web analytics
Marketing

URL Tracking: Using URLs to Understand Where Traffic Comes From

A link to your website will direct users to your site – but how can you track how they got there? That’s where tracking URLs come in. Tracking URLs add a simple piece of code to the end of your URL that sends information to your analytics account about where visitors came from.

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How to read URL tracking

A tracking URL looks something like this, with your website’s URL followed by tracking code (called tracking parameter strings).
Each parameter (the part of the code starting with utm and highlighted below following the link) corresponds to a specific piece of information you want to record.

Campaign ID

Used to identify paid campaigns, you don’t need to include this when creating links with tracking.

Campaign Source

Where the user is coming from, e.g. google, newsletter, facebook.

Campaign Medium

Identifies what kind of traffic it is. Is the traffic from a paid source (like cpc) or natural source (organic) e.g. organic, cpc, paid_listing.

Campaign Name

This allows you to group and identify links. For example, e.g. spring_sale_2021, labor_day_promotion.

Campaign Team

Used to identify paid keywords, you don’t need to include this when creating links with tracking.

Campaign Content

Used to differentiate ads or specific posts e.g. 30_percent_off, repair_ad, install_ad.

Example

https://www.billsplumbing.com?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=spring_sale&utm_content=30-percent-off

 

In the example above, the link tells us whoever clicks the link is visiting billsplumbing.com from Facebook through an organic post (not an ad) offering 30% off for their Spring Sale.

 

You can view more examples here.

How To Add Tracking To Your Links

An easy way to add tracking to your links without having to learn the ins and outs of writing utm code is to simply use a URL builder, like Google’s own tool. Then, you can just paste in the information and it will generate a link for you.

Website URL

Under the website URL, insert the link you want to add tracking to. This can be a link to any page on your website.

 

Examples

  • https://www.billsplumbing.com
  • https://www.billsplumbing.com/ac-repair
  • https://www.billsplumbing.com/contact

Campaign Source

Next, you need to choose your campaign source. Your source is where the link is being shared. Only share your tracking link on the website it was created for, and create a unique tracking link for every place you share this link on. So, if you’re sharing this link to your Facebook page, you should only share it to your Facebook page – not inside an email you’re sending out to customers.

 

Examples

  • google
  • facebook
  • instagram

Campaign Medium

From there, you need to define your campaign medium. The medium identifies what kind of traffic it is. For example, you might use the medium ‘banner_ad’ to show the traffic is coming from a banner on a website or ‘cpc’ to show the traffic is coming from Google’s pay per click service – a.k.a cost per click.

 

Common mediums include…

 

cpc – for google ads

organic / social – for posts without spend, commonly used on social media

social_paid – for social media posts with ad spend behind them

Campaign Name

This is how you can title the type of campaign you’re running, like a product launch, specific sales campaign, group of emails, etc. This makes it easy to group different types of links together.

 

Examples

spring_sale_2021

blog_posts

retention_email

Campaign Content

Lastly, fill out the campaign content field. This is often used to differentiate content inside a post. For example, if you have two links inside an email, you can use this section to differentiate the links. Alternatively, if you’re posting the same ad with minor variations, you can use this section to distinguish between them.

Campaign Term

You should leave this blank. This feature was originally created to track specific keywords from paid ads, but Google tracks this automatically.

 

Pro-Tip: When deciding what to fill in, you can use a dash (-) or underscore (_) in place of spaces but you should typically avoid using any symbols and use only letters and numbers. For more on common mistakes you should avoid, check here.

 

This will then generate a link at the bottom of the page you can copy or shorten.

Tools for Link Shortening

Long links can be an eyesore and look unprofessional, especially on social media. To avoid having to paste an enormous link, you can use a link shortener to reduce its size while still keeping all the information you just created.

 

Two link shortening apps we like and recommend to shorten links and create custom short links are:

Bit.ly

Bit.ly is free to shorten links and costs $29/month to create custom URLs. Bit.ly is extremely user friendly and you can get detailed stats about who visits your links, add tags, and directly see stats for a link by following the link with a + mark. And there’s a handy chrome add-on you can use to create links from your browser. One of the only downsides is that you can’t change the UTM parameters (tracking links) from the browser extension and the one inside the app itself only gives you the option of adding source, medium, and campaign.

UTM.io

UTM.io is free – and allows you to add 1 custom domain to the platform for free. It integrates with bit.ly for link shortening, allows you to create UTM Templates, has campaign tagging, notes, and a robust chrome extension that lets you create UTM (tracking) links directly from your browser with all the necessary parameters.

With all these tools, you should be able to successfully track where your traffic is coming from using your URLs. Jump back to the Marketing Playbook to cover the next topic!

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