John Wanamaker, a US merchant, said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
Things are different today. We have technology designed to measure the effectiveness of our digital marketing campaigns.
Effective ROI calculation starts with tagging your URLs.
What is URL Tagging?
You can add additional information (parameters) to the URLs you promote. The analytics software can interpret this on your website.
URL tagging is useful because it helps you analyze your marketing activities in a structured way.
What are UTM parameters?
UTM is the name for the standard parameters Google Analytics supports. It’s also supported by other marketing software like Hubspot, KISSmetrics, etc.
There are 5 UTM parameters you can add to a URL.
It’s not necessary for you to tag your URLs with all 5 parameters.
Setting up UTM parameter tags for your URLs
A UTM tagged URL with all parameters will look like this
A “?” should follow your complete URL. Separate each UTM parameter with an ampersand (&). You can add parameters in any order you want.
Use as many UTM parameters as you want to track your marketing activity. You can use a minimalist approach or use all to be very specific.
#1: Source (utm_source)
The source helps you identify the website or app that sends visitors to your site.
If you post a link to Facebook as part of your content marketing campaign, you can tag the source as “Facebook”. If you used it for an ad campaign on the New York Times, you could put NYT as the source.
#2: Medium (utm_medium)
The medium helps you to identify the type of marketing medium where your link gets placed.
Did you place the link in an email newsletter? Use utm_medium=email. Posted to a social media site like Facebook or Twitter? Use utm_medium=social.
Here are some of the recommended medium tags:
- Banner (used for banner ads)
- CPC (used for cost per click/pay per click campaigns)
- Offline (used for offline promotion)
- Social (for links posted to social media websites)
- Email (for links posted inside email newsletters, third-party paid mailer campaigns, etc.)
#3: Campaign (utm_campaign)
Campaign defines what you are promoting or the way you are promoting something.
For example, you might have an online store and over the Christmas period, you run special offers. You could tag utm_campaign with something simple like Christmas-Offer.
Before you name your UTM campaign…
Campaigns are often the most misused parameters. It’s critical you understand how to use the campaign parameter.
Do not enter source or medium data here. Often, URLs are only tagged with utm_campaign and contain all the data that should have ideally been split among the other UTM tags.
Here is an example:
Instead, tag them as follows:
Think of a campaign as a reusable term. Instead of saying utm_campaign=Christmas-Offer-2015, consider using utm_campaign=Christmas-Offer. Use other UTM tags to identify the year and promotion details.
This way, you can track the performance of Christmas offers over the years using a single tag.
#4: Term (utm_term)
The term tag is important if you use ad networks, where you target ads based on keywords.
Google Analytics and Google Adwords are deeply integrated. You can set up auto tagging for Google Adwords. This way, Analytics will capture all keyword data automatically.
You might use Bing ads instead of Adwords. MixPanel might be your analytics product of choice, compared to Google Analytics.
For both cases above, you need to add the keywords manually.
#5: Content (utm_content)
Content is a very useful tag if you need to identify a link precisely.
The utm_content parameter is usually used when you are running an A/B test. Content tags are highly recommended if you conduct paid content promotion. If you are tagging a blog post, use a shorter version of the title as your utm_content value.
Defining a UTM tagging strategy
It’s crucial that you identify and clearly document a UTM tagging strategy early on. If you have a team, share it with them and ensure that the tagging structure is intact for all URLs.
It might not be an issue initially. After a few days or months (based on your traffic volume), your analytics data will get bloated and confusing. This scenario is a result of bad UTM tagging practices.
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind while setting up your UTM parameters:
#1: Tag all links on external websites or apps that point to your website
Tag all links you can control on outside websites and apps. Avoid tagging URLs within your website.
Google Analytics works based on last touch attribution (you can change it inside the settings). With the last touch attribution model, the focus is on the user’s last interaction before a conversion happens. If you tag your internal URLs, the UTM data will get overwritten.
Internal UTM tagging results in loss of critical attribution data for your marketing campaigns. The same applies for tagging URLs inside your email newsletter.
#2: Be consistent with UTM tag values including capitalization.
You can attribute the source of traffic to Facebook in several ways:
- utm_source=FaceBook or
Logically, they all refer to the same source; however, most analytics software will treat them as separate entities.
It’s not just capitalization
To save you from Analytics hell later, be consistent with UTM parameter values. Consistency helps you to consolidate your marketing analysis.
#3: Segment paid and organic traffic
If you conduct paid marketing, it is important to know how much ROI your paid ads are driving directly.
If you are conducting paid social media marketing, using utm_medium=social for organic and utm_medium=social-paid for paid traffic. You can also use other UTM parameters like utm_campaign to identify paid traffic.
Based on the approach you use to analyze data, the ideal method is to pick one approach and stick to it.