n today’s day and age, we are hit with so many types of marketing and advertising that we may not even notice all of them. When it comes to digital marketing, there are online and offline campaigns, and trying to see how these types of marketing are working for your company is extremely difficult.
As a marketing professional this is even more difficult, because you are responsible for showing results to your clients. One fantastic way to track your results is to use UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes. This simple technique can link your marketing practices to Google Analytics and give you the data you need to support an idea or switch gears to try something else.
What Is A UTM Code?
A UTM code, sometimes called a UTM parameter, is a portion of text added to the end of a URL that enables you to track visits from that URL you use as a link in social media, emails, and more.
Why would you want to do that? It comes in handy if you’re trying to test what promotion methods work best for your brand and to track the success of certain content pieces. There really isn’t a defined time when to use UTM tracking codes, it’s more of a tool that allows you to do many things.
This all might sound a little convoluted and hard to visualize, so I’m just going to give you an example URL and walk you through what’s going on.
Hot-diggity, that’s a long URL! Everything after that question mark can be easily broken down into pieces, so don’t get intimidated.
- campaign=social media – This simply identifies for you internally what campaign this link falls under. It allows you to organize your analytics but placing different content in separate areas so you don’t get just a mess of numbers from all of your UTM codes.
- medium=social – Here’s where you identify the type of medium that you’re featuring the link on. Another example besides social media would be email.
- source=twitter – Finally this is where you identify the specific place where the link is featured such as Twitter, Facebook, an exact email that went out, etc.
There are more parameters you can set, but the three above are the best to get started with and will allow you to accurately track results. You just need to have the content set with an original URL on your site BEFORE you go about making a UTM code. Otherwise you don’t have anything to build off of and track.
How To Create A UTM Code
You don’t need to be a coding wizard to create these helpful URLs. Google has you covered with their intuitive URL builder which also syncs nicely with Google Analytics; you can find the URL builder right here. You just need to enter the needed information and Google spits out a URL ready to use. The manual process isn’t too difficult but there’s a large margin for human error, so just stick to Google’s handy tool.
How To Start Tracking A UTM Code In Google Analytics
Many CMS tools, such as HubSpot, allow you to track specific URL codes but each CRM tool has its own specific set of rules. Google Analytics is available to everyone so I’ll give you a quick how-to using that platform for UTM codes. You won’t believe how easy it is and the steps below are all you need:
- Log into your Google Analytics account that’s associated with your website
- Click “Audience” in the left-hand side menu
- Click “Sources” under “Audience”
- Click “Campaigns” under that
- Look at your results
Google automatically tracks UTM codes associated with your website so there’s nothing to set up. It’s basically marketing magic! The Google Analytics tracking code that’s on your website is doing all the work behind the scenes.
When you create a Google Campaign Tracking URL, it looks like this:
This actually lands you in the same URL. But, looks like a different dynamic URL. When you create a link that looks different (except # extensions) than the original URL, then Google will treat it differently. If you don’t block the contents, Google will also index the duplicate version of the page. With various projects, we have seen this phenomenon.
If Google thinks that this is a different URL, then it might as well influence SEO. Firstly, it will create duplicate content problem. Secondly, it will not point to the same URL you want link for. Therefore, the best way to get most SEO link juice from URLs using Google Campaing tracking, follow the suggestions below:
- Use a custom landing page for your ads in separate folder on the site and serve contents that are blocked by Robots.txt and use Google tracking URL versions on those pages (however, I personally don’t like blocking contents with Robots.txt, rather the “noinindex,follow” meta flows more link juice that just blocking it
- You can go to Google Webmaster and mention any one of the URL Parameter that always stays with with Google Campaign Tracking URLs and choose the option “No: Does not affect the page content”
- Make sure the robots meta tag on the page mentions “noinindex,follow”. This will disallow pages to be index, but still pass link juice to other relevant pages
- Make sure that the content of the page links to the original page. This will increase the authority of the original page
- Since the page contains duplicate contents, make sure the page contains canonical tag (e.g. <link rel=”canonical” href=” ” />).
Once you have done all of these for your site/pages, then you might be able to get the most link-juice out of Google Campaign Tracking URLs.
Initially start tracking only a few URLs to see how the process works, then dive all in once you’re a UTM Jedi Master. UTM codes can really help prove to upper management that all your tweeting and blogging actually pays off. This is the best way to track specific promotions on your website because you have total control of what’s going on.
I guarantee that you’re going to have a much better picture of what works and what doesn’t in your content promotion after you implement UTM codes and start seeing results.