You Ask, I Answer: Best Practices for Google Analytics UTM Tracking Codes?

Julie asks, “What are the best practices for managing Google Analytics UTM tracking codes?”

UTM tracking codes – named after their original product, Urchin (the Urchin Tracking Module)- are a mainstay of Google Analytics. UTM codes come in five flavors – source, medium, campaign, term, and content. Each code serves a particular function, a way to measure a single visit to your website or owned media properties. Making the best use of UTM codes is primarily a process problem. In this video, learn the general best practices for managing UTM tracking codes.

Source: where is the visit coming from?
Medium: what kind of visit is it? How did they reach us?
Campaign: is it part of a campaign?
– A campaign is a discrete marketing effort
– May or may not be time based, may be a subset of a channel
Term: used primarily for AdWords, what word should be associated with the campaign
Content: used to delineate ads within a campaign

The biggest problems people run into are inconsistent usage of UTM codes – no standard naming convention, no organization, no process.

Best practices:
– Have a naming guide
– Use tracking codes that are meaningful
– keep them lowercase, use only letters, numbers, dashes, underscores, periods, slashes
– Never question marks, spaces, hashes, or ampersands
– Be consistent!
– Use link shorteners when you don’t want them to change

Grab a copy of the spreadsheet shown in the video here.

Can’t see anything? Watch it on YouTube here.

Listen to the audio here:

Download the MP3 audio here.

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.

In today’s episode, Julie asks, what are the best practices for managing the Google Analytics you tm tracking codes. YouTube tracking codes are are named after actually the product that Google Analytics used to be called. Back in 2005, Google bought a product called urgent urgent web analytics which used to be like really, really ridiculously expensive. And the CM code stands for search and tracking module and these are a mainstay of Google Analytics and chances are you seeing these in use all over the place they are attend appended to the end of URLs, new tm codes come in five different flavors and is really important to understand sort of the hierarchy of the the the way they look. So let’s um, let’s go to the slides here and just talk about these five codes. There are five codes source, medium campaign term and content and you can use

Any of these they are arbitrary mean that you have discretion of what they’re called. There are some built in one. So the source typically, if you don’t specify one, and you get traffic from somewhere else, the source would be aware that that came from like facebook.com or twitter.com or New York Times calm. The medium is the type of traffic that Google Analytics thinks it is. So Google Analytics has what are called default channel groupings.

Social email, referral, paid search, display, advertising, organic

and Google based on the list of domains that it maintains, tries to categorize traffic based on where it’s coming from the hierarchy of these tags is there’s two tags that are sort of channel based tags and these are the sorts of the medium these are essentials these are things that pretty much you want to track everything it’s important to say by the way that you tm tracking

codes apply at what’s called the hit level or the visit level. So even if somebody comes in from one site

and then leaves your website and then comes back from a different website, that second visit with a second hit is going to be counted in

and tracked separately because you want to you you want that level of granularity. So just know that YouTube tracking codes apply at the individual hit level so channel is source and medium this is these are the essentials that you need to always have so that you know where your traffic is coming from. Especially if you are using

you’re sending traffic like emails and things like that you want to have you always want to have those tax present in places where Google may not know what to do with traffic if you look in your Google Analytics when you look at your top content sources which is under the acquisition all traffic sources medium and

You’re like 6070, 80%

direct unknown or direct non traffic in Google Analytics. That means that you’re getting a lot of traffic that Google doesn’t know what to do with. And so it classifies it as direct instead of the source and the medium that it can identify. So things like organic search for example. So source and medium should be always things that you specify for anything we’re in place where you’re sharing the URL other than on your own website. So don’t use HTML tags on your own website but do use them anywhere else that is not your website so on social media in your email marketing

on a billboard use them wherever you can outside website so you can track things appropriately and make sure that you’re giving credit to to all of your marketing efforts. The second level of a UTI tag is the campaign level and this tag is called campaign

source tells us where visitors coming from the medium tells us how they got here. So source Facebook medium social.

campaign helps us group

tags or URLs into discrete marketing efforts. campaigns and a campaign may or may not be time based. It may just be a subset of a channel. So for example, I could tag all my us answer videos as a campaign and us the answer would be a campaign and there’s no end to this campaign is just it’s just a thing. Your email newsletter could be a campaign it’s just a way of categorizing your into your youth cm codes within a channel for specific users. So Facebook, you may have a Facebook page we have a Facebook group URLs that you sharing your Facebook page, you may want to have a campaign like Facebook page and your Facebook group URLs, you might want to have this Facebook group. So again, bringing differentiation within that channel the third layer or the content units. And this is where use term and content term was traditionally used for Google AdWords. And then content was used to specify like a blue red, green and yellow ad but again, remember

These are all arbitrary. So you can again use these two terms use these two tags to differentiate individual pieces of the content within a campaign. So for example, if I’m using a campaign of my almost timely newsletter, I might have a term for or content, I could use either one or both to differentiate links like the header, nav, or the footer or links and articles to to better understand where people are clicking. So that hierarchy is really important. Now, in terms of how do you use you tm tags really well. There are a bunch of best practices and Google all over the internet for these. But fundamentally,

you need to have a naming guide. You need to have tracking codes that are meaningful and readable by all the people who work on your team. If it’s just you, you still want to have this and you have to be consistent in your naming conventions

for you to text keep them lowercase.

Use only letters, numbers, dashes, underscores, periods do not use question marks, do not use spaces hashes the pound sign or ampersand, those will totally hose now you tag tag. So never use those if you want to preserve tax. So like if you were to take a long URL like this one here on screen and you were you wanted to preserve this tag, these use em tags, you would use a link shortener that way you could share and always be giving credit to where you originally shared. If you on the other hand, you want it to be rewritten some pieces of software, particularly social media software like buffer at Agoura pulse, and things can rewrite new tm tags if they’re shared naked like this on screen. So if you don’t want them rewritten, use a link shortener like Billy if you do want them rewritten to be appropriate for each tool, leave them naked. I would strongly recommend that you have a naming guide like this where you have the date who owns the YouTube tag the name

of the campaign. And then, of course, the five components. And again, remember, they’re all optional, but you definitely want to make sure you’re using your source and medium for sure. You want to have campaigns where it makes sense to do so. And then term and content to differentiate pieces of content within a campaign.

using something like Google Sheets allows you to do a lot of this automatically. So if I were to

use a sheet here and output let’s do another campaign like testing campaign

by using

a spreadsheet with functions built in to assemble these tags for you. You can have

tracking done a little more easily with the correct syntax and not screw up the tags so use this type of tracking sheet to manage the governance of you you tm tracking to make sure that everyone’s literally on the same page using consistent tags over

Over and over again. And having the spreadsheet actually assemble them. You can see this formula is a really long complex formula to assemble all the TM tags appropriately. So if you want, you can make a copy of this, I’ll share a link in the show notes, which is on my blog. And you can grab the URL from there to make a copy of the spreadsheet if you want to use this for yourself. But fundamentally, those are the best practices for you. Tim codes, use them, use them consistently make sure you have a common naming convention use link shorteners we don’t want to change and have a naming guide like this that will keep you organized. That is by far the biggest problem people run into with these tracking codes. So there’s a lot more to be done with these. There’s a lot more to dig into them. But at the very least, this is the starting point to get organized and to make use of them. So great question Julie. As always, please subscribe to the YouTube channel and the newsletter and we’ll talk to you soon want help solving your company’s data analytics and digital marketing problems. This is trust insights.ai today and let us know how we can help you


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