The Power of UTM Parameters

By Ashley Glenn
Ashley Glenn is constantly chasing the latest social media trends and finding ways to insert her clients into the mix. When she’s not training for her next marathon, she’s daydreaming about her next off-roading adventure in her Jeep.
 

As marketing professionals, we know content is king. Whether we’re talking about the content on your website, social media posts or email outreach, it’s important to know which content is driving the most visitors to your website.

But how do you know exactly which efforts are resulting in the most website sessions or which campaigns are the most successful? That’s where UTM parameters come into play. What’s that, you ask? Don’t worry, we’ve broken down the basics below.

But first, let me back up – I recently attended PR News’ Measurement Conference in Washington, D.C. to learn about different measurement techniques and metrics marketing and PR professionals should be using to show ROI to clients. I almost jumped out of my seat at the beginning of Mike Toner’s session when he started talking about the importance of using UTM parameters on all inbound links to your website.

I’ve been using UTM parameters for years, but it was clear by the number of questions and puzzling stares from the people around me that many marketing pros still don’t understand the power of these little tags. Here goes:

What Are UTM Parameters?

UTM parameters are snippets of text that can be added to the end of any inbound website link. This gives you the ability to control exactly how website traffic is categorized in any web analytics platform, such as Google Analytics.

There are five parameters that can be defined in each UTM link:

  • Source: Where visitors are coming from (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Medium: How visitors are getting to the website (social, email, etc.)
  • Campaign: Which campaign the promotion is associated with (monthly newsletter, spring promotion, etc.)
  • Term: Which paid keywords are the most effective
  • Content: Which element on your ad or promotion was clicked

Although there are five tags available for use, it’s common to only use source, medium and campaign. These links are simple to generate by using Google URL Builder.

Here’s what they look like: https://sspr.com/?utm_source=LinkedIn&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=springpromo

Bolded above are the UTM parameters that have been added to the link. This specific tagging tells Google Analytics to categorize clicks from this link from LinkedIn (utm_source=LinkedIn), from social media (utm_medium=social) as a result of the Spring Promotion (utm_campaign=springpromo).

Most people don’t notice or mind the addition of UTM parameters when they click on links, but if you’re worried about the aesthetic appeal of the link itself, you can use a URL shortening tool like Bit.ly to create a smaller version of the link to use in a social media post.

Why Are UTM Parameters Important?

So why does this matter? These little codes are so powerful because they allow marketing teams to extract valuable insights from their campaigns and learn which ones are driving the most website traffic.

If you have goals set up in Google Analytics to track conversions like contact form submissions or white paper downloads, you can also see how many conversions occurred as a result of your marketing efforts – a number that can be tied directly to ROI!

UTM parameters are also useful if you’re promoting a particular asset across multiple channels and want to see where most people are interacting with a piece of content. This could even open the doors to new channels to focus on that you didn’t originally think were a top priority.

These reporting metrics go well beyond telling your client or boss how many impressions something received or how many “likes” happened on a social post. By tying your efforts directly to ROI, you’re not only proving your campaigns were successful, but you’re also proving your individual value to your organization.

Reporting on marketing and PR successes continues to get more challenging every day. It’s no longer enough to report solely on vanity metrics to prove that campaigns are positively impacting your business. Your leaders and clients want proof that marketing and public relations efforts are contributing to ROI. Adding UTM parameters to all inbound links is one of the best ways for marketing and communications teams to track their efforts.

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