One of digital marketing’s greatest strengths is being able to measure just about every interaction a supporter has with your online campaign. Marketing analytics let you know how many people were reached with a Facebook post, how many minutes of your video ad were watched, and which pages on your website are the most visited.
But in order to truly measure the impact of your online campaign and be able to identify what’s working and what’s not, you need to go a layer below these vanity metrics to measure what matters. One of the best tools a digital campaigner has in their toolbox is the UTM code, which is a widely used method for encoding URLs. Here’s an example:
This blog post exists at
but if you clicked on the link in the newsletter, the URL looks like this:
Now, when I check on my Google Analytics for the site, I can see that most of the traffic to our site this month came from our newsletter or whether a particular call to action was more compelling than usual.
Leveraging UTM codes in your marketing efforts ensures that you have the ability to measure the effectiveness of your online campaign. In this post, you’ll learn where to use them, how they work, and the ways they’ll make you smarter.
Where To Use UTM Codes
Anytime you are sharing a link in email, social media, the web, make sure it’s encoded with UTM data. If you’re promoting a petition, for example, use the URL to note whether that was on Facebook, Twitter, email, your blog – whatever the source is.
For Republican campaigns using WinRed, if your donation links have UTM codes, you’ll be able to see them in your reporting tool:
It’s the most convenient and reliable way to know which email copy is converting in your fundraising program. You can note whether the link was the first, second, or third in the email, for example, or whether it was the resend of the email.
Any and all paid ads should use UTM codes as well to note the variations in ad copy or creative or which platform the ad is running on. If you’re sharing a link via an online marketing channel, make sure it’s coded.
How UTM Codes Make You Smarter
With UTM codes embedded in all of your URLs, you’ll be able to better measure which parts of your online marketing are working and those that aren’t.
You’ll know which version of an ad is driving the most conversions. Whether the spike in traffic to your site is from social media organic or paid. When the best time to send an email is to maximize donations. How many people have clicked on that new button on the homepage.
These are just a few of the things you’ll only be able to measure properly by using UTM codes. Having this data is essential for building your case for more resources online.
Creating & Tracking UTM Codes
Now that you appreciate just how important UTM codes are to measuring the effectiveness of your online campaign, how do we create them? I have this tool from Google bookmarked and use it often.
But in order to keep your tracking codes consistent over time, you’ll want to keep them organized in a spreadsheet (which can also build the links for you). I’ve created a starter Google Sheet here that you can copy and customize to get started.
After a few weeks of using UTM codes, you’ll be able to see in your Google Analytics more details about where traffic is coming from and you can drill down further.
With this data, you’ll be able to make more powerful reports that can actually guide your decision making and help convince your leadership to provide more resources.
While encoding your URLs with UTM codes adds an extra step to your marketing efforts, the dividends it pays in the long run outweigh any costs. And the value of having carefully tracked efforts compounds over time as you’re able to identify the most effective aspects of your online campaign.