The Complete Guide to UTM Codes.
The better you can understand where your website’s traffic is coming from, the better you’ll be able to engage with new audiences and rise through the Local SEO rankings. UTM tracking codes (Urchin Tracking Module) are a series of parameters that we can add to URLs that allow us to learn more about how a user ended up at our site. While Google Analytics can give you some data out of the box, UTM tracking allows for a far greater level of specificity beyond just lumping traffic into “direct” or “organic” buckets. UTM codes are widely accepted by companies like Google, Bing, and Yelp, but not currently supported by Apple.
UTM tags can be leveraged in all kinds of ways, but for the purpose of this guide we’ll focus mainly on how they apply to your Google Business Profile and how multi-location businesses can use them most effectively.
What Goes into Creating UTM Codes:
Before we can determine what links to tag and how to best deploy them, we first need to understand what goes into UTM tracking codes and how to create them.
This refers to where the user is coming from. The most common source is going to be Google, but it could just as well be something like a newsletter or a banner ad.
Think of this parameter as how the user found you. Most of the time this will either be through organic search or social media. This value will also match the medium you’ll see in Google Analytics.
Example: utm_medium=organic or utm_medium=social
This is our first optional parameter, and it mostly comes into play when dealing with paid searches. This field will allow you to see exactly which keyword was used in the search to funnel traffic.
Example: utm_term=sailing+lessons or utm_term=swimming+coach
Another optional and slightly niche parameter, this time focused around A/B testing. If you have multiple versions of the same ad or newsletter, this field will let you see which version is driving more traffic to your site and you can use that information to inform future decisions.
Example: utm_content=redbackground or utm_content=bluebackground
Here we get into the “why” of why the user has clicked on a link. In the context of Google Business Profile, campaign names could be things like “gbp-listing”, “gbp-appt”, or “gbp-menu” if these are services your business offers.
Now that we understand all the different parameters that go into UTM codes it’s time to actually start creating our own links. Luckily for us, a lot of the hard work has been taken care of and there are multiple UTM URL builders available for free. We recommend Google’s own URL builder as well as the incredible UTM guide and generator google sheet built by Claire Carlile.
When it Makes Sense to Use UTM Tracking.
UTM tracking and your Google Business Profile go hand-in-hand.
Adding UTM tracking to as many of the links within your GBP as possible will take away some of the mystery of “zero click searches”. The examples used in the “Campaign Name” section like links to a menu, appointment bookings, or driving directions all make great opportunities for UTM links. UTMs will also allow you to see which of your Google Posts are performing well and inform your future content strategy decisions.
- Setting up UTMs is also the perfect time to make sure all your links are still in working order. It’s important to remember that any kind of redirects will strip the UTM parameters off the link and remove any tracking. Likewise, take the time to double check all of your listing details are up to date or use a Listings Management service to take care of that for you.
If you’re a multi-location business you have to take into consideration how you want to link to specific branches and locations.
For the most part you can keep your Source, Medium, and Campaign the same (e.g., google, organic, gbp-listing), and just change the Campaign Content parameter for each new location (e.g., santamonica-location or santamonica-branch).
Get creative with how you deploy UTMs.
While Google Business Profile links are great, there’s no reason not to use them for something like QR codes to determine exactly which locations or ad placements are generating the most traffic.
UTM Best Practices:
- Like with everything, but especially UTM tracking, consistency is key. Because UTM tags and Google Analytics are case sensitive, decide on whether you’re going to be using lowercase or uppercase and stick with that decision. The same goes for dashes and underscores (e.g., summer-sale or summer_sale). Again, it doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as you’re consistent about it.
- Keep a running list of all the UTM links that you’ve created so everyone on your team is on the same page. Creating duplicate UTM links can complicate reporting and make everyone’s life more difficult.
- Use short, easy-to-read, and descriptive URLs. Decide on common abbreviations like “CA” for “California” and use them to include relevant information within the parameter fields.
The Bottom Line.
UTM Tracking allows you to quantify and categorize the traffic coming to your website in a meaningful way. The more you know, the better you can do your job. With this information you and your team can determine what kind of content is resonating with your readers, how much traffic those Google Posts are really driving to your site, and (assuming you’ve set up conversions and goals in Google Analytics) what users are doing once they get there.
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If you would like to continue advancing your online marketing, learn more about Local SEO, or stay up to date with the latest trends, contact us to set up a time and meet with our team.