What are UTM parameters? Why are they important in conversion tracking?
UTM parameters, we would guess stands for Universal Tracking Metrics, but instead it stands for Urchin Tracking Module 😵. UTM parameters are the values added after the "?" in a URL. For example:
These values allow you to track where users are coming from. In the example above, we can see that the user came from Google organic search (source=google, medium=organic). Similarly, in the below example we can see that the user came from a Facebook ad (source=facebook, medium=cpc):
You can name any parameter you want and add as many parameters as you want. For example, you are welcome to add a 'utm_abc', and a 'utm_xyz', but this is of course not the best practice. The two main parameters that you should add, and that Google Analytics pulls in, are source and medium. In Google Analytics, this data is pulled into the Acquistion > All Traffic > Source/Medium table.
So how can you apply UTM parameters to help in conversion tracking?
For any links that you share, whether its an emailer, digital ad, or press release, when a user clicks on the link and enters your website, you'd want to know where they came from. You can do this by manually adding UTM parameters that describe the source to these links. This allows you to accurately classify where traffic is coming from in your analytics platform.
For example, for Facebook ads, you would add "?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc" at the end of your url, so that any users clicking the link from your Facebook ad and entering your website would be stamped with this source and medium, which your analytics platform can then capture. Similarly, for Linkedin ads, you would add "?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=cpc", so that all users coming in from Linkedin ads would be stamped with this source and medium.
It's important to note that all traffic coming into your website from Google search should automatically be stamped with source=google, medium=organic, so you don't need to add UTM's to organic search links.
Let's look at an example of how UTMs can add value to your analytics. Given that you've added UTMs correctly, let's say you want to compare the performance of all your ad channels. Just search 'cpc' in the Source/Medium table in Google Analytics to see an organized breakdown of your ad traffic:
This table is super insightful because not only does it give you the quantity of traffic from each ad platform, but also the quality. You can see how long users stay (ie. session duration), and how quickly they leave (ie. bounce rate). It gives you an apples-to-apples comparison of your ad platforms so you can objectively determine which ones perform well, and which do not. Here, you can see that LinkedIn ads bring in the lowest quality traffic, with only an average session duration of 12 seconds, whereas Google ads bring in the highest quality traffic, with an average duration of over a minute.
The above table is only possible if you have named your source and medium correctly and consistently. UTM parameter values are case sensitive so a "source=Facebook" would be different from a "source=facebook". Learn more about best practices in naming UTM parameters here. Make sure you don't fall into the trap of not naming UTM parameters, or naming them inconsistently. Otherwise, you will end up with something messy like this:
This is only a short introduction on the importance of UTM parameters and setting them up correctly. We've only covered source and medium, but there are additional parameters which you can set, such as "campaign", to add more granularity to your data analytics.
Read more on the best practices for naming UTM parameters: How to name UTM parameters correctly
To add UTM parameters to any page, you can use this free tool: https://ga-dev-tools.web.app/campaign-url-builder/