The Right Way to Use UTM Parameters

by | Apr 8, 2017 | 0 comments

FIRM FIXED IDEAS

UTM Parameters
UTM Conventions
UTM Builder

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.

where utm parameters go

UTM?

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.

Types:

There are many types of parameters that can be utilizing within UTM’s. The standard types are:

  • Source
  • Medium
  • Campaign
  • Term
  • Content

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.

Javascript, PHP, and other codes can pull the parameter data from a link URL and insert that information into form fields. This is a much more complex way to use UTM’s but if you are looking for a way to pass url parameters into form fields, to make use of complex cross-domain tracking… then you will need to push that data into forms that is stored into CRMs.

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).

Builder:

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.

 

googles utm builder tool

https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/

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.

 

utm parameters archive

Naming:

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.

Kevin Profile Shot

Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

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.

Do it!

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The Right Way to Use UTM Parameters
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The Right Way to Use UTM Parameters
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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.
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