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UTM Parameters for Better Online Traffic Attribution

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UTM Parameters help marketers and digital business owners to better understand the online traffic sources that lead to website engagement and conversions. These short tags added to the end of website URLs are an incredibly powerful way to increase the accuracy and usefulness of your Google Analytics implementation.

What are UTM Parameters?

Google Analytics (“GA”) is a powerful tool for tracking visitors to your website. One of its most valuable features is the ability to track attribution data for your website visitors. While some traffic sources may be identified by default (i.e. Google Ads, Organic Facebook, etc.), some traffic sources (i.e. Email, Backlinks, Facebook Ads, etc.) will require using UTM Parameters — otherwise, this traffic may default to GA’s catch-all source/medium of “direct/none”.

Utilizing UTM Parameters in Google Analytics will give you more accurate data about how users are finding your content, which can help shape future campaigns accordingly. We will discuss the benefits of UTM parameters in Google Analytics, as well as provide an in-depth guide on how to set them up and track this valuable data.

How do I know if I should use UTM Parameters?

Some traffic sources, especially email campaigns, backlinks, and advertising campaigns, will need UTM Parameters to be recognized correctly.

You should be using UTM Parameters if:

  • Your Google Analytics account is full of traffic source “direct / none”
  • You are having trouble attributing online sales to their original traffic source
  • You have an email newsletter, email welcome sequence, or abandoned-cart email sequence
  • You are running ads on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or any other digital channels (Google Ads will be tracked by default once you link your accounts)
  • You work with partners, affiliates, or advertisers who promote your products in exchange for sales commissions
  • You want additional visibility into the success of certain marketing channels, for conversion rate optimization (CRO) and future budget allocations

 

If you are truly interested in maximizing the value that your online business can bring, you should be using UTM Parameters.

How do I create UTM Parameters for my links?

Setting up UTM parameters for Google Analytics is extremely straightforward. All you need to do is first decide what UTM Parameters your campaign should contain (i.e source/medium, content), and then input them into the final URL of each link that will be used for this particular marketing effort.

By default, Google Analytics accepts the following UTM Parameters:

  • utm_source (required)
  • utm_medium (required)
  • utm_campaign
  • utm_term
  • utm_content


As an example, If I wanted to track a specific email campaign to my newsletter subscribers, I might choose:

  • source=”newsletter”
  • medium=”email”
  • campaign=”holiday-2021″

Manually Creating UTM Parameters

You can manually create UTM parameters using a very straightforward formula, which I’ll demonstrate below.

Original link:
example.com

New link w/ UTM Parameters:
example.com?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=holiday-2021

Tools for Creating & Managing UTM Parameters

Effective use of UTM Parameters requires consistency; if your marketing strategy requires a great deal of link-sharing, I suggest using the following tools and resources:

  • My Simple Google Sheets UTM Generator & Tracker: Feel free to duplicate this Google Sheets template, which you can use to build and track your links. Enter your links and parameters, and your new link is automatically assembled in column H.
  • Google’s Campaign URL Builder: Enter your UTM Parameters and this Google Dev-Tools application will generate the final link for you.
  • Analytics UTM Builder Chrome Extension: Includes basic link-generation functionality, plus the ability to save link templates and integrate a bit.ly account.
  • UTM.io: A more robust solution for teams creating many links, or marketers that prefer to avoid spreadsheets altogether. Free forever on their basic plan, though you’ll need to pay for the best features.

Tips for Effective Link Tracking with UTM Parameters

UTM Parameters will be most effective if consistently implemented in a simple, straightforward way. In order to maximize your success with UTM Parameters, I suggest:

  1. Tag all traffic you control
  2. Test Links before sharing
  3. Tag at least Source / Medium, and often Campaign
  4. Be consistent with your UTM Parameters
  5. Use dashes (-) rather than spaces ( ) or underscores (_)
  6. Use all lowercase letters
  7. Don’t repeat yourself in tags
  8. Keep it simple, but descriptive

Additional Resources:

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