Possibly the most important performance metrics we all know is ROI, return on investment. Every online marketer will probably agree on this, understanding what your marketing spend is earning you is critical to effectively managing marketing campaigns and budgets.
What is often overlooked however is making sure campaigns are being properly tagged and tracked. Without proper campaign tracking, it becomes very difficult, and sometimes impossible to effectively measure ROI (even on a high level).
A classic example would be email campaigns: Did you know that if links are not properly tagged in your email communications all clicks from email clients such as Outlook or Thunderbird (the most common method of viewing mails) will be attributed to Direct traffic, while webmail clicks will be attributed to referral? The implications of this are huge especially if you are investing a lot of time and money into your email channel.
Fortunately to get around this Google has made it extremely simple to tag your campaign links. How it works is that you simply have to append your links with three (minimum) tags called utm tags. In fact Google even provides a tool call URL Builder to create these links.
Here is an example of a tagged link with the tag parameters in different colours:
UTM Tags, What They Mean:
This tag tells Google Analytics the site/source which directed the traffic to your site. For example this can be “april_newsletter_list22”, “twitter”, “our_blog”, “myspace” etc. In fact you can call it whatever, but the key is that you use the same name for the same source and also that the name is relevant to the source. Best practice though is to just name the unique site where the link is placed. If you have the same email going to multiple lists remember to indicate this on your source.
This tag defines what type of channel sent the traffic. You can potentially name this medium whatever you want (banner, postcard, listing) but there are some naming conventions which are recommended to be used for certain channels. Yet again consistency is key:
Social media sites: social
Pay per click search: cpc
News/RSS feeds: feed
Website banners: banner
Offline ads: offline
This is to name the campaign the link is in aid of. Yet again you can name this tag whatever you want, but be sure to be consistent in your naming conventions and which links you tag.
This tag is optional and is generally used for paid search campaigns to track the keyword which generated a click. It can be used for a manner of other uses like a blog author name or a page category on a site.
This optional tag is generally used to distinguish between different variations of an ad or link. For example you could have two ad banners running on a website, one with an image of a cat and another with the dog. Using the utm_content tag you can see which ad variation works best for you.
UTM Tags The Bigger Picture
As an example, let’s look at a Christmas Promotional campaign targeting bicycle sales. The campaign utilises 3 channels over 5 different sites and mailers to increase sales. The diagram below shows how the structure of this campaign’s tags fit together. For all links the campaign tag will be the same, the medium tag however will be one of the three channels used. The only unique tag will be the source which indicates where the link is located. With a structure like this you can easily view the return of your campaign, as well as drill down to see which channels and sites/mailers gave you the most return within the campaign.
REMEMBER all campaign tags are CasE SensiTive eg: tag ≠TAG
Automatic UTM Tagging
Unfortunately tagging often has to be done manually, there are two big exceptions though: Google Adwords and Email. Since Adwords can be integrated with Google Analytics it’s no surprise that Adwords has the function for Auto Tagging to track your campaigns. A little less known fact is that most Email Service Providers offer the functionality to also auto tag all links in your emails. That said you should always check the tools you are currently using if they do offer auto tagging. Also make sure the automatic tagging is working in the most optimal format for you.
Our Gift To You: Bulk UTM Tagging Tool
Google’s URL builder is definitely useful, but only doing one tag at a time can be a bit of a drag. So to help you tag and manage your campaigns more efficiently we have created a special Bulk URL Tagging Excel sheet for free download. All you have to do is paste in the required parameters into the sheet and your tagged link will be generated. You will find two sheets in the workbook, for simplicity the first sheet only covers the 3 required tags, but if you want to include the optional utm_term and utm_content tags you can find these options on the second sheet.
*This workbook has been extensively tested but the responsibility to make sure the built links work rests on the user. If you do however find any fault with the workbook, please let us know.
SMART Tip: UTM Tags and Link Shorteners
With all these tags, you find that your links are getting a bit too long for your liking. This is particularly relevant for social media sharing especially with services like Twitter. Good news though, if you do use a link shortener your tags will be still be preserved when the visitor is directed to your site.
That’s all for this post, stay tuned for the next post where we look at some more advanced methods for tracking offline campaigns and overriding conversion attribution settings.