How Small Pieces of Text Can Improve Your Marketing

Because I’m part of Home’s wider Technology team, I’m kind of a nerd. I really like snooping on other websites’ approaches to tracking their campaigns. And what I always see is that brands, marketers and agencies alike constantly misuse and undervalue UTM parameters.

For those that don’t know, UTM parameters are small pieces of text that you can add to campaign URLs, whether they be Vanity URLs, links from emails, display campaigns, or paid search. They are automatically recognised by tracking programs such as Google Analytics, meaning that there are a whole host of reports available. In my opinion, UTM parameters are one of the easiest ways to enhance your insight into campaign performance.

Who can benefit?

If you have a good UTM strategy, most of the members of your team could benefit.

Take an email newsletter, for example. With the correct UTM setup, you can identify a website visit that came from email, what type of email it came from (I like to separate out trigger and marketing emails), which content gained the most attention, how those users performed on site, and you even have the option to compare different creative.

How do I do it?

Whenever you link to a URL within a campaign, simply add UTM parameters to the end. So

becomes newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=utm-chat&utm_content=blue-banner

Obviously, UTMs make the URL much longer, but most of the time URLs will be linked to via an image, or within hyperlinked text, so the user will often only see the full URL after they have clicked through to your site.

What parameters are available

The UTM parameters recognised by Google are detailed below.,You may wish to create your own campaign query strings, but you’ll have to make sure to strip them out of your page reports.

This required parameter is where your traffic came from. The default will often be something like “outlook”, or “facebook”, or “google”, but I find that adding a couple of words to this can give a lot of insight. For example, rather than “outlook” you could have “weekly-newsletter” or “purchase-confirmation”.

This required parameter is the type of traffic, such as “email”, “cpc”, or “social”. Google uses this parameter to assign Default Channel Grouping, so I wouldn’t recommend straying too far from the standard format, but there is the option to create Custom Channel Grouping – taking advantage of your vanity URLs to assign mediums such as “print”, “radio” or “tv”, which could potentially be very useful.

This required parameter is where you’ll get a lot of the detail. I like to use this parameter to indicate which link caught a user’s attention. For example, if I had a cookery newsletter then my links might read “steak-wn”, “cake-wn”, “bread-wn” etc. In those examples “wn” stands for “weekly-newsletter”. I find that by tying the source to the campaign, I can more easily identify what has driven a customer to the site.

Content is optional, but useful for distinguishing similar campaigns. For example, “week5”, “blue-banner” or even “week5-blue-banner” could be valid content parameters.

Term is also optional and is mostly used for paid search campaigns. It identifies the keywords for your advert.

Some general guidelines

1. Always use lower case – this will avoid duplicates due to capitalisation errors.

2. Use dashes rather than underscores or spaces – this will make your reports clearer to read.

3. Be consistent and avoid redundancy – consistency makes your campaign parameters easy to understand and avoiding redundancy will help to distinguish different campaigns.

4. Remember they are visible to customers – so don’t use something like “lonely-housewives” that may cause offence!

Avoiding mistakes

The problem with UTMs is that simple typos can ruin all of your hard work. However, there are a whole bunch of tools and tricks for making UTMs as simple as possible.

1. Use a UTM builder
For those that only do occasional campaigns, Google’s UTM builder lets you enter the details you want and spits out a link – very handy.

2. Use a purpose built excel sheet
I tend to use this solution. With the right formula, your excel sheet can do the same thing as the URL builder, but will also allow you to keep track of the UTMs you’ve used.

3. Use a UTM manager
If you’re using a lot of links in regular campaigns, then this approach is the one for you. It automates a lot of the build process, but can also store, track and shorten your URLs.

So, there you have it. To get deeper into your performance insight, be sure to make use of UTM parameters in your next campaign. Still got questions? Fire away @homeagencyuk.