How to Use UTM Parameters for Traffic Growth

Post by Alison Knott | September 22, 2020

As the owner of a business website, you want traffic growth. The more eyeballs on your content, the larger the conversion opportunities. You want to make sure you have as much useful information about your traffic as possible.

So you dutifully check Google Analytics to see the results of your hard work. But wait a minute: how can you tell which tweet sent the most traffic? Are people doing anything with your white papers once they download them? Why is so much of your traffic going into the ‘Direct’ channel?

The answer to these woes lies in using UTM Parameters. By the end of this article, you’ll know what these useful links are, when to use them, and how they increase your traffic!

 

What are UTM codes?

UTM codes (also known as UTM parameters) are extra code that goes at the end of a URL. This allows Google Analytics to display them in a special ‘Campaigns’ section. Meaning you’re able to track specific ways you send links out. UTM stands for “Urchin Traffic Monitor”. “Urchin” refers to the software Google Analytics used when it first started out.

Here is what it looks like. The UTM part is everything after the ‘?’:

https://website.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmb_listing

 

How do you create a UTM code?

The simplest way is to use Google’s Campaign URL Builder.

  1. Paste in your URL
  2. Next you will type in Source, Medium and Campaign Name. Note that these are case sensitive, and use _ instead of spaces. So if you use ‘Google’ for one UTM and ‘google’ for another, they will be two separate campaigns in Google Analytics.
  3. You can now use the UTM generated at the bottom, or shorten it if you have a Bit.ly account.
  4. You can also input Campaign Term and Campaign Content if you need, but they’re not required.
  5. Save this UTM in a spreadsheet (here’s one from Wholewhale) and then use it as needed.
screenshot of Google's Campaign UTM link builder
Here’s me creating a UTM to use on LinkedIn for this very blog post! Click to view larger image.

What do I mean by Source, Medium and Campaign Name, though? These are the ‘parameters‘ in a UTM code!

 

Source: specifically where the traffic comes from. While you can type in anything, it’s ideal to use the ‘entity’ of where the link will come from. Here are some common Source options:

  • ‘facebook’
  • ‘google’
  • ‘bing’
  • ‘newsletter’
  • ‘twitter’

 

Medium: what type of traffic the visitor is coming from. You can technically put in whatever you want, but stick to Google Analytics’ Acquisition Channels if possible. Here are some common Medium options:

  • ‘cpc’ (Google cost-per-click Ads)
  • ‘organic’ (Google My Business)
  • ‘email’ (email signature or newsletter system)
  • ‘social’ (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp, LinkedIn, Quora, Reddit, etc)
  • ‘referral’ (other websites, so great for guest blog posts, directory listings, etc)
  • ‘display’ (Google display ads)

 

Campaign Name: this is whatever you want that will remind you what this link is for. Any naming convention will work, just stay consistent for your own sanity. Some common examples:

  • ‘name_of_blog_post’ (for a blog post)
  • ‘tweet_1’ (in case you’re testing a few different Tweets, number them)
  • ‘spring_promo’ (part of an inhouse campaign you’re working on your team collectively knows as ‘Spring Promo’)

 

Then there are these additional parameters, which aren’t required:

Content: what the text of the link ‘said’. Again, you can put anything in here, but I tend to use this when I’ll have the url in two locations. For example, let’s say you wanted people to read your latest post. In a newsletter, you put the link both in a paragraph of text and as a button. You would use the following two UTMs:

Paragraph text: …?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=new_post_title&utm_content=paragraph

Button: …/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=new_post_title&utm_content=button

 

Keyword term: you only use these for paid search ads, in which you place the keyword term.
…/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=&utm_content=paragraph&utm_term=keyword+people+click

 

Where do I find UTM parameters in Google Analytics?

Once people begin to click on you UTM codes, they will show up in Google Analytics as ‘campaigns’. You’ll find them by going to ‘Acquisition’, then ‘Campaigns’, then the ‘All Campaigns’ report. By default, they will be listed out by the Campaign Name you set in the UTM. You can also view them based on Source, Medium, etc by changing the Primary Dimension view.

 Screenshot from the Google Merchandise store Google Analytics Campaigns report.
This is the Campaigns report which displays all your UTM codes. Screenshot from the Google Merchandise store analytics. Click to view larger image.

You can also find your campaigns by changing Secondary Dimension to ‘campaign’ if the report your own allows it.

 

Ways to use UTM tracking for traffic growth

Now that you know what a UTM code is and how to create one, it’s time to put them to action! Below are some examples of when to use UTMs if growing traffic is your goal.

 

Social Media

Wouldn’t you love to know which wording in a tweet or Facebook post is more popular from a web traffic perspective? Want to test out different artwork to see which got more clicks? Using UTM codes in your social media posts is so friggin useful for this! It really does take the guess work out of content creation, which saves you time and grows traffic.

UTM example for one of three tweets you’re making about your new services page:
https://website.com/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=services_page_1

 

Google Analytics Cheatsheet printout on table

Oh, a handy cheatsheet

Get everything you need to dive into Google Analytics without all the fuss. Includes terminology, how to create a Destination Goal and other great tips.

 

Google My Business

Did you know there isn’t a way in Google Analytics to tell which traffic came from Google My Business? Crazy, I know? I want to give full credit to Claire Carlile’s article that dives deeper into this. Replace all links in Google My Business with UTMs. That way you can pinpoint what part of your listing the organic crowd were interested in:

  • Main website link
  • Appointment link
  • Services and products
  • Posts

UTM example for the main website link on Google My Business:
https://website.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmb_listing

 

Your Email Signature

While Google Analytics has an ‘email’ channel in Acquisitions, it’s not accurate. There’s conflicting reading on what Google Analytics sticks in that bucket. I recommend creating UTMs for your email signature to avoid any issues.

Don’t have any links in your email signature? You’re missing out on traffic growth, my friend. Here are some link ideas:

  • Your website (‘natch)
  • Your latest blog post
  • Your latest lead magnet
  • Some of your ‘most popular’ pages, posts or resources (and remember, YOU decided what is ‘popular’…)

UTM example for your latest lead magnet to put in your email signature:
https://website.com/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=new_download

It is also a good idea to shorten your UTM link with something like Bit.ly in this case. Just to keep things short and sweet.

 

PDFs, Lead Magnets, Freebees, Opt-Ins and White Papers

List building is critical to a small business web strategy. An often overlooked tactic is to make any links in the downloadable content clickable. I always recommend sticking a few related blog post links, or your website or about page at the very least. Clickable links add value to a resource anyway, so this is just common sense.

But if you do have clickable links in a PDF, but not UTMs, that traffic will be dumped into the Direct channel. Another situation to consider: someone sharing the PDF with someone who didn’t opt in. If that person clicked a link in the document and went to your site… how would you know they came from the freebie?

UTM example for the link to your About page at then end of your Checklist PDF:
https://website.com/about?utm_source=download&utm_medium=pdf&utm_campaign=cool_checklist

 

Printed Material

How can you tell if a person visited your website from a print ad? How can you test the interest of one group of people over another? Finally, UTMs offer a simple way to connect the dots between the offline and online world! I recommend using Bit.ly for this, so people don’t have to type a long string into their browser. Some great examples of when to use UTMS in printed material:

  • Printed ad, so you can tell which paper/magazine the person was reading
  • Coupons and flyers, so you can tell people are visiting because of what they got in the mail
  • Brochures, so you can tell which trade show or convention people came from
  • Pro tip: don’t send people to your homepage! Depending on what the ad or flyer is for, consider sending people to a special landing page. This can help greatly with conversion.

Example of a UTM for an advertisement placed in the fictitious ‘Analytics Citizen’ magazine:
https://website.com/?utm_source=magazine&utm_medium=printad&utm_campaign=analytics_citizen

 

Grab the Attention of Brands and Companies

Ok, this one is a bit of a hack. Since you now know where to find UTM campaigns in Google Analytics, why not show up in the analytics of others?

Let’s say you’re a lifestyle blogger that wants to get the attention of a potato chip company. You write a killer blog post about your favourite flavour (all dressed, obviously). In that post, you refer to this chip company and link their site. SEO Tip: you should be linking out to websites with high domain authority, anyway. So instead of just linking out to their site, create a UTM instead:

https://chipwebsite.com/?utm_source=website&utm_medium=refferal&utm_campaign=your_brand_name_blog_title

 

Now you have lots of great ways to use UTM codes to grow track your traffic with greater precision. It might be a bit slow at the start, but soon enough picking the right time to use a UTM will come naturally to you!