Gather Data from Your Offline Marketing With UTM Codes

If you know what a UTM Code is you’re smarter than I was when I first encountered them. I know this article looks like there’s a lot of text to read but you can skim the headers and look at the pictures to get the jist of it and I promise by the end of it you’ll have a take-away you can apply to real-life clients. Here we go:

What is a UTM Code?

UTM stands for ‘Urchin Tracking Module’ which is essentially a tool that can be used to gather data from offline marketing initiatives.  Digital marketing campaigns make caching information about audiences almost effortless. It’s become second nature to digital marketers to comb through volumes of data to shape an effective digital marketing strategy. However, there are instances in marketing, where offline campaigns like radio, television, and print marketing are still employed and trying to see how these marketing channels are working for a company is extremely difficult. Often, when offline marketing channels are used, the Return On Investment can only be guessed at which is not sustainable in the long run especially when these offline channels are being compared to their digital counterparts. This is where UTM codes come in as they allow you to link everything to Google Analytics and segment different types of campaigns and audiences so you can see exactly what’s working.

But Offline Marketing is Dead!

Can you prove it? Don’t get me wrong, I like to think of print marketing and offline marketing as dead as well, and in my experience, after I’ve tested the channels and done the analysis there’s a faint heartbeat there at best. However, if you have a client that believes their business relies on offline marketing channels, you’ll need to provide them evidence to the contrary if you want to migrate them over to digital channels. More importantly, if the business employs offline marketing channels and has neglected to develop digital ones that means that 100% of their customer base is floating out there in the ‘real’ world and you have absolutely no online data about them to use to shape your Digital Marketing Strategy (the horror!).

The Idea is to Funnel Offline Users Online So You Can Track Them

A Digital Marketer can’t work without data to analyze. The fact of the matter is you’ll need to develop a strategy to utilize UTM codes for any Marketing Strategy that employs offline marketing in any capacity because UTM codes will help you compile data about the audiences who are engaging with you through those channels. If you can get an offline user online to engage with you in some small capacity you can start caching data about them and use it to learn about the audience of that channel and their respective ‘buyer behaviors’.

What Does a UTM Code Look Like and How Do I Use It?

Great questions, specifically, a UTM code is a simple code that you can attach to a custom URL in order to track a source, medium, and campaign name. The setup happens in Google Analytics and it looks like this:

Vanity URLS:

Vanity URL’s are nice looking aliases of your domain name (see screenshots below). One of the most common uses of UTM codes is to setup a Vanity URL for each offline campaign type and setup your UTM codes so they redirect this vanity URL to your chosen landing page. This will give you the ability to track traffic reaching online properties from specific offline sources so you can measure and analyse these audiences.

Google Analytics now allows you to track offline campaigns in this way without having to develop custom landing pages or websites. In Analytics, go to the ‘Reporting’ section>> Traffic Sources >> Sources >> Campaigns. By following this path you should see the specific breakdown of metrics pertaining to specific campaign types.

Now you can finally see if those offline channels: TV, Radio, Newspaper are actually delivering quality traffic and customers to your business or your client.

When to Use UTM Codes

  • Print Marketing
  • Television Ads
  • Radio Ads
  • Google Adwords
  • Blog Posts(particularly guest posts)
  • Social Media– Create a separate code for each channel and each different use-type (paid vs. organic posts)
  • Email Marketing and Email Signature
  • Website– Compare the location of different banner ads etc. on the same web property.

Definitions of UTM Parameters if you are Setting One Up Right Now

If you aren’t – you’re done! That’s the end of the article. But if you’re literally trying to setup your parameters right now, these are helpful:

Campaign Source (utm_source) – Required parameter to identify the source of your traffic such as: search engine, newsletter, or other referral.

Campaign Medium (utm_medium) – Required parameter to identify the medium the link was used upon such as: email, CPC, or other method of sharing.

Campaign Term (utm_term) – Optional parameter suggested for paid search to identify keywords for your ad. You can skip this for Google AdWords if you have connected your AdWords and Analytics accounts and use the auto-tagging feature instead.

Campaign Content (utm_content) – Optional parameter for additional details for A/B testing and content-targeted ads.

Campaign Name (utm_campaign) – Required parameter to identify a specific product promotion or strategic campaign such as a spring sale or other promotion.