UTM parameters: what they are and why you should care about them

UTM parameters are long web addresses that manually add information about where users are coming from. You add UTMs to the end of your advertising links and they help you track the success of your campaigns. They look like the URL below, used in a hypothetical Facebook advertising campaign for a Curly Hair Shampoo:

https://www.beautystore.com/curly-hair-shampoo?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Curly+Hair+Shampoo+May+2017

Although it looks complicated, the way UTMs are built is pretty simple. The main parts you need to understand are the web address, source, medium and campaign:

  • Web address is the landing page you’re advertising. In this case, a product page for a shampoo for curly hair: https://www.beautystore.com/curly-hair-shampoo
  • The source in this case is “Facebook”, which is the site where the ads will be running
  • The medium is “cpc.” The medium states the type of ads in the campaign (“cpc” stands for Cost per Click)
  • The campaign is “Curly+Hair+Shampoo+May+2017,” which is a name you give to your campaign to distinguish it from your other campaigns. Add plus signs instead of spaces to make sure every browser can read it.

You don’t need to memorize all of this, though. To generate UTM parameters for your campaigns all you have to do is visit Google’s Campaign URL Builder and follow their instructions.

What UTM parameters are used for

Google Analytics, Compass and most analytics softwares today can read UTM parameters. They use them to track traffic data from acquisition channels such as advertising, PR and social media and report it to you in the form of performance evaluation numbers.

In the image below you can see a list of campaigns that were tracked via UTM parameters in Google Analytics. By reading the campaign UTM parameter, Google Analytics measures each campaign’s conversions, bounce rates, time on site and other metrics. Marketers regularly use this data to analyze their campaigns and optimize them accordingly.

ga-campaigns.jpg

Compass uses UTM parameters to analyze traffic coming from different acquisition channels such as Facebook Ads, Email Newsletters, Display Ads, etc. We compare this data with companies similar to yours, measure them against your revenue sources and determine whether these channels are working well for you (in green) or need improvement (yellow or red).

UTM parameters in Compass

UTM parameters & Facebook Ads

Facebook Ad Analytics can only tell how ads are performing, but fail to show what happens after visitors arrive on the website. While Facebook Conversion Pixels can measure if people bought a product, you need a lot more information than that if you want to learn more about your customers’ behavior on your site (especially the ones that didn’t buy anything).

To get the full picture of your visitors’ behavior while visiting your store you add UTM parameters to your campaigns links. The way to do it in Facebook is indicated below. We advise the use of both UTM parameters and a Conversion Pixel when creating Facebook Ads.

UTM Parameters in FB ads

For more detailed information on how to use UTM parameters to track Facebook campaigns, read this great post by Adespresso.

Conclusion

The best way to create UTM parameters without errors is to use Google’s Campaign URL builder. Make sure to ALWAYS track EVERY marketing campaigns with UTM parameters and use the same standards of denomination. It’s the only way to track their performance reliably and use data to growth your business.