How to Build, Store, and Track UTM Campaign links like a master digital marketer

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have an advanced and automated tracking option that keeps you on top of all of your marketing campaign links (or UTM links)? Such a platform could help you determine which link performed best across each channel and throughout the customer journey (ie, from Facebook to Google Analytics Goal Completion/Conversion). This “How to Build, Store, and Track UTM Campaign links like a master digital marketer” outlines the best UTM Management practices we’ve used to successfully answer the question: Which ad performed best and why.

It seems that I write about UTM parameters once a month. It’s not because I love building these links. Rather, it’s because I continuously find myself stressing on the importance of these UTM Campaign URLs to almost every new Fortune 100 client I work with because such a simple adoption to best practices can dramatically improve your marketing ROI.

This literally just happened last Thursday –  We were contracted to set up a digital marketing’s team data structure so that they could accurately track every UTM link’s performance in real time. As usual, when we first meet with our client + agency, I asked:

Do you know the online paid ad name that drove the best engagement on your site and can you tell me, beyond just clicks, how that ad performed in its channel (so if was a Facebook ad, tell me the relevance score, shares, comments, frequency, etc).  After reviewing the previous month’s KPI report and agency presented powerpoint, the team still couldn’t really answer. Consequently, we started reviewing their UTM processes and once again realized that this was the biggest barrier to their data insights. It’s from that conversation that we decided to put together this article highlighting the best practices guide to help digital marketers learn how to build, store, and analyze their UTM links. By the end of the article, you’ll be able to manage your UTM links (or campaign links) like a digital marketing master and successfully determine which ad (or UTM link) gave you the best ROI.

STEP 1: SET UP YOUR OWN UTM BUILDER WITH ENFORCED NAMING CONVENTIONS

First things first, you need to make sure anyone who is ever building a link for your organization uses the same definitions for your UTM parameters, the biggest ones being source and medium. This means that if someone is pushing an ad in facebook, you can make sure that everyone is writing the source: facebook, the exact same way. Not Facebook, not FB, not FB+IG, or any other variable. Enforcing these naming conventions guarantees your link’s “Data integrity” once you go into analyzing your KPIs. In short, it’s critical to do it!

There’s a number of options you can use to make this happen.

  1. Use a tool like our UTM Smart Manager which provides you with a custom-made online form with dropdowns and autofill components that will ensure your and your team always follow the same naming conventions. OR
  2. Use a spreadsheet tool that will help you enforce your naming conventions. There’s plenty of them out there but basically, they all include a series of drop downs and a CONCATENATE function to build the link for you. I would recommend not going this route since this type of document is really difficult to maintain (more on that later).  But if you want free, it’s a great place to start.

Now that you know the “Secret” to maintain good marketing data integrity, please, for the love of anyone, STOP…I repeat…STOP using the UTM builders that don’t do this for you. That means STOP using the Facebook UTM builder, STOP using the Google Campaign URL builder…

In fact, from now on, if you or anyone in your team uses the Google URL builder or some generic UTM builder form that doesn’t enforce naming conventions, just go ahead and throw money in the trash.

OK, I think I’ve made my point.

STEP 2: SET UP A SYSTEM TO STORE EVERY UTM LINK CREATED

Now that you’re building your links correctly, you need to create a UTM library where each link you (or your team) builds, will be stored. You want to do this so that you can look back and perform historical analysis on all of your links. This will help you create historical benchmarks, understand seasonality better, segment your insights better, and ultimately be a better marketer. There’s a couple of ways we’ve seen marketers do this.

  1. If you’re using a spreadsheet to build your UTMs, make sure that every UTM created is stored on that same page. While you will undoubtedly end up with hundreds of rows of data, you will also now have a historical document you can reference when you do monthly, quarterly, or yearly analysis of your marketing activities. OR
  2. Use a tool like our UTM Smart Manager to automatically store the links you create, when they are built. We obviously believe this is the best process for you to follow as you’re not relying on a person’s effort to store the link. The tool gives you a UTM Library which also includes a timestamp for when the links are created to further help you control when ads are launched.

STEP 3: IMPORT DATA FROM YOUR MARKETING CHANNELS AND WEB ANALYTICS PER UTM LINK FOR AMAZING CAMPAIGN INSIGHTS.

TRANSLATION= MORE ROI AND MORE MONEY FOR YOU.

Now that you’re enforcing and storing your UTM campaign parameters, it’s time to start analyzing your performance KPIs per UTM link. Analysis, in this case, does not mean consider how the UTM Ad did in your channel alone. Silo analysis will never paint a complete picture and in some cases, it can even lead to some pretty bad conclusions. Consider the example below:

An ecommerce company spent $8,000 in ten days on a Facebook ad campaign. They received 14,389 link clicks on the ad from over 50,000 impressions. Was the ad successful? 

From the description above, it sounded like it was successful. And if you’re performing that kind of silo’d analysis, you’d be very very wrong. In this case, the ad had a bounce rate of 93%, it had a Time on site of less than 20 seconds, and in fact, the only demographic that purchased anything on the site (55+ year old, women), were not even targetted by the ad on Facebook.

This is why the best digital marketers look at data beyond the channel. Because it can actually be a real money saver in the worst cases (or a real money maker if done correctly).

So how do you get to import your data. Well, you have two options again.

  1. If you’re following your UTM spreadsheet example, you will need to import your KPIs from your channels and from Google Analytics. All of your data should then be summarized on two views. You’re going to want an Executive summary view that will display the best campaigns and then an analyst view that focuses on a profitability view with the KPIs below:
    • Campaign Name
    • Adset Name
    • Ad Name
    • Revenue
    • Spend
    • ROI
    • $/Link Click
    • $ / Lead
    • $ / Conv
    • CTR
    • Website Bounce Rate
    • Website Time on Site
    • Conversion Rate
  2. Your easiest option is to leverage an analytics platform to do this for you. Once again, we’re going to focus on the UTM Smart Manager because it’s the only UTM-specific analytics platform to do this for you at this level (ie, beyond reporting clicks data). In fact, the UTM Smart Manager partnered with Factivate’s advanced marketing performance management analytics platform to get you these powerful insights. To get your data automatically imported, you will need to do the following:
    • Connect your file to your marketing channels (ie Facebook, Adwords, Google Analytics, etc…). Once your data is connected, you will never have to do any manual importing at all.
    • Review the Executive Summary for determining which ads are performing best in real time- this view will include your best performing campaigns as well as platform-specific data to help you improve your marketing insights.
    • Review the UTM KPIs report for an aggregate view of all of your UTM links’ performance across platforms. This view will automate the data collection from all of your platforms and provide you with a “profitability” section to help you determine the ROI per ad (or UTM link).

CONCLUSION

If you follow the three steps highlighted above, I guarantee you that will start seeing your job get easier and you’ll even start feeling smarter about your spend. In short, they’re made to easily help you take a huge load off of your campaign analytics problems. As of today, we’ve taught these best practices to small marketing teams and huge Fortune 100 teams and their response has been unanimous: It’s a life saver. We hope that by outlining how we can help you build, store, and track UTM campaign links like a master digital marketer, you can begin applying these digital marketing best practices quickly without having to pay lots of money for a consultant like me to come and do the same thing for your team.

Now it’s your turn. Have you used any great UTM performance tracking tools that we didn’t mention? Do you use any specific UTM builders that you prefer?

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