What is a Urchin Tracking Module and why should you start using it now?

WHAT DOES UTM STAND FOR?

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module, which is a bit of a mouthful. Urchin was originally a web analytics software, developed by Urchin Software Corporation and designed to track the behaviour of unique website visitors. It was bought by Google in 2005 and the acquisition led to the creation of Google Analytics, which became the most popular web data analytics tool across the internet.

Nowadays, UTM tagging is an analytics tool used by marketers to track the impact of their online marketing efforts, better understand their audience’s behaviour and measure performance. For instance, UTM tags allow you to discover which channels bring the most sales conversions to your website.

It’s made up of tags (also called modules or variables), which you add to the end of a link, to track and analyze the given page’s traffic sources. When a person clicks on the given link, these parameters are sent back to GA and will appear in the different Analytics dashboards.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING UTM?

By using UTM tags, you will be able to track the number of new and returning visitors, the bounce rate, conversion and the detailed social media performance of your traffic.

Bu there is also a less known benefit: UTM tagging helps you to get rid of dark social traffic. What does it mean exactly? Let’s say you post your article on Facebook and you set up and ad to promote your content through the platform’s Business Manager. After your campaign finishes, you notice that there are significant differences between the conversion results of Facebook and your numbers on Google Analytics. The reason why this happens, for example, could be that your audience clicks on your link but your page does not load for them because they are using and old phone or old version of the browser. But another reason is that many times your social traffic becomes “dark” and it is registered as direct traffic by GA without the use of UTM tags. However, if you insert the link and add the UTM parameters, you can be sure that GA will recognise it as social traffic!

For example, you would like to understand how many of your website visitors have arrived to your site by clicking on your article’s link that you have shared on Twitter a week ago. However, you have shared your article on several other platforms, spent a substantial budget on promoting it and even sent out an e-mail campaign. How do you know where are they exactly coming from?

HOW DOES UTM TAGGING WORK?

Through this data analytics tool you can track five things by using 5 distinct parameters:

utm_source

What is the source of your traffic? (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

utm_medium

What is the medium through which your audience ended up on your website? (e.g. social, mail, etc.)

utm_campaign

Which campaign attracted your audience? (e.g. Summersale2017)

utm_content

Which content works best for your post? (e.g. differentiate between two CTA texts)

utm_term

Which paid term brought you the most traffic? (e.g. if you have paid campaigns you can specify the keyword you used)

The above 5 parameters are the variables you are using when you are creating a UTM tagged link. You must add source, medium and campaign, while content and term are optional.

So how do you create a UTM tag actually? There are actually several ways:

MANUALLY

Let’s see a basic example with only 3 parameters: your link is “https://www.utmthings.com”, you shared a post on Facebook and you used it to promote a discount on the software package you are selling.

Your parameters will be the followings:

utm tag table


Your UTM tagged link will look like this:

https://www.utmthings.com/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=softwarediscount2017

You can partly automatize this process and build an Excel sheet, using a simple function, and keep track of the tags you have used.

In the below example I have created 8 UTM links with different parameters. As it can be seen on the picture, I have A/B tested two CTA terms: “Click here!” and “Get it now!” for the softwarediscount2017 campaign. I have ran the tests on Facebook, Twitter, in a newsletter and an e-mail campaign. By simply inserting the variables into this Excel sheet, I automatically created my UTM coordinates example:

=IF(A2<>"",CONCATENATE(A2, IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH("?", A2)), "?", "?"), IF(B2<>"","utm_source="&B2,""), IF(C2<>"","&utm_medium="&C2,""), IF(D2<>"","&utm_campaign="&D2,""), IF(E2<>"", "&utm_content="&E2,""), ""))

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 4.01.24 PM.png


CAMPAIGN URL BUILDER BY GOOGLE

A super simple service by Google. You just enter the parameters into the field and the system gives you the ready-to-go link. Don’t forget about using consistent parameters, though! The tool even provides you explanations. They created the same service for Android (Google Play URL Builder) and iOS (iOS Campaign Tracking URL Builder ) apps.

google campaign builder


Additionally, there are some services, mostly for social media, which create UTM tracking automatically, such as Buffer or Amplifr.

But there are a couple of things you should pay attention to when creating your own custom UTMs!

Don’t confuse source and medium

Based on their name it is not completely evident which one to use. Your source is always the platform’s name (e.g. facebook, newsletter) and the medium is the type of platform (e.g. social, mail).

Consistent tagging

When naming your parameters, you should use consistent tagging! Be careful because facebook will be different from facebook.com and google is not the same as Google, with a capital letter, in this case.

The link

You should use the full link, with https:// at the beginning and never forget the / at the end! As an example, we don’t put simply “intellyo.com” instead we use the full link, such as “https://www.intellyo.com/

Spaces

Instead of spaces, you should use “_” or “+” as the former option won’t be recognized by the system. So, for instance, when thinking about parameters, don’t use “facebook ad”, instead use “facebook_ad” or “facebook+ad”.

Separate the parameters from the URL with a question mark

When creating your custom UTM tag, you add the full link + ? + parameters. The link should be separated from the parameters with a “?”, such that: https://www.link.com/?parameter_1...

List the values and pairs separated by an equal sign

To each UTM value (utm_source, utm_medium, etc.), you assign a pair (facebook, social, etc.), just like I did in the manual method above. These should always be separated with a “=”, which indicates that the utm source equals facebook, for example. So, like this: https://www.link.com./?utm_source=social...

Shorten the link

Long links in your posts, on social media for instance, are annoying for your audience and might significantly decrease your click-through-rate. You should definitely use a link shortener service like goo.gl or even better, you can create your own customized short link!

The process is quite simple. First of all, you have to buy a short domain, for example google.com bought goo.gl or bit.ly instead of bitly.com

After the purchase, register on bit.ly and add your custom short domain to the system. It only takes a few simple steps and instead of using super long links the one you post will simple look something like: goo.gl/Kjsj2Uw (but with your own domain name instead of goo.gl, of course).

Order?

It doesn’t matter what order do you use when adding the parameters as long as you pay attention to the other rules.

HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF THE RESULTS?

Now that you understand what does UTM stand for and how to assemble a UTM tagged link, you can check the results through Google Analytics. As a matter of fact, the most useful are Acquisition and Conversion reports. Below, I have added some example questions and the steps to find the answers. The more you are using this tool, the more you will discover within your own data analytics tool.

Which social channel performs the best for your website?

Acquisition > Campaigns > All campaigns > Primary dimension set to Source/Medium

Which campaign performs the best?

Acquisition > Campaigns > All campaigns > Primary dimension set to Campaign

By playing around with the Campaigns in GA you will be able to discover the number of (new) users and their habits. For instance, most of the audience of the Intellyo blog is converting through our social campaigns and our visitors from Reddit are the most engaged with only a 27.78% bounce rate.