Using Google Tracking Codes (aka UTM codes) to Easily & Quickly Measure Your Success
Have you ever noticed the extra text at the end of a URL? The text might say “medium” or “campaign,” or include numbers and other seemingly random notes. That’s an Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) code. UTM codes are a nifty way to track the performance of education marketing campaigns and content. Sometimes referred to as UTM parameters or tracking tags, UTM codes help marketers “track” website traffic from a specific origin.
If you work in marketing, being able to measure and demonstrate your success is a critical part of your job. UTM codes relieve much of the burden of evaluating your work’s impact, allowing you to focus on the creative side rather than the number-crunching.
With this in mind, here’s a quick guide on how to set up and monitor UTM codes, and why you should use tracking codes in every marketing campaign in the education, special needs and workforce development markets.
What are UTM codes?
As explained by HubSpot, UTM codes are snippets of text added to the end of a URL to help analyze the source of website traffic. These snippets function like landing page trackers, but with the ability to note specifically which link a user clicked. UTM codes are customizable, meaning you can choose what text is displayed at the end of the link, with some limitations that we will touch on later in this post.
Generally, every UTM code has the same core pieces: the link itself, followed by any additional tracking parameters.
For example: http://yourwebsite.com/your-post-title/?utm_source=google.
In the above example, we track only the source, which in this case was “google.”
There are five parameters you can include in the URL when creating your UTM code: source, medium, campaign, term and content.
Here’s a breakdown: The source identifies where a visitor came from prior to landing on your page. This might mean direct traffic, PPC ads, social media, emails or direct sales messages. When promoting your next blog post, include different sources in the tracking code to more precisely identify where users are coming from when visiting your site. The medium might go a bit deeper. For a “social” source, you might add “Facebook Ad” or “Organic Twitter” in the medium category.
Campaign, term and content are three additional levels of tracking. Say you have four creative options and four copy options in a Facebook ad set. For this set, there are 16 unique ads, and you could include specific codes to see which ads resonate best with your audience.
In the “Campaign” category, you could simply refer to each combination with a letter-number sequence, such as A1, D2, B4, and C3. This additional nuance allows you to identify more precisely which ads work the best, and apply that knowledge to future campaigns.
Even if you’re receiving information about site traffic from your CRM, UTM codes help marketers drill down to see which specific pages, posts, copy lines and creative elements resonate best within traffic sources.
How do I create a UTM code?
There are many ways to track your website, and we’ve had good success with Google’s free analytics offerings. Our recommendation is to use Google Analytics’ Campaign URL Builder to easily add campaign parameters to URLs. This free tool lets you outline and monitor Custom Campaigns. A UTM code will be automatically generated after you complete the form, and will be trackable in your Google Analytics account.
One often overlooked note: UTM codes can differ in structure, so choosing a convention and sticking with it is best practice. This helps, for example, when you compare campaign results at the end of the year, or conduct other cross-campaign analysis. With this in mind, here’s a tracking structure we recommend:
Website URL: The link of the page you’d like to track.
Campaign Source: The source you’ll be tracking. (e.g., Social, Google, Email)
Campaign Medium: The medium users originate from. (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, PPC Ads, e-Newsletter)
Campaign Name: The name you’ll use to track your campaign.
Campaign Term: If you’re conducting an AdWords campaign, insert those keywords here.
Campaign Content: If you’re running multiple ads, insert a number or phrase here to differentiate them.
Using these parameters, we generated the following code for a fake . Buy-One-Get-One free campaign for Scholastic. The code reads: https://www.scholastic.com/home/?utm_source=Social&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=BOGO, and users who click on that code will be tracked under the same campaign.
Reminder: everything appearing after the “?” is tracking information. In this example, we were posting multiple times, so this first code was simply for the first post. We also recommend tracking your UTM links in an internal spreadsheet that’s accessible by each member of your education marketing team. While Google Analytics is a great service, we know that not all marketing team members have access.
How to Track the Results for your UTM Codes
Good news, if you use Google Analytics and the Campaign URL Builder we mentioned above, you’re halfway there! Log-in to your analytics account, and click on the page associated with your tracking link. Next, navigate to “Acquisition > Campaigns” in the left-side navigation bar in Google Analytics. Then, click the name of the campaign you’d like to track and watch the magic happen.
On the next screen, you’ll be shown a page with details about the Source/Medium, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions. The data can be a little overwhelming at first, but overall, it will help your brand in a variety of ways, including:
- Measuring the success of each individual social media channel
- Conducting A/B testing on creative elements
- Figuring out what type of content is causing your customers to bounce
- Evaluating how well a newsletter CTA works in similar emails
The options are limited only by your imagination and the amount of time you have to properly A/B test and track the results. Our team applies an A/B test at least once per content asset. With the whole picture in play from Analytics, your team can focus on the areas that attract the most client eyeballs, turning your hard work into celebrations in no-time.
In conclusion, UTM codes are a valuable way to track multiple campaigns and channels and monitor results in one spot, providing tangible assessments of your work’s effectiveness.
Looking for more education marketing insights? Check out these articles from our blog library:
- Public Relations for Education Brands – 4 Public Relations Trends for 2020
- Marketing for EdTech – Seven Marketing Tips to Elevate Your Brand in 2020
- Content Marketing in the Education Industry – Turn Every CTA into a Lead-generating tool
- Social Media Strategies for Reaching Educators, Administrators – Education Influencers: What and Who to Avoid Online