Consistency is Key for UTM-Tracking
Best practice is essential for anyone using UTM-Tracking. Improper practice leads to messy data. Messy data leads to hours wasted in cleaning. When UTM-Tracking is at its worst, extracting actionable insights can feel like trying to read a bowl of alphabet soup. The nine tips that exist below – with one exception – all share a common theme: consistency. Consistency is the ultimate buzzword in UTM-Tracking. If your practice is consistent, you are far along the path to having clean, actionable data. If your tagging is inconsistent, you have shot yourself in the foot before you have even begun.
Our 9 Tagging Best Practices
- Use UTM-Tracking for each Link to your website, that you have control over.
If a random user of your product shares your website in a status, you have no control over whether the link is tagged with UTM Data (which it won’t be). Random users sharing your website is the only excuse for having untagged links that direct to your site. Comparison between published links and the page landings is the central core of UTM Tracking. This comparison is impossible if some published links simply lack the tags which Google Analytics requires to record their tags.
- Use only lowercase letters in all your tagging. There is never any need for a capital letter in a tag; capitalising letters isn’t needed to convey meaning in this context, and so will only increase your complexity and risk of inconsistency.
- Don’t use any blanks or special characters in your tags. If you want a multiple-word tag for any reason, a minus symbol works-excellently-as-a-placeholder-instead-of-space. Do not use an underscore for this purpose, as that character appears within the UTM Parameters and can lead to problems.
- Avoid UTM Tracking for your internal links. If a link appears on your site and links to elsewhere on your site, make sure it is untagged. Tagging internal links will distort your reporting and confuse your results. UTM tags are only for external links. It is surprisingly common to see a blog post link to somewhere else on the site, via a tagged link.
- Never use the same parameter twice (e.g. utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=facebook). If you find yourself doing this, it suggests that you are recording the same variable twice, and as such need to rethink your entire tagging structure.
- URLs with UTM Parameter have a tendency to be relatively long. It makes sense to use a URL shortener, like bit.ly or Google shortener. This has an absolutely huge benefit: Shorter links have better click-through rates. A link that is visibly tagged with UTM data is less appealing to a potential customer, whereas a shortened link is more likely to be clicked.
- Ensure that a given value is always spelled the same way. The commonest error made in UTM tracking is inconsistencies over how to spell ‘Facebook’. Any spelling of the word is fine, as long as it is kept consistent. When one link is tagged as ‘fb’, the next is tagged as ‘facebook’ and the next is tagged as ‘faceboko’, you are creating data-soup, which some unfortunate analyst will spend hours cleaning.
- Forget most of what you’ve been told about UTM-parameters. There are countless words expended on questions like ‘what does ‘UTM Content’ mean? The truth is, it means nothing. Think of these parameters not as meaningful variables by which to define your marketing, but rather as placeholders into which you can input as many pieces of data as you wish. You can even record multiple pieces of data inside one parameter, concatinating them together with a delimiter (you will need to copy your links into a spreadsheet to separate them out into columns when you do this).
- Record your pieces of data in the same order every time, and record the same number of pieces of data every time. Remember the spreadsheet in the last tip? I’m sure you have experience with spreadsheets where some rows have more columns than others. You do not want this to happen.
The above list reveals exactly two key themes: You want to think of you marketing not in terms of what UTM parameters are supposed to mean, but rather in terms of what information you want to get out of your marketing efforts. Having decided which and how many variables you are interested in tracking, you must pursue this data with mechanical consistency. In short, you want a tool, which will allow you to ask the interesting questions, while automating away all of the inconsistency-inducing human error. In short, you want to use the UTM-Builder.