Growth September 30, 2020

How UTM tags help you analyze your marketing campaigns

Marko Saric @markosaric

You're aware of "Direct / None" referral in your favorite analytics tool. The number of that direct traffic seems to be growing and you seem to be losing the insights into who refers traffic to your startup.

This "dark traffic" includes clicks from emails, mobile messengers, bookmarks and some websites too. For instance Facebook never sends the post or comment ID where someone clicked on your link, they only tell you the person comes from Facebook.

On our website, 50% of traffic comes from direct and depending on where you do your marketing it could be even higher.

Did you know that you can reduce all that direct traffic? You can use UTM tags. We've now introduced full UTM tags support for Plausible Analytics so you can get easy, simple to understand and fast loading campaign dashboard.

Using UTM parameters

UTM parameters are bits of text that you add to the links that you share. They help you understand the big picture and referral sources that bring traffic to your site. But they also help you understand the small details such as what specific social media content works best in terms of driving conversions.

Here’s what a link looks like when it’s tagged with UTM parameters:

https://yourdomain.com?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=launch

UTM parameters are all the tags that come after the question mark (?) in the URL above. Individual parameters are separated by the ampersand (&) symbol.

  • utm_medium=social (The name of the channel where the link is placed. Such as email or social media)
  • utm_source=facebook (The name of the source where you plan to share the link. Such as the name of your newsletter or the social network you’re doing a campaign on)
  • utm_campaign=launch (The name of your individual campaign. Such as “November+newsletter” or “Black+Friday+sale”)

Here are some use cases where UTMs can make a difference:

Track your email marketing campaigns

Any clicks on links in emails be it personal emails you send or newsletters are classified as “direct / none”. UTM tags are a perfect tool to get some insights into your email marketing campaigns.

Any links that you include in any of your emails should be tagged. At the top level, you can use utm_source=email to see how many visitors you’re getting from emails.

But you can go even further. For instance, you could track clicks on the link you have placed in your email signature:

?utm_medium=email&utm_source=personal&utm_campaign=signature

Or you could track individual newsletter that you send out to your subscribers:

?utm_medium=email&utm_source=my-newsletter&utm_campaign=november-edition

Compare paid vs organic social media activities

Social media typically sends dark traffic referrals. So by tagging the content you share in social media, you can bring light to some of your activities.

One way to do that would be to tag all your organic (non-paid) social media links with a utm_medium=social tag and all your paid social media posts with a utm_medium=social-paid tag.

This will show a clear split in your website referral traffic between visitors and activity coming from “social” and “social-paid”. It makes it easier to analyze and understand the results you’re getting from your campaigns.

Check the results of each individual social media post

You can go even deeper than the paid vs organic social media split. You could analyze each individual post that you share using the utm_campaign tags. Here’s an example:

https://yourdomain.com?utm_medium=social-paid&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=black-friday-sale

Or:

https://yourdomain.com?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=new-season-announcement

The above examples would allow you to not only split the traffic and see the difference between paid and organic posts but also the results of the individual posts.

Analyze influencers, affiliates and creators you’re sponsoring

UTM tags are useful in the world of affiliate marketing, influencer marketing and other sponsorships such as when sponsoring a specific newsletter.

You could tag all of the links they post with their unique UTM tags so you can not only figure out what results they drive and what ROI (return on investment) they get you, but also compare them to each other to understand which deliver the best value for you and which may make sense to sponsor again.

You can read more about UTG tags in my post: How to use UTM parameters to track your campaigns and understand the dark traffic

  1. 3

    Hi Marko, congrats on launching this new feature, it will undoubtedly be very useful. However I have always found that utm tracking creates long and ugly URLs. Have you considered a feature to allow utm tracking to be hidden using a hash fragment? Like this? I think that would be a killer feature, and currently the way to administer it via google tag manager looks really cumbersome, I think you could create a much more streamlined UI which would be a good differentiator from GA.

    1. 2

      thanks Steven! that's a great idea! i've added this to our GitHub and we'll discuss to see how we could do something like that/better. thanks again!

      link to Github thread: https://github.com/plausible/analytics/issues/338

  2. 2

    Thanks for sharing Marko. Amazing stuff. We use UTM for email marketing, newsletters, PPC campaigns, Online reputation management to track the source of the leads and accordingly measure which is working and which is not.

    1. 1

      wow that's very cool! you're all tagged!

  3. 2

    UTM tagging is important! When I send out newsletters, I tag every link and then I can determine the performance of my newsletter.

    1. 1

      exactly Ben! so powerful for cases such as yours!

  4. 2

    That's a really great addition. In fact, I was wondering about how to approach this as we'll be sending out our first mailing next week. So your timing is great. :)

    1. 2

      happy to hear that! and good luck with the first mail!

  5. 2

    Thanks for sharing Marko. Could these be custom built with other variables names as well? Should it be always just UTM? How does these UTM values get recorded in analytics though they are seen in the URL?

    1. 2

      You're welcome Wilson! In theory, you can custom build your own parameters but you need to have an analytics tool that supports them and shows them in the dashboard.

      Majority support UTM tags as they're the industry standard (for instance many newsletter providers might tag your link automatically with UTM tags).

      Analytics tools are basically looking for specific tags such as UTM tags in order to record them. In Plausible Analytics, we support these parameters: ref, source, utm_source, utm_medium and utm_campaign.

      1. 2

        Thank you Marko for sharing it in detail.

  6. 1

    Some time ago I made this little UTM link generator (also bulk): https://utmeditor.com/
    Perhaps you find it useful.

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