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November 23, 2015 By Hendrik-Jan Francke

UTM Codes: Ultra Targeted Marketing Made Easy With Tracking Codes

Urchin Tracking Module (UTM). It sounds like a spiny sea-robot, but it’s not! UTM codes are one marketing tactic that will spike up your marketing campaigns.

What UTM codes are

A UTM code adds parameters to the end of your URL that help you track source, medium, and campaigns in Google Analytics. In other words, UTM codes help you track where exactly your links are generating clicks. When you know where traffic is coming from, you can spend energy where you're getting results.

UTM Codes Help You:

Identify & Target Effective Marketing Mediums

Imagine: You spent months creating a white paper. Now it's time to promote it! You created a plan. You have a landing page. Now, as a wise B2B marketer, you plan to promote on several platforms: AdWords, LinkedIn Posts, LinkedIn Ads, Twitter, Emails, etc.

Without UTM code tracking…

Clicks from all platforms are just clumped together. Traffic is great, but where did it come from? Without knowing, you have to keep working the same channels with the same effort.


With UTM code tracking, you easily drill down to see:

Emails to our "friendsofbot" list and LinkedIn posts are strong sources of traffic. We can make the choice to target our energy on these platforms.

With UTM codes, you can determine:

  • What medium is generating the most traffic
  • Which medium delivers users with the lowest bounce rate, highest time on page

Become a Referral Source for Industry Influencers

Make industry influencers notice you. If you consistently share third party content from an influencer you trust, tag their links with your brand!

I first was tipped off to this clever use of UTM codes by Dave Pell, my favorite witty curator of daily news.

Dave Pell's NextDraft newsletter has a substantial following. Therefore, the articles he shares certainly get a big traffic boost from his referrals. And he's not shy about saying it!

Publishers like the Atlantic, Medium, The NY Times, and more know that their traffic is coming from him.

You can do this too! But you will have to get technical:

How to Create and Track Your UTM Codes

Google offers a URL builder that makes it easy to get started on creating your UTM codes. It will help you generate UTM links for your content that look like this:


Definitions: Source, Medium, Campaign

  • Source: This is the origin of the link or the specific platform it is coming from.
    • ex: utm_source=google, utm_source=linkedin
  • Medium: Lumps your sources into a broader category. Organic, Direct, Social Media, and Referral are all different types of mediums.
    • ex: utm_medium=organic, utm_medium=socialmedia
  • Campaign: Categorize your marketing efforts into campaigns that make sense for your business. So if you're pushing a Holiday campaign, it might be “holidayspecialoffer”
    • ex: utm_campaign=softwaretrial, utm_campaign=referralprogram

Drill into your website traffic in Analytics and sort by these parameters by going to Acquisiton > Campaigns > All Campaigns.

Tips on Keeping UTM Codes Consistent and Organized

Great job! You've put in the effort in creating and using UTM codes to track where your clicks are coming from. But then you look in your Google Analytics and it looks something like this:

Disjointed data sucks! Trust me, this is a mistake we made early-on and I'm kicking myself now because there is no way to combine them.

4 Tips on organizing UTM Codes

We keep a UTM Codes Document Reference
sheet bookmarked for easy access.

  • Create a "UTM Source Reference Document" listing name and formatting for parameters you plan to use - and keep it handy! This will keep you from having one campaign listed four different ways.
  • Use all lowercase, no spaces. Humans are inconsistent! Machines are not. Making lowercase, no spaces your UTM rule will help reduce human error.
  • Be strategic with campaign names. This can be tricky especially when you're kicking off (overlap happens). Collect all your campaigns and assign unique names to them that are clear to you and your team. Remember, you don't want to change these!
  • Use URL Shortners: URLs are long. URLs with UTM parameters are longer. Keep it simple by using bit.ly or another URL shortner to make links more manageable. URL shortners that keep context are best. We use a plugin where we can create a link that looks like http://www.brightorangethread.com/-learn-about-utm-codes. This is better than a bit.ly string of characters.

Start tracking campaigns with UTM codes

What is your latest campaign? Name it (lowercase, no spaces!). Build some URLs with UTM tracking code. When you schedule your posts or emails, plug in those URLs appropriately. Once you see the data so strategically separated, you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner.

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