous amount of data on your results. By implementing unique UTM terms in your website URLs for each component of your campaign, you can track how many of your website visitors came from the campaign, where they came from, and what specific media performed better than others. This tracking method is free and easy to use, and once you’ve started seeing the data roll in you’ll likely want to use this trick in all your marketing media.