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UTM Tracking Links: Why They’re Your Marketing Secret Weapon

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Links are the building blocks of the internet. Being able to quickly and easily click from one web page or site to another is fundamental to “surfing the world wide web.” These days, they’re so common that we often take hyperlinks for granted.

Using links to grow great content and analyze how your audience responds to it is one of the most underrated skills in marketing. Doing so is more realistic than most marketers realize. 

That’s because of something called UTM tracking links. (What does UTM stand for? Keep reading to find out.)

You may not realize it, but you likely click on UTM tracking links every day. They’re nearly everywhere, hidden in plain sight. And if you learn how to use them properly, they can be a true secret weapon when it comes to your marketing analytics.

What are UTM tracking links?

To start, what does UTM stand for? UTM is short for “Urchin tracking module.” I know what you’re thinking—no, this doesn’t have anything to do with sea urchins. It’s called that because it was created by Urchin Software, which was acquired by Google in 2005.

Essentially, UTM codes act as little labels on links that get recognized and organized when they come into Google Analytics. So keep in mind that they’ll only really work for you when they’re directed at a site you own that has Google Analytics installed on it.

Here’s a sample of what a UTM link looks like: https://www.greenmellenmedia.com/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=UTM-blog-post.

If you look closely, you’ll see the different parts of the code. In this example, our source is set to newsletter and the medium is email. So when someone clicks the link, that information will start being tracked within Google Analytics.

How do tracking links work?

There are four basic components to any effective UTM tracking link:

  • URL: the root link that you want the user to end up at
  • Source: this is the referral source, like Google or Facebook
  • Medium: the marketing medium being used, like social media or email
  • Campaign Name: the overall campaign it’s associated with, like Fall Promo Sale 2020

You can also add even more detailed elements like Campaign Terms, or Content—these allow you to be more specific about where the user is clicking (like top CTA button). But those aren’t required fields and can potentially serve to overcomplicate the data.

To see the output of this information, login to your Google Analytics account. Under Acquisition, navigate to Overview. This shows a breakdown of your referral traffic. Some of this information is automatically applied without tracking codes, but it can be inconsistent. With effective use of UTM tracking codes, the data here will be more detailed and reliable.

If you further navigate under Campaigns to All Campaigns, you can view the behavior and performance of a user coming in through UTM links. This gives you a breakdown of how certain campaigns are performing and converting.

How can you create tracking links?

Creating a single tracking link is quick, easy, and free. The best way is to use Google’s URL builder tool—which prompts you to fill in some basic information and automatically spits out a tracking link for you.

Even better, it automatically integrates with Bit.ly so that you can shorten the link within the builder. You can even login with your Bit.ly account so that your custom URL is applied and tracked within your profile.

If you’re ready to take this a step further, you can build and track all of your UTM links within a spreadsheet. Lucky for you, there are hundreds of pre-made templates that you can use (for free) to start tracking the links you’ve built.

Why they’re so helpful to your marketing

The best marketing is based on data, not guesswork. With some reliable and practical numbers about how your marketing campaigns are performing, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions. There are seemingly endless ways this could be used.

  • Implement tracking links through your email marketing campaigns. This takes you a step further than opens and clicks to see what emails bring in qualified leads.
  • Start using tracking links in your social media accounts to see which ones work and are most effective once they land on your website.
  • Be more intentional about your digital ad spend by looking at which ads drove traffic that actually converted through sales or lead magnets.
  • Leverage UTM links as advocacy trackers by providing custom links to influencers and watching which one of them performs best.

Would you rather watch all of this information in a video? Here’s one that sums it up nicely: 

Understanding how UTM codes isn’t incredibly difficult to do. But actually using them in your daily marketing practices takes time and effort. Or you can just hire an expert like GreenMellen to take care of something like that for you. If you want to start being more intentional with your marketing analytics, reach out to us about how we can help.

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Robert Carnes

Marketing Manager

Robert Carnes is a freelance writer, published author, and professional marketer. His book, The Original Storyteller, is a 30-day guide to becoming a better storyteller. Robert lives in Atlanta and you can follow him on social media @jamrobcar.

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