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UTM Tracking Links: A Marketing Essential

It still shocks me how many marketers haven’t heard of UTM links. Especially given we come across them almost every day.



What is a UTM link?

A UTM link is simply a bit of extra information you can stick on the end of a link.

This passes a few key bits of info through to Google Analytics (GA):

  1. Source: Where the link click came from (e.g. Facebook, Google, Quora etc).
  2. Medium: The type of platform/channel the link click came from (e.g. Organic Search, Email, Paid Social).
  3. Campaign: A custom name for the campaign the link is associated with (e.g. “black-friday”)

The above three “parameters” are mandatory if you’re using a UTM link.

There are also a few optional bits of info you can send with the link:

  1. Content: Up to you. Generally used to specify a particular ad (e.g. “blue-variant”)
  2. Term: Again, up to you. Could be used to differentiate paid keywords.

If you’re familiar with Google Analytics, you’ll probably already recognise “source”, “medium” and “campaign”.

If you’re not familiar with Google Analytics, check out my guide.

These are called “Dimensions” in GA, and provide context to the raw figures. Specifically, these are Attribution dimensions. They help to attribute where your website users came from.

Exhibit GA

Obviously, this is hugely important in our roles, as we can then use that information to strategise, allocate budget and resources.

You are strategising to allocate budget and resource, right? 🧐

You may still be wondering why UTMs are necessary, as GA pulls in a lot of this data by itself.

Google Ads tends to fill it out automatically (“google / cpc”), and you’ll get “Source/Medium” from Google Search also (“google / organic”).

This falls apart when you start putting links to your website from other websites. Like social media, or blogs, or a PDF somewhere. UTMs help you to send the data to attribute links which are unattributed by default.

Unattributed links tend to fall back to the “referral” medium. For example, if you put a link in a LinkedIn post, by default, the user would be attributed as “linkedin / referral”. Kinda useless, as you could have hundreds of links from various places on LinkedIn.

If you used a UTM, you could get something like: “linkedin / organic-social / black-friday-campaign / product-carousel-post”. Much more helpful!

Hell, you can even use UTMs to track offline sources, like QR codes!

Hopefully the power of the UTM is now becoming evident to you.

Itty bitty living space

Alright, now you know what UTM links are and why they are so important. Now I’ll show you how to create them.

How to make a UTM link

This is the anatomy of a UTM:

The blue part is your web page’s URL. Pretty standard stuff.

The orange part is where the “Query String” begins. That’s denoted by the question mark and signifies the beginning of the SPICY part of the link.

The green parts are the “UTM parameters”. You can probably see they match the names of the UTM parameters I mentioned earlier in the article, prefixed by “utm_”, followed by an equals sign.

The purple is the “value”, and where you get to add your specific tracking requirements.

Note that each parameter/value pair are separated by an ampersand (&).

Armed with that knowledge, how would you add a UTM parameter of “term” and a corresponsing value of “potatoes”?

Answer

“&utm_term=potatoes” 🥔

Best practice tips and tricks

Don’t just dive into creating UTM links. It’s easy to mess up your tracking if you’re aren’t careful. 😤

Here’s some stuff you should consider:

Nice! You’ve just learned what UTMs are, why they are important, how to make them and lots of tips and tricks to use going forwards.

Now, go forth and spread those ugly links!

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Written By

Founder of Latent Clarity and author of the Clarity newsletter.

I help new and solo marketers be the best they can with practical, actionable, (and sometimes funny) advice.


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