Campaign tracking and UTM codes

How campaign tracking works using UTM codes.

What is campaign tracking?

Campaign tracking is a method of identifying which traffic is being driven to a website by specific advertising campaigns. These campaigns can be pay-per-click ads, ads on social media sites like Facebook, or video ads like the ones shown on YouTube.

A tracking code is created after a user clicks on an ad, which generates a referring URL that contains certain encoded information.

These codes are referred to as Urchin Tracking Mechanism (UTM) codes, named after a company called Urchin Software that created codes for tracking and recording website traffic. Google bought Urchin Software in 2005, and its technology was used as the backbone of Google Analytics. Because Google is an advertising industry leader, many other solutions are also built to read these codes and take advantage of their data.

UTM codes aren't just limited to online advertising. If you're running an advertisement in print or on the radio, UTM codes can be leveraged by directing customers to a special vanity URL. For example, www.acme.com could set up www.acme.com/radio for inclusion in a radio ad. This URL would use a redirect to include the UTM tags and therefore track a visitor just like an online ad. Using this method allows a merchant to easily track all of their advertising campaigns with one solution.

How do UTM codes work?

A URL with UTM tags may look like this:
www.acme.com/utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Saturday%20Morning&
utm_term=How%20To%20Prepare&utm_content=Catch%20Roadrunner%20Help%20Super%20Genius
, where everything in bold is the UTM encoding portion. This section contains things like the source, content, medium, and certain keyword terms.

UTM codes are established when the advertising campaign is first created, whether by an agency or an internal team. The UTM codes are broken down into five arguments that identify distinct attributes of an advertising campaign.

UTM arguments

Argument

Description

Examples

utm_campaign

Campaign Name: Mandatory tag for the campaign name.

spring_sale
back_to_school
bluth_banana

utm_source

Campaign Source: Mandatory identifier of the traffic source.

Newsletter
Blog
Radio

utm_content

Campaign Content: Additional tag used to identify traffic details within a campaign.

Logolink
Textlink

utm_medium

Campaign Medium: Additional tag used to identify how the ad was displayed.

Social
CPC
Email

utm_term

Campaign Term: Search term keywords that drove traffic to an ad.

bluth+company
caged+wisdom
im+oscar+dot+com

Analyzing ad campaigns

By setting up a program to parse the data from UTM tags as a visitor enters a website, businesses can analyze the nature of their traffic and begin optimizing their ad campaigns.

Using NS8 or NS8 TrueStats allows you to track each of their campaigns and improve their advertising ROI. These services parse UTM data automatically after you install our platform or tracking script, so there is no extra setup on the customer’s behalf.

UTM data is combined with score data to analyze website traffic. You can then identify which campaigns generated low-scoring traffic, and discontinue or modify these campaigns to reduce the prevalence of fraud. Campaigns that create high-value traffic will also be identified, allowing you to put more resources into campaigns that produce the best results.