The Right Way to Use UTM Parameters
FIRM FIXED IDEAS
The right way to use UTM parameters is to use them to attribute marketing activities in a universal and standardized format.
“Organization is a journey, not a destination.” – Mom’s Everywhere
If you are not using UTM’s in your marketing links… get on it! If you are, use this as a refresher to ensure that you are efficiently using UTM’s the right way. I say right way, but what I am about to share is the best practices for using them in any marketing plan.
Rule of Thumb? Always use them whenever a link points to your website (property) and the link is going to be placed somewhere not on your website (property).
I didn’t bother when I started in marketing and now I wish I had. UTM’s are not the answer to the ever present issue of marketing attribution… but they are big step forward and a requirement in some future attribution tools. Perfect solutions for marketing attribution do not (yet) exist, remember that.
UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module, Google originally purchased and made use of the Urchin Company’s tool and rebranded it. Creating a UTM is simply a matter of adding details to the end of a url link that specify marketing information. The marketing information you specify is always connected to topic-focused campaigns so you know the who,what,when,where… etc behind causing the link clicks.
There are many types of parameters that can be utilizing within UTM’s. The standard types are:
Stick to the five, you really do not need to go overboard with adding UTM parameters because by default Google only focuses on the standard five. Non-standard parameters or custom UTM’s, were used only when additional tracking tools exist to pull those fields and match them up with specific fields in a CRM or Database.
In addition you can try to achieve a form of first/last click attribution by passing UTM parameters into a cookie (I will discuss this in an advanced UTM tutorial).
You should not be using UTMs on every single link. As mentioned in the rule of thumb, you only need to use UTMs on links to direct to your webpages. You also should only use them where the link where be posted is not on your website. Just in channels you do not own.
This builder allows you to add marketing details to a link in a quick and easy way. Google’s tool makes it easy to copy/paste, and even gives you the ability to short code your URL (but I do not recommend that unless you absolutely must). Pop open the builder and add only the information that’s relevant, more is not always better.
Avoid these mistakes:
- NO CAPITALIZATION.
- Repeating a word or phrase in more then one UTM parameter.
- Use date only once.
- No spaces at all, ever, anywhere between words.
- Make it readable so use ‘-‘ between words.
- KISS – keep it simple stupid.
- Cross-functional understanding and ability to understand.
Whether it’s just you or a whole team of marketers, you need to keep track of your naming conventions. UTM normalization is the easieset way to have adoption and understanding across teams. An easy way to track past conventions is to use an excel or shared Google sheet and paste the links you use into it. This way you can refer back to what you used before. See my example above.
Always use the same exact (case sensitive) name. If it’s “google” use “google” and not “google.com”. How you name them matters. This needs to be known and available to everyone who will be creating links. You need a naming convention, a standard, and it should be easy to access.
In review, use UTM parameters in your marketing activities. If you are not, spend some time to set up a shared excel or Google sheet and come up with conventions. The earlier you make this change the better. Get everyone on board; this will make marketing attribution much more streamlined and save you tons of time and money down the road. You will thank yourself later when questions about attribution come up and you want more budget.