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Marketing Marketing Technology

The Marketer’s Guide to Using UTMs for Attribution [eBook]

7 Minute Read

As a brand, you want to tell captivating stories, ones that connect point A and point B with relative ease. And you also want to determine where and how customers are engaging with that content, as it gives you great insight into the marketing effort’s ROI. But untangling all this information can get a little tricky.

With so many different tools and reporting techniques currently entering the martech landscape, the explosion of consumer touchpoints means data is high-volume and fragmented across platforms. Marketers are unable to see what’s really going on across social, web, search, and everywhere else their customers are spending their time. While mastering UTMs may feel like marketing basics, today’s analytic tracking and metric tools have many other creative uses for marketers looking to showcase value across a number of mediums.

By understanding the function and best practices for using UTMs, marketers can eliminate the guesswork around campaign analysis and more precisely measure content marketing ROI for all their campaigns, including influencer partnerships, brand awareness on social media, and even directly tying organic traffic to conversions.

What are UTM Codes, and How Can They Prove Marketing ROI?

Taking the guesswork out of reporting on content marketing ROI requires using the right tools and templates, which will let you focus on connecting every post and channel to your overarching content strategy.

Content Strategy Playbook ebook banner

It’s been nearly two decades since Urchin Software, the predecessor to today’s Google Analytics, developed UTM codes, giving digital marketers everywhere a slice of their sanity back by offering an easy solution for tracking customers throughout their journey.

A UTM code, or UTM parameter, is a basic string of code that can be added to the end of a custom URL. When a URL with a UTM code is shared—via social, through email, or any other way online—it generates valuable insights which are used to track where leads, customer opportunities, and website traffic specifically come from. UTMs are helpful to better understand which channels, content types, and campaigns are driving the most traffic to your website, and ultimately driving sales.

By appending a UTM to your URLs, you’re able to more accurately track and report on source analytics and determine which of your channels are generating the most traffic, and therefore where you should be devoting most of your time.

For years now, confidently assessing social media ROI and tracing the impact of your social media marketing strategy has been a major headache for brands. Social Media Examiner’s 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report found that only 10 percent of respondents strongly agree that they can measure social ROI, while 56 percent were either uncertain or incapable of tying social efforts to business objectives.

content marketing attribution

Image attribution: Will Wilson

The benefit of adding a unique UTM_ID is that this best practice allows you to attribute ROI to each individual post. For example, if you share the same blog post on Facebook multiple times with different copy, creative, and timing, the UTM_ID field lets you assess the performance of each post. UTMs provide the most value when a unique UTM is assigned to every use of a link. That means you would have a unique UTM_ID for each and every tweet, Facebook post, and other social media action that’s part of the campaign.

A Facebook post with a UTM code would look like this, with the source indicating Facebook:


A Twitter post with a UTM code would look like this, with the source indicating Twitter:


You can see that both of the above examples were part of the same campaign (utm_campaign=tmmaaplaunch).

If the marketer wanted to see which channel drove more traffic, Facebook or Twitter, the answer could easily be determined by comparing the analytics tracked by the UTMs. The marketer could then prioritize one channel over the other based on which was performing better.

Consistently creating unique UTMs allows marketers to do two main things:

  1. Compare the effectiveness of their campaigns against each other; and
  2. Analyze campaign performance versus goal completion rate at the source level.

This granular level of tracking gives marketers the ability to fine-tune campaigns based on what has historically worked for their brand, focus resources on the most effective campaigns, and redirect efforts to the highest performing channels.

How to Use UTM Codes for Content Analysis

Many savvy brands are making UTM a mainstay in their influencer marketing strategy by tying tracking links to the promo codes they provide to individual influencers.

Brands working with well-known social media influencers will often create custom promo codes for these influencers to give to their fans, which they can use for things like a discount or a free sample of a special new product. By making these codes something short and unique to the influencer themselves—consider using their name or social handle for a code, like LAUREN10—you can leverage that personalized connection between influencers and fans, while also being able to easily see which specific influencers are driving the most traffic and engagement around specific campaigns.

influencer marketing codes

Image attribution: SOCIAL CUT

Similarly, UTM codes are one of the easiest ways for marketers to run A/B tests across each of their social channels to determine which content formats, tones, and publishing frequency perform best in each space.

UTM codes allow marketers to control individual content variables to perform split testing for specific social campaigns on a single channel. For example, your brand may create two versions of the same post promoting your upcoming webinar: one featuring only text, and one with the same text and a 10-second video clip. By assigning a separate UTM string to each version of the post, it’s easy to identify which approach is best suited for your audience. If you see that followers are liking the video tweet three times as often as the standalone text version, you can then pivot your current Twitter strategy to include more video messaging.

Learning UTM Best Practices

When you have the right resources to accurately measure and report on your marketing campaigns, your team will unlock valuable insights into what content resonates with your audience and be more certain that they’re allocating their resources and budgets to the most relevant pathways.

Marketing insight platforms like TrackMaven’s use unique UTMs to enable brands to easily measure content in an additional, more nuanced capacity, at the per-post level. This allows you to see which pieces of content are driving goal completion and conversion.

We’ve put together a comprehensive step-by-step guide for marketers on the best tools and tricks for creating and naming UTMs for your marketing campaigns.

In this ebook you’ll discover:

  • How TrackMaven’s social and content attribution lets you add a custom UTM code to every post.

  • The best practices for naming all your unique codes.

  • What templates you need to keep track of every code you build.

  • How to design mobile-friendly workflows that keep your codes consistent across all devices.

Today, the customer journey is more scattered than ever as marketers strain to reach their audiences wherever they are—across multiple devices, social platforms, email newsletters, and beyond.

UTM data will let you instantly pull up the metrics that matter so you can conduct data-driven content analysis and determine the value of all your different marketing efforts. By tracking UTM codes, you get the ability to see what is and is not contributing to traffic, as well as the insight into how that traffic is impacting conversions. This deeper knowledge allows you to shift to a more precise and results-driven content strategy.

If you’ve been struggling to demonstrate the impact of your social media strategy and analyze the impact of each of your campaigns, these simple tools are exactly what you need to crack (and track) the code.

Find out more about how effective campaign tracking can elevate your digital marketing efforts and prove ROI by downloading our ebook.

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Paige Breaux is a lifelong bookworm, musical theatre fan, and coffee addict with a BA in English and Journalism from Boston University. Before joining the Skyword team, she worked in trade publishing and wrote articles for lifestyle publications like The Odyssey and Her Campus. Paige currently lives in Brighton, MA.

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