UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. You’re probably thinking, “That sounds complicated.” Although it can seem complex at first, UTM tracking is actually quite simple once you know what you’re doing. This ultimate guide to getting started with UTM tracking for small businesses will answer all the questions you might have and tell you everything you need to know about UTM tracking. Let’s get started.
What Is UTM Tracking?
UTM parameters—aka UTM code, tags, or labels—are short snippets of code that marketers append to the end of a URL in order to accurately track the effectiveness of their inbound marketing efforts.
So if you want to track the traffic arriving to your blog from an email signature, you might take a URL like:
And add relevant UTM parameters to get a URL that looks like this:
Then you would use this link in your email signature to easily attribute the traffic and conversions coming from here. If necessary, even more detail could be added to the tag for more detailed data. For example:
- To see which signature drives more traffic, use: utm_medium=signature-blue-banner
- To see whose email signature is converting, use: utm_medium=signature-louisa
These pieces of code allow you to track the actions of visitors precisely and accurately to figure out which channels, content, and campaigns are most effective.
How UTM Tracking Can Benefit Small Businesses
Businesses big and small use the insights provided by UTM tracking to better allocate resources, improve their marketing strategies, and increase the ROI of their campaigns.
Although adding UTM parameters to every link you share can seem like a hassle, it will only add a couple of seconds to your workflow and it could save you from wasting time on marketing tactics that don’t work.
Instead of signing up to various analytics tools and trying to align your social media metrics with your blog analytics, UTM tracking means all your metrics will appear in whatever website analytic tools your business uses. This means you can track your off-site and on-site marketing activities right through to conversion.
You’ll be able to clearly see which channels, campaigns, and content are working best. You can also delve deeper to answer questions that will often come up as you plan your marketing strategy. Figure out which CTAs are working on your audience, A/B test landing pages, know the impact your revamped social media profiles are making, or determine if you should continue to invest time in building up your influencer marketing campaigns.
With this tracking data on-hand, it’s easy to make educated choices when allocating your marketing budget. This knowledge is invaluable for small businesses and startups that are vying for success. Getting these insights early on can make all the difference.
Adding UTM parameters to your links also gives you the benefit of being able to:
- Distinguish between traffic driven through marketing and referrals from other sources
- Accurately track direct traffic—sometimes the “direct” traffic shown in Google Analytics isn’t accurate but using UTM parameters will make this figure exact.
- Use UTMs to distinguish between in-house marketing and your agency’s efforts. See which content is working best.
All the UTM Parameters Available and How to Use Them
There are five types of UTM code you can add to the links you share. You’ve already been introduced to the most important three in the example above, but here’s a run-through of all of them:
Use the source parameter to indicate where you’ll be posting a link. For example, you could tag the source as “facebook,” “medium,” or “linkedin.”
Use this parameter to indicate what kind of content you are sharing. What was the link added to? Medium tags could include terms like “blog-post,” “quora-answer,” or “email-signature.”
The campaign tag is used to represent the specific marketing campaign the URL you’re sharing is part of. So, for example, you might tag a link as being part of “blog-promotion,” “summer-sale,” or “festive-competition.” Then, you’ll be able to see at a glance which campaigns worked for your business.
The next two UTM tags are used less frequently. However, they can be handy if your business is testing out a large marketing campaign or running PPC ads. The “term” tag is used to track the keyword used in an ad. This is great for figuring out which keywords generate the most traffic and conversions—then you can increase your ad spend for these terms in Google AdWords.
Use the content tag to indicate what kind of content you used to encourage people to click on your link. This can be used to track which CTAs work best and what kind of content drives click-throughs.
For example, you might use a tag like “subscribe-now” to indicate the call to action used. Or a tag like “animation” to show that this particular Twitter post included an animated visual. This could help you discern if posts with images or videos get more click-throughs—and which kind of images attract the most clicks.
Below you can see how we tagged a link promoting a Rebrandly Meetup events on social media. We tagged the source as “facebook,” the medium as “post” (as opposed to “ad” or “sponsored post”), and the content as “video-image.” This link was used as part of a summer event campaign, so we tagged that, too.
If you want more insights into how other businesses are implementing UTM tracking, here’s a play by play of how one company does it.
UTM Tracking Tips for Beginners
UTM tracking is quite straightforward once you get started. But there are some simple mistakes that can make it unnecessarily difficult. Here are some tips to follow if you’re just getting started:
Find a system that works for you.
It is possible to add UTM tags to your links manually, but most marketers will use a UTM builder. You can use Google’s tool or, if you plan to shorten the links, you could use a link shortener with an in-built UTM.
Save your UTM tags.
Whichever UTM builder you decide to use, make sure to save your most commonly used tags in the presets so you can create new tracking links with just a couple of clicks.
Only tag links that lead to your website or blog.
If you’re sharing curated content and linking to an external website, don’t add UTM tags. You won’t be able to see any of the data that gets tracked and you may interfere with another site’s UTM tracking data. If you want to get stats on how much interaction your external links get, use a link shortener that provides click data and other insights on engagement.
Shorten tagged links.
If you’ve added UTM tags to a URL you plan to share on social media, make sure to shorten it. These links can be extremely long and aren’t visually attractive. To encourage click-throughs from your audience, turn these long links into short, branded links.
Remember, people can see your tags.
It’s worth noting that when someone clicks on a link with UTM tags, it will appear in the address bar of their browser—even if you shared it using a short link. So you don’t include anything in your tags that is best kept private.
Define clear tagging rules.
To keep your data organized, you should set out some rules for creating UTM tags. If there isn’t a consistent approach to labeling, you may find several sources of traffic appear in Google Analytics that should actually be grouped together as one. For example, if you tagged links posted to Facebook with “fb,” “FB,” “facebook,” ”FaceBook,” and ”Facebook,” you would find that traffic coming from this channel would appear separated under these five different headings.
You can combine these sources together in Google Analytics, but it’s a whole lot less hassle if you just create a tagging strategy to prevent this from happening. Creating presets in your UTM builder can help with this, too.
Some good rules of thumb to follow are:
- Only use lowercase letters within your tags.
- Choose whether you want to separate words with dashes or hyphens.
- Avoid abbreviations and code names.
Don’t use spaces in your tags.
Never use spaces in your tags. Remember, your tags will become part of a URL which won’t allow for spacing. UTM tags with spaces will either bring users to an invalid page or your UTM builder will automatically turn every space into “%20.” It’s best avoided.
The Final Word on UTM Tracking for Small Businesses
UTM tags play an important role when it comes to tracking results. For small businesses, it requires a small time investment, but it will allow them to effectively plan marketing strategies, invest time wisely, streamline marketing spend, and get more bang for their buck. Overall, it should help businesses of any size and at any stage of growth to improve their marketing ROI and optimize their campaigns for conversions.