What is UTM tracking and how to use it

What is UTM tracking and how to use it

Affiliate Marketing

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December 6, 2018


Affiliate Marketing

Chances are if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve noticed some weird strings at the end of our posts. Maybe.

We’re talking about URLs that look like this:


It happens when you reach our posts from social media, newsletters or push notifications, to name a few of the most popular channels.

These are what we call UTM parameters, allowing you to break down your traffic sources into neat data for easy consumption. Further, UTM tracking allows you to optimize your campaigns.

Here’s all the answers you’ve been looking for regarding this useful technology.

Where do UTM codes originate from?

UTM is an acronym for Urchin Tracking Module parameters.

They were first introduced by web statistics analysis program Urchin, a predecessor of Google Analytics (GA).  

UTM parameters have been supported by GA ever since Google bought Urchin Software Corp. in April 2005.

What exactly are UTM parameters?

UTM parameters are simple codes attached to any URL allowing you to properly track and collect data on the effectiveness of your campaigns.

They help you better understand where your traffic comes from and how your visitors are interacting with your content.

There are 5 parameters you can add to your URLs:

  • Utm_source: identify the source that is sending traffic, whether it’s from an advertiser, search engine, website, etc.
  • utm_medium: identify the advertising or marketing medium, i.e. CPC, newsletter, etc.
  • Utm_campaign: the unique campaign identifier you’re using to track performance
  • Utm_term: used mostly to identify paid search keywords/terms
  • Utm_content: allows you to track two separate links within the same ad, used to great effect for A/B testing and content-targeted ads.

How can I start using UTM codes as an Affiliate Marketer?

The first step would be to create a Google Analytics account if you haven’t already. Don’t worry, it’s completely free!

Once you’ve registered, pay the official Custom Campaign URL Builder tool a visit for an easy way to add UTM tracking to your URLs.

On the official Campaign URL Builder page, you’ll be presented with a form: all you have to do is input your website URL and campaign source (referrer) to start tracking performance. Notice that utm_source is the only required parameter for tracking purposes.

If you want even more data, fill in the blanks for campaign medium (ex: banner), campaign name (highly recommended if you’re going to run multiple campaigns!), campaign term (if you’re into paid keywords) and campaign content (for your A/B tests).

Once you’ve started inputting parameters in the tool, you’ll be able to copy & paste the generated campaign URL.

If you’d rather add the UTM parameters directly from your browser, you can do so by using UTM Builder Chrome extension by Effinamazing (free sign up required).

It’s a bit hard to tell from a screenshot, but the URL has been auto-filled by the Chrome extension, which is very handy.

All we had to do was to input the campaign name and we were good to go. There’s even an option to shorten your URL.

Clean URLs & trackers are the way to go

Leaving a URL with your tracking UTM parameters is a common mistake lots of webmasters are guilty of. You should use Google’s URL shortener or a service like Rebrandly for sharing your links, especially on social media.

The end result is a cleaner-looking URL that doesn’t expose your UTM parameters to the world and potentially scare away people with a long string of code at the end of your link.

Also, remember to ALWAYS use the same trackers for the same mediums or sources… and yes: UTM are case sensitive. Otherwise, you won’t be able to track accurate data for these channels (ex: if you use email, and then email and then Newsletter, these will count as 3 different mediums).

Analyzing UTM results in Google Analytics

Once you start attaching UTM parameters with your URLs, you’ll be able to sort incoming traffic in Google Analytics.

Simply click on Acquisitions in the main menu of GA, then under Acquisitions choose Campaigns and All Campaigns for an overview.

You can further break it down by selecting a primary dimension of your choice: either Campaign, Source or Medium. GA will then show you all the relevant stats for your campaigns, including the number of sessions, % of new sessions, new users, bounce rate, etc.

Why is UTM tracking useful in the first place?

Being able to tell—with hard data, not gut feelings—which traffic source or medium gives you the best results is extremely valuable.

If you’re going to spend $10,000 on an advertising campaign, you better have some insight as to where you should devote more efforts.

This is where UTM tracking as a whole shines: it’s a pretty great way to collect detailed data about your visitors’ behavior. How they’re interacting with your content and how they’re reaching your pages – and so on.We use UTM ourselves in all of our communication efforts. Let’s take one of our latest email blasts using Click4ads as an example. The goal was to inform affiliates about the launch of our MyFreeCams Live Cam widget last October.  

Thanks to previous email blasts and UTM tracking, we already knew that Click4Ads’ audience was mostly comprised of new affiliates. Therefore, we were focusing on new affiliates acquisition with the email blast which is what was tracked in the Goal field: the entire completion of the subscription form.  

UTM gave us a really precise view of our goal completion as well as other really useful information such as the number of sessions from new users and the bounce rate just to name a few.

With Google Analytics, we can dig even deeper and check out the page viewed by the users from this particular campaign, where they are coming from and which device they used. This is extremely useful to spot the best traffic sources and/or medium depending on your goals.  

Tracking your campaigns: don’t skip this step!

Last year, we tried to remind you how tracking is an essential part of affiliate marketing.

You might be wondering if UTM parameters from Google Analytics are anything like the global postbacks we offer. After all, both are for tracking purposes.

Truth is, they complement one another pretty nicely.

UTMs allow you to better understand tracking on your own stuff while our in-house tools give you detailed data about the traffic you send to our offers.

Here’s a few advantages of having a carefully-planned marketing monitoring strategy into place:

  • Get to know your audience to a tee
  • Improve your conversion funnel
  • Lose less money by knowing which traffic sources work for you
  • Back up your decisions with hard data

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