A UTM code, which stands for “Urchin tracking module” is a simple code that you can attach to a custom URL in order to track a source, medium, and campaign name. Created by Urchin Software Corporation, the company was acquired by Google in 2005. Their software laid the foundational groundwork to allow what we all know and love as Google Analytics.
UTM codes enable Google Analytics to tell you where searchers came from as well as what campaign directed them to you. UTM codes are bits of text you can add to a link that tell Google Analytics a little bit more information about each link.
UTM codes can be long and complex. The UTM code itself has two components:
- UTM Parameter - that starts with utm_. There are 5 separate parameters you can track: utm_source, utm_campaign, utm_content, utm_term (more on these below).
- Tracking variable – a unique variable to identify the dimension being tracked (such as the name of the traffic source). This variable is preceded by the "=" sign. You can have only numbers, letters, hyphens, '+' sign and periods in the variable.
Why are UTMs important?
If you’re spending a lot of time in social media, you might be publishing hundreds of new links per day. UTM codes help you track the performance of each of those links so you can see where your web traffic is coming from.
You can use the UTM variables within the link to track general information, like how much traffic you’re getting from social media. You can use them to track the fine details also, like how much revenue you get from your Twitter bio or Instagram caption.
A UTM link can answer some of the most important questions a digital marketer can inquire about their web traffic efforts:
- Where is the traffic coming from?
- How is it getting to me?
- Why is it coming to me?
To put it simply, UTM codes tell the story of how your traffic is coming to you.
This works by using three (or four) elements called “UTM parameters.” The parameters include Source, Medium, Content (which is optional), and Campaign.
Ways to use UTM tracking
- Knowing where your traffic is coming from. The top reason to use UTM tracking is to know exactly where your website traffic comes from. You can accomplish this by using the campaign, source, and medium parameter.
- Know which links people are clicking in a campaign. You probably already know the newsletter open and click rates. But do you know which links in your newsletter get the most clicks, and which get ignored? This is another situation where UTM codes come in handy.
- Group traffic by medium. This is where you can use utm_medium. By adding utm_medium=social to all links you share on any social channel, you can track your performance across all social networks.
- Track traffic for different campaigns. If you had a new product launch, can you tell with certainty that the traffic came from the launch campaign? How many of your holiday marketing campaigns led to successful conversions?