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UTM variables
Set up UTM tracking so you can see which of your marketing efforts are bringing you the most visitors, leads and sales.
You'll learn:
  • How to turn on the tracking feature 
  • How to create a UTM tracking URL 
  • How to set up automatic UTM tracking in your emails 
  • How to make sense of each part of an adjusted link: source, medium, campaign, content and term 
  • Where tracking data lives in your contact records
Sam Flegal
UTM variables
Set up UTM tracking so you can see which of your marketing efforts are bringing you the most visitors, leads and sales.
You'll learn:
  • How to turn on the tracking feature 
  • How to create a UTM tracking URL 
  • How to set up automatic UTM tracking in your emails 
  • How to make sense of each part of an adjusted link: source, medium, campaign, content and term 
  • Where tracking data lives in your contact records
Course Instructor
Sam Flegal
Related resources
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I know for most of you clicking on this lesson, the first question on your mind is probably “What the heck even IS a UTM variable?” If that’s you, you’re in the right place. In this lesson we’re going to first dig into UTM variables and why they’re important. 

Then I’ll run you through how to set up UTM tracking. You’ll first:

  1. Turn on the tracking feature, then
  2. Create a UTM tracking URL, and finally
  3. Set up automatic UTM tracking in your emails

I’ll also show you where all of this data is stored in your contacts’ records.

Normally, I’d do a little lead in here about why it’s important to learn this stuff, but instead I’m just going to jump into our first step with a basic question: What is a UTM variable?

UTM stands for “urchin tracking module” - Urchin is the name of the company that Google bought back towards the beginning of time that they turned into Google Analytics - which frankly isn’t something you need to know, but I figured I’d tell you anyway so you can sound smart at conferences.

What is important is knowing that UTM variables are a more-or-less universally accepted online marketing tracking method, used by everyone from Google on down. They’re designed to help you see which of your marketing efforts are bringing you the most visitors, leads, and/or sales.

In more practical terms, UTM variables are extra text you add to the end of links used in your marketing that turn a link like this:

Into something like this: 

Those appended bits of nonsense are the UTM variables. They’re passed in the URL to your site and picked up by Ontraport’s tracking script (as well as by other tools, like Google Analytics).  Then they’re presented back to you in fancy reporting that tells you which of your marketing efforts brought in the page visit. They can do this because of those 5 different variables seen in the adjusted link: Source, Medium, Campaign, Content, and Term. 

Source is meant to represent the platform that the link is being used on. So if you were to post a link on facebook this would be facebook, or if it was in an email from Ontraport you could say Ontraport.

Medium tells you what sort of media brought the traffic. So on facebook it could be a normal social post or cpc ad, or for email you’d probably say email.

Campaign is simply the name of your campaign. In this example we’re promoting a rabies vaccine for pets from our vet clinic. 

Content is a variable typically used to identify which ad brought in the click. The best way to describe this is with an example: 

Let’s say you’re a vet and you’re running a Facebook ad campaign promoting bringing your pets in for their rabies vaccines. Let’s say within that campaign you have 5 different ads.The content variable tells you which of the ads the visitor clicked on. 

Term is used to identify the keyword you’re bidding on in search advertising. More generally, it tells you who you were targeting with this particular link. So, in the case of something like Facebook advertising where you’re often not bidding on a single specific term, you can use it to identify the name of your targeted audience. In the case of email maybe you can identify the segment of your list the email was sent to.

The reason we have 5 different variables instead of one that simply identifies the ad itself is that down the road, you’ll want to compare not just one ad against another, but you’ll want to compare whole lead sources against others or to figure out which media works best. For example, you may run the same ad on facebook and youtube and instagram and google and it’ll be important to know both whether the ad works, but also on which platform it works best.

The same goes for something like campaign. You may have a single campaign with 10 different ads on 3 different sources. Some ads may work better than others, but you’ll want to be able to look at the results of the campaign as a whole, and having a separate UTM variable for the campaign will make that possible.

This is a good time to also mention that these variables are all optional. You can simply leave one off and the others will still track the same.

Ok, now that you have an understanding of what I’m talking about here, I’m going to show you how this all works inside of Ontraport...

First you’ll Turn on tracking.

Do this by going to your user profile, hitting “Administration” and then “Advanced Features.”

Find the “Tracking” option and toggle it on.

This adds a tracking tab in your main navigation bar and preps you for the next steps!

Now you’ll create a UTM tracked link.

Go ahead and click on the “Tracking” tab, and then the “Add New Tracking URL” button.

You’ll see a bunch of fields that you can fill out, starting with “Website URL.” This is the URL you want to send your traffic to.

Next you’ll see a different dropdown for each of the 5 UTM variables we discussed earlier. You’ll want to go through each one and fill it out. One important note before you do - Ontraport will save each new value in the dropdowns so that you can easily re-use them. 

But this also means that if you have a typo in your variable, or use different capitalization, it’ll show up twice in the drop down. This can get ugly fast, so do yourself a favor and double check all of this stuff.

Once you’ve entered all that information, click the “Create URL” button and Ontraport will generate your new link!

You can click “Add Copy to Clipboard” and put that link where it belongs. Maybe you want to place it in one of your ads or blog posts.

One last step is to make sure the page you’re sending the link to has your Ontraport tracking script on it. If you’re using a page built inside Ontraport’s page editor, this is done automatically for you. 

But if you’re using a third-party page, you’ll need to copy and paste the script into the body of your page. 

You can do this by going to the “Administration” page, selecting “Developer Preferences and Resources” and “Get Tracking Code.”

Next, you’ll Enable automatic email UTM tracking.

In email links, there’s an extra feature that’ll make life a little easier for you. Ontraport can automatically attach UTM variables to every link in your emails so you won’t have to go through the process of doing it yourself — as long as you turn on this feature. Cool, right?

To turn it on, go to one of your email messages.

Click “Settings.” Check the box that says “Add tracking to the links in this email.”

Once you click that checkbox, your email automatically adds UTM variables to all the links.

This is a good time to pause and take a look at where this data is stored in the contact record.

You’ll find this data under “Lead Information” inside a contact record. 

The first thing you’ll notice is that there are two types of UTM variables saved in the record — “first” and “last.”

This is because there are a few different ways to think about marketing attribution value:

For example, let’s say that someone saw one of your ads last year and opted in to receive more information about your product. But maybe they didn’t end up making a purchase. 

Let’s say that last week, they saw a different one of your ads, clicked on it and bought from you — that’s good information for us to know as marketers!

We want to know the most recent link they clicked on, especially if it led to a sale. 

But, there is value in knowing what it was about your older ads or links that initially drew people in — even if they didn’t buy at the time.

How you determine value is up to you, but you can rest easy knowing Ontraport is keeping an eye out for everything!

The set of variables labeled with “First” will update upon a new contact’s first click and won’t update again. 

This is to preserve the tracking information from the link that brought them to your business in the first place.

Note: If a new lead comes to your site and opts in organically — in other words, without clicking a UTM-tracked link — these fields will be blank. They’ll stay blank, so you’re not accidentally counting false positives in your marketing results!

The set of variables labeled “Last” will update every time a contact clicks a new UTM tracked link. 

This shows you the most up-to-date campaign they’ve interacted with and gives you an idea of what’s working in your marketing strategy.

Awesome! You’ve learned what a UTM variable is and why it’s important as well as how to set up tracking, build UTM links and turn on automatic email link tracking. You also know where this data lives in your contact records!

The next step is to replace your marketing links with UTM-tracked links. Then in videos like “Automation performance mode advanced topics” I’ll cover how this data can be used to slice and dice your reporting and show you exactly what is and isn’t working.

But first we’re going to learn how to set up deep funnel conversion tracking to really take your marketing attribution to the next level.
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