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🤠 UTMs: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Originally Published:  
April 22, 2022

🤠 UTMs: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

👵 What's Old is New: Urchin Tracking Module

UTM parameters are small pieces of code suffixed to your URL to understand traffic and performance in high fidelity using analytics apps, such as Google Analytics.

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module.

The name comes from the software company acquired by Google named; you guessed it, Urchin. Later, UTMs were deeply integrated into GA.

Why are UTMs helpful? Because they allow you to easily “track” users’ behaviors using just a link. Pretty cool. Kids these days, spoiled with their pixels. Get off my lawn. *Shakes fist*

In general, UTMs help you answer three questions:

  1. Where’s the traffic coming from?
  2. How is it coming to me?
  3. Why is it coming to me?

Below is an example showing you how UTMs might be separated to distinguish between the different sources and campaigns.

From Buffer's UTM Guide | buffer.com/library/utm-guide/

From Buffer's UTM Guide | buffer.com/library/utm-guide/

👁️‍🗨️ How UTMs Work & How to Implement?

UTMs are fairly simple (not simplistic) in their functionality. You have 5 parameters (and more as custom terms) that Google Analytics will accept: utm_campaign, utm_content, utm_medium, utm_source & utm_term.

Of note, utm_source is a required parameter for Google Analytics.

If it is not present, GA will ignore all others.

Again a quick reference from the Buffer UTM Article (it’s so good):

So, here’s the story of Star Wars in UTM-tagged URL form!

  • Destination URL = where the traffic’s going (the Death Star)
  • Source UTM tag = where the traffic’s coming from (the rebel base)
  • Medium UTM tag = how the traffic’s getting there (X-wing fighters)
  • Campaign UTM tag = why the traffic’s going there (to stop Darth Vader)
UTM Tagged URL Example | buffer.com/library/utm-guide/

UTM Tagged URL Example | buffer.com/library/utm-guide/

You want to keep your parameter names short and intuitive.

Remember, you are using this data to report on. So the easier it is to parse, the easier your life is.

With that being said we do recommend the following schema for Facebook Ads to maximize our FB/GA Attribution Tool:

?utm_medium=cpc

&utm_source=facebook

&utm_campaign={{campaign.name}}

&utm_content={{adset.id}}

&utm_term={{ad.id}}

Outside of having an analytics platform like Google Analytics on your site or app, you don’t need to install anything else.

Most tracking platforms work right out of the box with UTMs (some might require preferred schemas).

Ok, now let’s look at UTMs in action, but first, let’s build one.

Building a UTM

There are a ton of UTM builders out there, you can create a spreadsheet, Notion doc or use Google’s UTM builder.

Use whatever is easiest for you and integrates into your workflows.

Keeping clean and well documented UTMs will make decoding the patterns from your web traffic that much easier.

Obvi, Facebook has their own URL parameter builder right in Ads Manager. So let’s use that to create a UTM tagged link for our FB ad.

First, set everything up at the campaign and ad set level; the URL Params live at the ad level.

Now scroll down and you will see a section that says Build a URL Parameter.

Next, fill in the blanks using the screenshot below. Add your Custom Parameter. Boom you just created a URL with UTMs for your FB ad.

Gottem!

**Side note: If you put a link in the FB ad copy, the URL Parameters will be added when someone clicks on it. How cool!?

URL Builder in FB Ads Manager

URL Builder in FB Ads Manager

Pro Tip 1: You can check your UTMs by creating a share link and then previewing the ad. Note, UTMs will not show up if you view the post any other way besides the FB share link.

Pro Tip 2: In FB Ads Manager, you can quickly audit all your UTMs by clicking on the Setup Column Configuration. There will now be a column that shows all the UTMs for each ad. Super slick.

Pro Tip 3: Alternatively, after you build the schema you want, you can just copy and paste that into the URL Parameters section for subsequent FB ads.

Here is what we recommend for FB Ads:

utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign={{campaign.name}}&utm_content={{adset.id}}&utm_term={{ad.id}}

Pro Tip 4: If you are using UTMs out in the wild, (not in a Klaviyo email or Facebook ad) use a link shortener like bit.ly. This way you get to keep the tracking and the url isn’t as long as a CVS receipt.

🤦‍♂️ UTM Pitfalls

Below are some common pitfalls you might encounter when implementing UTMs.

UTMs Duplicated

UTMs are case sensitive (one of the reasons to use dynamic names whenever possible). Example:

  • trytriplewhale.com/?utm_source=AustinBillboard
  • trytriplewhale.com/?utm_source=Austinbillboard
  • trytriplewhale.com/?utm_source=austinbillboard

All three would be seen as a different traffic sources. When implementing UTMs, try to decide on a syntax i.e. camelCase or all lowercase. It will make life soooo much easier.

“NO UTM for YOU!”

If you use have a squeeze page and then a sign up page on a site you don’t own i.e. typeform etc. You will more than likely lose that visibility because the UTMs will be stripped during the redirect to the new domain. You can do some fancy stuff with cross-domain tracking, but just be cognizant of this (again why pixels are so amazeballs, thanks Apple).

Building New Parameters

Let’s say you need to add a UTM parameter to your current schema and you aren’t using a URL Builder.

Make sure you are following the syntax with the UTM starting with a ? and then & for each additional parameter.

Example:

trytriplewhale.com/?utm_source=AustinBillboard&utm_campaign=MakeMoreMoney

If I want to add say, utm_content.

trytriplewhale.com/&utm_content=AjWrestlingGator?utm_source=AustinBillboard&utm_campaign=MakeMoreMoney

👆THIS IS WRONG. DON’T DO THIS.

Instead the start of the UTM should always begin with a ?.

Below is the correct setup:

trytriplewhale.com/?utm_content=AjWrestlingGator&utm_source=AustinBillboard&utm_campaign=MakeMoreMoney

UTMs on Internal Links

You don’t want to do this…nope. Please, don’t do this. Why? You will pervert all your other UTM data. No bueno. Plus, there is absolutely zero benes from it.

Do I need to install anything?

Yes and no. You need Google Analytics or some other analytics tracker installed on your site. Outside of that you are GTG!

🤯 Triple Whale's UTMs Matcher

Ok now you understand what UTMs are and what they do; how do you take all this theory and apply it to deploying paid media more efficiently and effectively? Great question.

What you can do is match up the UTMs from your FB ads with your Google Analytics data. From that you can derive what FB says your performance is versus what GA says your performance is.

This method gives you another perspective on paid media performance at the campaign, ad set, and ad level; alleviating some of the visibility issues caused by Facebook’s current reporting.

One of two ways you can do this.

First, you go to Google Analytics and Facebook then crunch/reconcile all that UTM & performance data or…log into your Triple Whale 🐳.

Then click on Marketing -> Attribution FB/GA

Example of Triple Whale FB/GA UTM Performance Dashboard

Example of Triple Whale FB/GA UTM Performance Dashboard

Like magic, all the work is done for you. You can see all the campaigns that are driving real dollas for your business.

You can even add leading indicators like avg session duration, bounce rate, pageviews per session, FB CPM and FB CPC.

All in this one dashboard created automagically for you! You can even custom order the columns. Incredible.

⏳ Wrapping Up

Well, thats all I got today. As they say, all good things have to come to an end. Thanks again for riding shotgun with me on this tour of UTM island. I hope you enjoyed it.

Now, go make sure your all your links are UTM tagged and your schemas are tidy. Then print more money! #TripleWhaling

One more thing, I really appreciate you being a Whale Mail Subscriber. Thank you 🙏.

Have a whale of a day!

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