Your website gets a lot of visitors every day, and with Google Analytics, you can see various filters, measurements, and statistics. But what does all of that information actually tell you about your website? It can be a bit overwhelming.
By simply looking at a single section in Google Analytics, you can learn a lot. We like to focus on where our website visitors are coming from. This information can be found in the “Acquisition” tab in your Google Analytics account. In this tab, you can see which sources your visitors came from to get to your site and which websites link back to your own (also called backlinks). This information tells you where to focus your marketing strategy in order to drive traffic from high converting sources.
You can help Google Analytics gather Acquisition information by using UTM parameters when you create URLs that link to your content. In an email crash course from Terminus, founder Puru Choudhary talks about the dos and don’ts of UTM parameters. These “parameters” are essentially tags you add to a URL. When the URL is clicked, those tags are sent back to Google Analytics and organized.
In order to track your visitors, Google Analytics considers two things: Referrer and UTM Parameters.
Every time a visitor comes to your website, their browser sets Referrer URL which tells Google Analytics where they came from. You can find this information in Acquisition > Referrals. In the example below, you can see that the top three sources that provided us with the most traffic in January through backlinks were complexdan.com, drupal.org, and uptime-eu.net. You can click on each source to see where they linked to on your website and how many users you acquired through their website referral.
However, there are some exceptions to tracking this info. For instance, Google Analytics will not pick up referral information if:
- A visitor is coming from a bookmarked URL
- A visitor manually types the URL in the browser (this is considered direct traffic)
- The URL is accessed through a mobile app, an email, an instant messenger, or links in a document
In a nutshell, UTM parameters serve to “fill in the blanks” so that Google Analytics can organize these traffic sources accordingly.
I often build URLs with UTM parameters on Google Analytics URL Builder, and I’ll use this platform as a way to provide examples. There are five parameters that contain information about your marketing campaign. In this case, we’re creating a URL for our blog post about version control systems.
|utm_source or Campaign Source||Identify the source of traffic. In the example below, I’ve indicated “facebook.” This means, I’ll share the generated link on Facebook. When people click the link, Google Analytics will show me that the visitor came from that particular social media platform. Since we use multiple social media outlets, I’d also create a separate URL for Twitter, Google+ , and LinkedIn.|
|utm_medium or Campaign Medium||Identify the medium used by the visitor to get to your website. Since Facebook is a social media platform, I decided to use “social” as the medium. If we wanted to share the blog post in a newsletter over email, you would use “email” instead. Or if we shared the blog on a CPC ad, we could insert “cpc.”|
|utm_name or Campaign Name||This is the name of the marketing effort or the blog you’re linking to. This helps Google Analytics indicate exactly where visitors went on your website.|
|utm_term or Campaign Term||This is primarily used for paid keywords and generally remains blank.|
|utm_content or Campaign Content||This is used to identify a call to action if you have multiple ads going out. You might insert “buy-now” or “contact-us.”|
For the most part, I only fill in the source, the medium, and the name. The generated URL, if we were sharing it on facebook, would look like this:
Shorten the link within Google URL Builder and share on the appropriate platform.
What does this look like on Google Analytics?
In the “Acquisition” tab, go to “Campaigns” and view “All Campaigns.” This will show you a list of all your campaigns (as indicated in the utm_name field). When you click on the campaign, Google Analytics tells you exactly where visitors came from. In the below example, you can see that our campaign, “version-control,” for the month of January, had 7 visitors. When we click on the campaign name, Google Analytics shows us all of the sources that visitors came from. This section indicates the medium (“social”) and the source, Facebook being the most popular.
When should you include UTM parameters?
In some cases, UTM tags are unnecessary, for example: if a link is internal, any SEO campaigns (as it may override valuable keyword information), or backlinks from referrers. However, you should be tagging on three occasions: email campaigns, social campaigns, and paid campaigns.
1. Email Campaigns
Any links that clients click on through email lack Referrer information. UTM parameters for email campaigns, like newsletters or promos, help Google Analytics track your visitors in detail. Fill out these fields when creating a URL for an email campaign:
- Medium – “email” is considered a major channel in Google Analytics. No need to use any variations like “email-newsletter” or “email-weekly.”
- Source – People often make the mistake of tagging email campaign sources as “email” or the service provider, like “mailchimp.” Instead, consider how the visitor joined the mailing list. For example, if you’re building a link that will go on a newsletter, the source would be “newsletter.” Or if the link is associated with an email course, you may use “email-course.”
- Campaign Name – If it’s a routine newsletter, use the date that the newsletter was sent out and indicate whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly (weekly-yyyy_mm_dd). If the email is a multi-part campaign, like a course that sends out an email every day for a week, you may want to consider naming the course and numbering them (email-course-1; email-course-2; and so on).
- Content – This isn’t a necessary field but can be useful if you want to see which call to action works best with your audience. Perhaps you want to see how two CTA buttons compare; one says “Buy Now” and the other says “Learn More.” Create two different URL’s for two different email campaigns that include each button. The UTM content of one URL will be buy-now, and the other will be learn-more.
2. Social Campaigns
Similar to our initial example where I linked to a Sevaa blog post, social media posts offer a bit more information with UTM parameters.
- Medium – Like email campaigns, “social” is also considered a major channel. Don’t overthink it here; keep it simple with “social.”
- Source – Which social media platform are you putting this link on? You want to know whether you got more visitors from Facebook, Twitter, or some other platform. That way you can tailor your marketing strategy, whether it’s promoting ads, boosting posts, or featuring an offer or article, to optimize your audience outreach.
Here are common values for social campaign sources:
- Campaign Name -This is the name of your marketing effort. Use whatever phrase or word that will help you determine which blog post, article, or promo that Google Analytics is referring to.
- Content – Similar to your email campaigns, use this section to implement A/B testing. Try out two different headlines for the same post and see which keywords do better. Does 5 Tips for a Better Version Control System resonate more than Sevaa Group Explains Version Control Systems?
3. Paid Campaigns
Track any sort of paid online advertising and compare to other paid campaigns in Google Analytics. However, this isn’t necessary with AdWords since it’s already linked to your Google Analytics account; performance data is automatically transferred. Follow the UTM examples shown above to generate a trackable URL for your next paid campaign.
Google URL Builder is commonly used to generate URLs with UTM parameters because it’s easy to use and allows you to shorten URLs. However, you may want to keep track of all of your generated URLs in a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet allows you to recall past links, reuse links that have already been tagged, and keep track of URLs that haven’t been tagged yet.
Simply linking to a landing page or a blog post on your website is sufficient, but if you want to take your marketing strategy to the next level, you should really include UTM parameters to your links. It may not seem like a large quantity of information being gathered, but it is surely valuable when it comes to identifying your audience. With UTM parameters, you not only help Google Analytics organize visitor information, but you can also determine where your audience is coming from and where they’re going on your website. This will allow you to target potential leads where it matters most and supply them with the most relevant information possible. Sevaa Group can help you update your marketing strategy and implement Google Analytics. We’d love to work with you on your next project!