How to Use Google UTMs

If you a larger company with data analysis and analytics in place (usually something you’ve built through Google Analytics), then you'll want to make sure that you are using UTMs to give you a better understanding of how your marketing and sales efforts are working, as well as identify where your successes and sales are coming from.

What are UTMs & Why Do We Use Them?

For those of you that don’t know what they area, UTMs (Urchin Tracking Modules) are tracking parameters; when you use them, you create codes (snippets of text define marketing activities) that are added to the end of your destination URL (www.company.com) to help you track the success of your digital marketing efforts online.  

If UTMs are added, it allows you to measure where your traffic is coming from and also gives you tons of granularity into the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. If you do not use UTMs you will still see the referrer of traffic, but this is not typically very structured and still leaves you wondering what particular post, tweet, page or link the user clicked on to find your site

Using UTMs means we can know what’s working, what’s not, what needs improvement and ultimately where to focus our time, effort and budget!

Understanding Default Google Analytics Channels Before You Build UTMs

Before you start building UTMs and setting up a UTM structure, it’s important to understand how Google classifies (or assigns) traffic that it reads when people come to your website. Inbound traffic is automatically classified into default channels. The default channels are:

  1. Direct: Direct traffic indicates visits where users navigate directly to the URL or the source of the visit is unknown. This is usually determined by a source of direct and medium of (not set) or (none); usually caused by untagged emails, links to PDFs on site, accessing the site from a shortened URL and clicking links from mobile versions of social media apps (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).

  2. Organic Search: Organic search indicates visits from organic (unpaid) search results where site visitors found your information, blog posts, content, etc through a search query in Bing, Yahoo and/or Google.

  3. Social: Social media visits from social networks are those that come from social network sites like Facebook, YouTube. Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest or other platforms used in other countries. Social media referrals are determined when the social source referral matches “yes;” in Google Analytics’ algorithm. It also places these in the referral “bucket” matching a list of known social sources or when medium matches social, social-network, social-media, sm, social network, or social media

  4. Email: Email indicates traffic from links clicked in email messages, whether mass email marketing or individual messages.

  5. Affiliates: Affiliates indicates traffic from affiliate marketing efforts. This is from software or platforms that run affiliate programs, not partner programs or sponsored content.

  6. Referral: Referral indicates traffic where users clicked a link from another site, excluding major search engines. These can link from ads on partners site not classified in an AdWords by, a direct media buy, a partner link or anything that is connected to a website from another site (related or unrelated to its business).

  7. Paid Search: Paid search shows traffic from PPC campaigns run in search results. PPC campaigns are automatically understood by Google Analytics’ algorithm, Adwords is already integrated and paid social is also defined in “social media”. This traffic is shown in the medium labeled as CPC, PPC, or “paidsearch”; it excludes traffic in “Content” bucket of ad networks.

  8. Other Advertising: Other advertising Indicates traffic from online advertising outside of search and display, such as cost-per-view video advertising. The medium is labeled by CPV, CPA, or CPP.

  9. Display: Display indicates traffic from display advertising, such as Google AdWords remarketing campaigns. Display as a medium is labeled as CPM, or banner, or in “Content” bucket of ad networks (indicating Google Display Network).

Clarifying Your Google Channel Data

Google Analytics lumps traffic into a channel based on the source and/or medium. This means that the quality of the data depends on how good a job we do at tagging our campaigns. For example, traffic can end up being miscategorized when non-standard tags are used.

For example, if you use a non-standard medium for paid search (such as “google_paid”), the resulting sessions won’t end up in the default Paid Search channel bucket. It then splices your session into a single instance that you then have to manually add back into the channel bucket; it can make reporting messy and Google Analytics accuracy fragmented.

Using a Standard Naming Criteria for Google Analytics – UTMS

In order to maintain the tagging accuracy you have in your Google Channel Data, it’s important to set up standard naming criteria for tags. The naming criteria for Source, Medium, Campaign, Content, and Terms (applicable in Adwords only) will help address proper allocation of direct and referral traffic, as well as create limited fragmentation in Analytics.

How to Use UTM Fields

In order to build a standardized UTM naming criteria, it’s important to align your naming criteria to default channel analytics. Each UTM field should strive to better define and segment out your efforts by what’s there. You need at least three fields in order to make UTMs work.

  1. Campaign Name (utm_campaign): This acts as the identifier for a specific campaign, product, or offering that you’re driving traffic to. It’s required for all UTMs.

  2. Campaign Source (utm_source): This is the referrer of traffic to your page, such as Google, Facebook or Outbrain. In many cases, this is the platform or tool you used to create the medium.

  3. Campaign Medium (utm_medium): This is the marketing medium that referred the traffic. So, unlike the source, it tracks the type of traffic such as a banner ad, an email, or a Facebook post.

  4. Campaign Content – optional (utm_content): This is an optional part of a UTM, but including it allows you to easily differentiate between ads on the same channel, like Facebook, and is useful when you’re A/B testing various images or ad copy.

  5. Campaign Term – optional (utm_term): While this is optional, creating a campaign term allows you to track the paid keywords of an ad or even the keyword of the link in a blog post. You usually use this with Yahoo, Bing and Google only.

How to Build UTMs Links – Single and Bulk

For one-off campaigns, using the Google UTM Generator is excellent. But for campaigns that require multiple RLS (registration campaigns, inbound sales campaigns, or lead generation), it’s best to create a master of UTMs using a bulk builder (achieved in Excel) in order to build URLs quickly, but also to ensure tagging accuracy (a simple google search will give you plenty of templates for them).

Success Lies in Naming & Consistent Use

To sum it all up, by using a common naming criteria and standardized tags aligned to Google’s channel classification, all shows will have the same method of comparison and analysis. This will save lots of time of manual editing/comparison if we all trying and make up our own logic.

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How to Track Digital and Social Ads in Google Analytics – PPC and Social (ADVANCED MARKETERS ONLY)

Once you have created a URL with our Google Analytics URL builder or your bulk sheet, you can track these visitors by campaign under Google Analytics acquisition section. PPC is built in so you don’t need to worry. You can also filter down reports, dashboards and views to the campaign you used in your UTM tracking codes.

When it comes to tracking the effectiveness of social ads (specifically Facebook), Google Analytics doesn’t include a separate channel for paid social by default. If social ad visits aren’t specifically tagged, they’ll get lumped into the broader Social channel. However, if you tag links with a medium of CPC, PPC, or CPM to indicate paid traffic, the visits will go into the Paid Search or Display channels.

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In order to see these results, you’ll have to create custom channel groupings to categorize traffic as needed. This can be tricky (see Megalytic’s article) and cause errors if you don’t know what you’re doing.

  1. To segment out Facebook efforts, define a new channel with a Source of facebook.com and a Medium of PPC (representing how we’ve chosen to tag our URLs).

  2. After saving this Channel Grouping, we can view the data in the report.

  3. Under the Channels report (Acquisition > Channels), we’ll change the Primary Dimension to our new Channel Grouping of Paid Social.

  4. This will now separate the Paid Social (Facebook advertising) visits from other types of channels