Below is a guest post by Dan McGaw, Founder and CEO at Effin Amazing, an analytics and growth consultancy that helps tech companies get data driven and optimize their business.

If length was a measure of importance, you wouldn’t need to read an article to know that UTMs are one of the most important marketing performance monitoring tools. After all, UTM parameters do make URLs really, really long. Whatever your childhood friends in the schoolyard told you though, size isn’t everything, so it’s worth explaining what actually makes UTMs such an essential tool for marketers.

Below I’ll dive into:

  • What a UTM Paramter Does
  • Why You Need to Make Use of UTMs
  • Using UTMs to Measure Social Media Marketing Value
  • Beyond Social Media: The Broader Uses of UTMs
  • Making Short Work of UTMs

Let’s get started…

What Does a UTM Parameter Do?

Basically, a UTM code (which can be added to any URL for free) gives analytics tools like Google Analytics more detail about the source of your website traffic. More detail means more actionable insights than you would otherwise get from a regular URL. This is especially important when you want to know about the performance of your marketing campaigns.

Time to swiftly move along and answer the question that brought you here—why are UTMs so darned important?

Why You Need to Make Use of UTMs

Those long strings of code tacked onto the end of URLs actually provide a window into the performance of your marketing campaigns. In fact, as I recently explained in a guest post for Unbounce called 4 Ways You’re Using UTM Tags Wrong, the absence of UTM codes leave you blind as to which campaigns are providing the best ROI. So, unless you or your company are fortunate enough to have cash to burn by wasting it on campaigns whose results are impossible to measure, you’re probably starting to see the importance of UTMs.

As a rough guide to UTM importance, using UTM parameters in conjunction with Google Analytics provides you with the following gems:

  • They tell you where your leads are originating
  • They show you which campaigns are successfully meeting objectives
  • They inform you on what content is effective in bringing people to your website
  • They enable you to accurately attribute conversions to marketing channels
  • They empower you to make confident, data-driven marketing decisions
  • They give you the information to calculate returns on campaign investment

That’s all pretty important stuff, right? Well, it gets better.

UTMs can be used along with vanity URLs to track performance of many different types of marketing campaigns, both online and offline.

Using UTMs to Measure Social Media Marketing Value

Social media writer Kristi Hines wrote a great overview of UTM use for social media marketing, Social Media Campaign Tracking With UTM Parameters in Google Analytics (an appropriately long title for a post dealing with UTMs). In her post, Kristi makes the important point that while Google Analytics captures which social media platforms are sending visitors to your web pages, that data alone isn’t very actionable.

Which post got me traffic

UTMs cover this gap, giving analytics software the means to tell you for example, whether a lead came to your site from Facebook via an ad or a post on your timeline. It’s this extra depth and breadth of data that allows you to accurately measure the ROI of your social media marketing campaigns.

UTM Keywords for traffic

As content marketer Jeffrey Kranz observes, harvesting traffic from social media can involve the creation of many links, across many platforms, on a daily basis. In his post on the Buffer Blog, called The Complete Guide to UTM Codes, Kranz describes how a strategic approach to using UTMs enables you to track the individual performance of what may be hundreds of social media links.

Beyond Social Media: The Broader Uses of UTMs

For all of you only concerned with social media, what are you waiting for!? Go start using UTMs! For everyone else, the real beauty of UTMs are found in their versatility. You can use UTMs to measure just about any online or offline marketing effort, provided the campaign is directing people to your site by way of landing pages or a vanity domain.

Here are a few examples:

UTM-Promo-Mail

The annoying promotional mail in your mailbox that points you to www.website.com/promo. Well, when you visit that link you’re actually redirected to a URL with full UTM tags so the sending company can track how many people convert from direct mail. Let’s move on to our next example.

Chargify ad

Chargify ad url

Google Adwords and Display Ads. Those are all directing traffic to URLs tagged with UTMs so that marketing managers can make informed decisions about where to spend their marketing dollars. I knew those guys at Chargify would be using UTMs 😉

All you need to do is include UTM tags on your URLs and you’ll be able to track how much traffic is coming from your ads, guest posts, and even non-digital campaigns such as TV, radio, newspaper and magazine campaigns. (And you thought you couldn’t get actionable data when something didn’t happen on the internet.)

Making Short Work of UTMs

By now you shouldn’t need too much more convincing about the importance of UTMs. However, you may have noticed some not-so-subtle references in this article about how ridiculously long UTMs make your URLs. You may be thinking, quite rightly, that this will be a major turnoff for prospects. When they realize they have to type the equivalent of a liturgy into their web browsers to see what you’re selling.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to easily resolve this issue. You can use vanity URLs with custom redirects, use a URL-shortening service like bitly, or embed the URL in a QR code for people to scan on mobile devices.

No aspect of creating UTMs is meant to be challenging, but if you need some extra help getting started, check out the Effin Amazing UTM tool that will build URLs with UTM codes for you.

If you have any questions about getting started with UTMs or want to know how Effin Amazing may be able to help your business, please feel free to shoot me a note @DanielMcGaw.