So, what is it?

A UTM code is part of a custom URL that allows you to track a source, medium and campaign so you know exactly where your website traffic is coming from. It was originally used in conjunction with Urchin, a  web statistics analysis program developed by Urchin Software Company. Google purchased the software in 2005 to grow Urchin’s online product, which we now know as Google Analytics.

How does it work?

Consider this URL:
https://echodelta.co/work/?utm_source=Echo Delta%20Blog&utm_medium=URL&utm_campaign=UTM%20Codes%20Blog%20Post

When someone uses this link, we can gather that they are accessing Echo Delta’s Work page using a URL (medium) that they clicked on within the Echo Delta Blog (source). In fact, we can even see that it’s specifically part of the UTM Codes Blog Post (campaign). And Google Analytics is nice enough to capture every click-through, as well as a few other valuable nuggets of information that deserve their very own blog post.

Want to try building your own UTM code? Go for it.

Um, neat. But it’s way too long.

Yes, you’re absolutely right. It’s a crazy long URL that no one would ever take the time to type, but there are incredibly easy ways around that:

1. You can hide the UTM code in text.
Follow the link and take notice of the URL in your address bar. The source and campaign remain the same, but we changed the medium since the page is no longer being accessed by clicking a full URL. You’ll notice the same with the next two techniques, as well.

2. You can use a short URL – http://goo.gl/IwvOCX.
There are many websites that can take your unbelievably long URL and shorten it to a tiny one. Go ahead and click through, see how it works, then try to make your own. Another great benefit of using Google to do this is that it’ll track how many click-throughs your short URL gets as long as you’re signed in when you initially generate it. This works extremely well for social media outlets, especially since there’s typically a character limit.

3. You can try a QR code.
QRCodeMany people have apps like QR Reader or RedLaser on their smart phones that will read barcodes and QR codes. If you have a reader, go ahead and scan this QR code. Your Internet browser will open and while you’re being directed to Echo Delta’s fantastic work page, our Google Analytics are taking note that another person just used a QR code within the UTM Code blog post on our blog to get to the Echo Delta work page. Currently, my favorite QR generator is Kaywa. (Tip: QR codes tend to work better with shorter URLs. You can create your custom URL with a UTM code, shorten the URL as previously discussed, then use the short URL for your QR code.)This really comes in handy on printed pieces. We produce many print ads and various types of printed collateral. By putting QR codes on them, we make them interactive; we make them measurable; we make them educational.

So it’s pretty obvious how a trackable URL (especially in the form of a QR code) is interactive. It’s a no-brainer that a trackable URL would be measurable.

But how is this educational?

I’m glad you asked! During the early execution of Florida Polytechnic University‘s Admissions Campaign, the idea of recruitment mailers came up. This was essentially a mass mailing of 80,000 pieces to graduating seniors and potential Florida Poly applicants. Since there are several unique benefits to attending college at Florida Poly, we wanted to be certain which resonated most with our target audience before sending so many pieces out into the wild. Our strategy: three different messages; three identically designed cards; three different QR codes, each housing a different UTM code that would identify which message the potential students were reading. We mailed out 5000 of each, and we tracked engagement using Google Analytics. The results weren’t even close. We had one clear winner so we were able to send the remaining 65,000 recruitment mailers out with absolute confidence that our audience was getting the best message – because they told us which one was the best message.

You can apply this same principle to print ads. Which publications work best for your target audience? Which iterations of ads capture the most attention? Which days are most successful in local newspapers? Essentially, what generates the highest success possible and delivers the best results for you or your client?

Okay, but Google Analytics?

Chances are, if you’re on Google Analytics, you’re either a pro or you had no idea you could do any of this. However, if you don’t have access and if you’re not ready for us to revamp your website (we do some amazing stuff), as long as you have a Google account, you can sign in to Goo.gl and shorten all of your UTM codes.  Note: you MUST be signed in or else it won’t track your click-throughs. While you won’t be able to see all of the feedback that Google Analytics provides on the traffic you’re receiving, you’ll still be able to see how many times that specific link is being used.

Wow, UTM codes are actually everywhere.

Now that you’ve been exposed to the wonderful world of UTM codes, you’ll see them everywhere. It’s almost like the red pill/blue pill situation in the Matrix but I forgot to give you the option to stay oblivious. I’m very sorry about that. But your eyes have been opened, and you see how deep the rabbit hole goes so take notice of where you find them. There are new and inventive ways to use UTM codes surfacing every day, and we’d love to know what you find and how you’re successfully using them.