Presented live on Tuesday, May 19, 2020Attend our live tutorials This episode of Tutorial Tuesdays is all about tracking your results with UTM parameters. UTM parameters are tags you add to a URL so that, when someone clicks that URL, data about the click gets tracked in Google Analytics. This tracking is important whether you’re a digital marketer, an in-house copywriter or a freelance copywriter because: If your work is generating revenue for your business BUT your UTMs are set up to attribute revenue to all the wrong things – or not at all – then that work you’re doing may look like it’s costing the business… when it’s actually making the business money. Put practically: If a client pays you $10K to write her sales emails… and you send her those emails with UTM-free links throughout ’em… and she sets up her own UTMs… but she does it wrong… then even though your emails perform wicked in the short and long term, the revenue they generate will not be attributed to you. And she will think, Hmm, so much for email copywriters knowing what they’re doing. That was an expensive experiment gone wrong. Samezies if you have a salary. Quarterly review comes along, and as far as anyone can tell, all that work you’ve been doing on those social media campaigns has led to a big ol’ shrug emoji. Because Google Analytics isn’t telling the biz, Hey, all those Instagram stories are driving traffic that turns into customers. So let’s fix your UTM parameters today, shall we? We shall!
Joanna Wiebe: Jill is in to talk to us today about some super awesome stuff related to UTM parameters. it’s sexier than it sounds. It’s gonna be really, really good.
Jill Quick: Hello. Hello, everybody. Thank you for having me.
Joanna Wiebe: Thanks for coming in. I’m so excited. Not only are your slides wicked. But the content. There’s so much to learn here, which is another reason that my entire team is attending today. Jill, you teach, typically with General Assembly.
Jill Quick: Yes, we do work with General Assembly, we’ve worked with a number of training providers. We do stuff for our own clients as well and a couple of universities and masters programs as well. So yeah, I love, I love the glow of like the teaching thing. I love it. I really do love it.
Joanna Wiebe: Excellent. Well, we’re excited to see what you’ve got for us today. So, I know you’re about to share your screen. We have a few links that we’ll be chatting out as we go today and again the replay will be available, but take screenshots. There’s a lot of interesting stuff coming up here so have your notebook handy, take some screenshots. You’re going to want to refer back to this one. Jill, take it away.
Jill Quick: I am going to be talking about tracking and UTM parameters and probably the best introduction I’ve ever had in an email. Thank you, Joanna and team. You cracked me up with Ryan Reynolds gifs! Fabulous.
But it’s absolutely true. The amount of times I’ve taught people their eyes roll to the back of their head and I’m like, no, no, no, stay with me! This will save your job. It will save your budget.
Because you never want to be in a position where your boss or your clients or the people that basically sign off the checks is thinking, are you costing me money – and in a in a bad way? Are you a strain on the project? Are you bringing in the big books? Or can I let you go?
And interestingly, and I’ve been hired before to find just cause to sack people in their teams because people went into the acquisition report and didn’t see the numbers going in the right direction. So this is stuff that is really, really important to understand
So we’re thinking about making sure that this area of Google Analytics, the acquisition report, which I like to refer to in my little head as how people find you. All of the data in this section of Google Analytics is going to help explain your marketing channels and what’s working to drive those visitors to your website. And if they’re doing what you want them to do in terms of conversions or not.
Now this is kind of the go to report that a lot of people use and whether or not they understand it or not is another question. And the worry is that sometimes people don’t understand it and they make bad choices. We don’t want to make bad choices with our data.
Now when it comes to us as marketed as copywriters storytellers email marketers, whatever it is that it is. Like, you do you. We’re in the job of making money, whether that’s a profitable customer interaction in terms of getting the leads through a database, if it’s to spend money, our job is to drive growth and acquisition and retention for our customers. But it’s really important that we understand exactly what’s working.
You don’t want to be in this situation with tracking going not the right way, where you’re kind of
scratching your head and just thinking the numbers aren’t adding up. And you may have been in this situation. I’ve definitely been in a situation where I’ve got a data discrepancy somewhere. I’ve logged into my email campaigns on MailChimp or whatever.
And it’s saying that I’ve got a really good open rate and I’ve got people that click on it, and then I go into Google Analytics and where have they gone? Why have I got no numbers? That’s bad. My boss is going to shout at me.
Same thing with Instagram or Facebook or other marketing channels. When the numbers don’t quite add up, you end up having people thinking, I don’t know what’s driving sales. And with the necessity of really understanding what’s working or not. We can’t afford to have people scratching their heads and thinking, do I need to give marketing their budget? Do I need to hire the copywriter or the email marketer?
We have to prove with our data that we are driving those profitable customer interactions. And we do that by tracking properly.
Now Google Analytics is a computer program. And if you have collected bad data and it’s processed bad data, you are basically looking at a crappy report. So crap in, crap out. If I have a messy acquisition report that doesn’t have all of the information in there, or it’s not correct information.
It means that you’re making bad decisions and you’ll be wiping the tears of your keyboard with sadness, because you didn’t quite get the numbers that you were looking for because we want to really understand what is working with our customers and the customer journey that they work through from the pain aware stage right through to being most aware.
Now typically within Google Analytics, when we’re thinking about tracking, when you track it correctly. You’ve got somebody that might be scrolling on Instagram, I do this when the kids are eating dinner. And because I’m bored and I can’t listen to Peppa Pig or whatever trashy program it is that they’re looking at. They’re like four so it’s just, it’s the worst.
And I’m like, oh, look, cute bags, cute little face masks, and things like that, hair dyes because I’ve got roots. And I go and visit the website. And then I think, oh, I’m not going to buy it now. The kids are fighting. But then I go on my phone later, and I get retargeted with an ad.
And I’m like, Oh, that’s cute. I’ll go back to the website, not quite ready to buy yet so I pop in my email address, because you’ve given me an offer. And then I decide when I’m at home. I’m on my computer. I type the URL directly in my browser, and I do the thing that you want them to do.
Now when it comes to our acquisition reports, something that’s really important to note because we’re going to talk about assisted conversions at the end of the journey today. When we look into the acquisition report, 100% of the credit goes to the last non direct channel. So if it was the newsletter, you get 100% of the credit provided you’ve tagged it correctly.
Now that means, from the offset, that sometimes people go into that acquisition report, and they go, oh Instagram didn’t drive any sales. Retargeting didn’t drive any sales. Newsletters did! Yay! All the money into newsletters. But it’s like having a football team or a sports team. You don’t just sack the rest of your players and just keep the one that scores the goals, you need everybody in there.
You need to understand what the role is for these different marketing channels as you’re working through that customer journey. And we have to help Google Analytics understand where this traffic comes from, because you’d be surprised as we’re going to go through now and explain what the rules actually are.
Because it’s a computer program and computer programs are sometimes a little bit stupid and we have to give them a little bit of help. And because it’s rule based, there is zero, empathy. The computer program is not going to pop into your inbox and go, oh, excuse me, darling. Did you need to do that? It’s just going to roll with crappy data, we have to give it a little bit more information.
So, when we’re talking about UTM parameters, they are essentially campaign tags that are just going to add a little bit of information to the URL. So you might want somebody to go to a particular page on your website. It still takes them to the website, but it’s going to add in a little bit of extra help in terms of UTM and parameters. So the computer program really understands where this traffic has actually come from.
Now, most people, some of you may be familiar with this use this. This is the Google URL campaign builder. Now, what you’ll find with this particular tool, and I found this the hard way. I used to use this. It doesn’t keep a record which is the first mistake. I built a load of campaigns with a link to my email campaigns and then didn’t write them down or keep a log of them. And then my team. Like, what was the name of that campaign? And I’m like, damn it! I’m going to have to go through all of my email campaigns and pull out all of the codes which is really annoying.
And I think the way that Google has built this tool, which is fabulous. I’m not hating on Google, I’m making a career out of it. So, Google love you, not slagging you off at all. But it means that people can make mistakes with this because they think you can just type whatever you want in and Google will understand what’s going on. And that’s not technically true.
So let’s break down what you should be putting in these UTM parameters and just for fun, if any of you start doing this. I like collecting UTM parameters for fun. And if I see funny ones, feel free to tweet me and message me. I get a big kick out of them when I see people doing them the right way and the wrong way.
So the first thing to get your head around is the medium. Now, as far as Google Analytics is concerned, the medium is your big broad bucket. So email is a medium, social is a medium organic is a medium. It’s the big broad buckets that we’re going to grow our marketing channels into
We then have the source. Now this is specifically, where does that link live in relation to the medium? So, if the medium is organic, then the source is Google, Bing, Yahoo or whatever the
website. you might be using. If it’s email, the medium is email and the source is the name of the database.
You then have potentially a campaign name because sometimes we have, let’s say you’re doing an offer and it’s going over multiple different mediums and sources, and you just want to tie a nice little bow around everything you can call a load of different sources and a load of different mediums under the same bucket of a campaign name. So you can pull out without having to go nuts with the data.
And you obviously the URL. And it’s worth noting, because sometimes you have lots of links and they get old, and there’s some legacy URLs in. Do check that the links actually work, that they don’t redirect, that don’t go to a 404 page not found. That you haven’t migrated the website and you know the links have changed. It’s just going to give a crappy user experience for your users.
I hate it when I click on a link and it goes page not found or, worse still, I click on a link and it doesn’t even take me to the product that I was looking at. You’ve just lost people and we don’t want that.
And the other thing that’s useful with UTM parameters is this little nugget. It’s a little breezy bonus here, which is content. Now, imagine you have an email campaign and you’ve got an image at the top and a call to action at the bottom, but they both go to the same page. You could create one UTM link to say this is email. It’s from our newsletter database. It’s for the May 2020 campaign, it’s going to the homepage.
Or you could split it into two different UTM parameters. The difference being the content, that one of them would say this was the image and the other one, this is the call to action. You can do this with banners, this came from the skyscraper, this came from the mid page unit. It’s just another way for us to understand what people are doing in terms of clicking on our campaigns.
Now when it comes to this lovely computer program, it does need some help. Now imagine you’ve got a website and your website is like your house or your nightclub. Depending on where you like to party, indoor, safely, washing our hands as we go, because we can’t go out anymore, can we? Those were the days.
And you’ve got this bouncer on the door and they’ve got like a little, a little we checklist. You know when you’ve been to those fancy places and then like, what’s your name, and I’m like,
Jill and they’ve got Jillian down, and I’m like, “No, no, no, no, that’s still me, let me in! Like, I don’t think so, Darling, you can just just not come in.
And this computer program does something very similar. When you’ve got traffic coming into your website, it’s going to have a little look at it and go, have you got any name tags on? Have you got any parameters? So I can understand where you’ve come from.
Because you may have an instance where the traffic hasn’t been tagged correctly, which means it gets put in the wrong part of the party. Which means you can’t count up the visitors in your house and your website and understand if somebody is actually converting or not.
Now the bouncer is a bit of a goody two shoes, she’s going through this very, very specific list. Now, I guarantee you, I think I’m the only person that’s actually done this. I genuinely stayed up one night in the middle of the night thinking, I wonder how Google Analytics call reporting API actually groups my marketing.
And the only reason why I was thinking this at four o’clock in the morning is because I had that data discrepancy. I was going into my analytics. I had a boss shouting at me. Not understanding why the numbers weren’t adding up and you’re basically thinking that marketing was useless and we should all just get sacked.
So when I started to dig around a little bit to understand exactly how Google defines it. Because they’re not great when it comes to pulling the actual rule book, you’ve got to kind of go and look for it. Now, when you look in here. These are the specifics, you have to do exactly what is said on the tin, or the computer program will put it in the wrong bucket. So we’ve got a long list of the actual support guidelines for this, which I think. Angela is going to be tweeting out. Tweeting out? Zoom, zooming out, that that’s a thing! It’s zooming out, okay we’re zooming out.
If you are tagging your email campaigns, it has to be lowercase email. If you start writing email with a big E – Email marketing. I had some campaigns that were for Facebook and they didn’t put facebook.com they put facieB, FB, and the computer programs going we we don’t we don’t have anything that named like that. And they’re so specific. There’s no empathy. So what happens is they go into the acquisition report because this rule book that the bouncer is going through, powers the acquisition report.
The report that everybody uses to understand where are people coming from? Where are we spending our money? Should we be hiring those consultants and the agencies to see what’s actually happening to our traffic? And if we get it wrong. It means things go in the wrong bucket.
I’m going to walk you through a common problem that happens a lot with email campaigns, if you do not tag them correctly. So email campaigns. We completely obsess, don’t we? Over getting the subject header right, and that’s half the battle. And you get them onto the website, hopefully, and you’ve done so much work on the copy, you’ve thought about your user, you’ve done the split draft, I’ve done Joanna’s course, I know all of this!
You’ve worked really bloody hard to get them to the website. But if you haven’t tagged it properly, or maybe somebody else has gone, Oh don’t worry about that. We’ll tag it and they just put the links and they all work and they think, you know, life’s life’s wonderful! Everything’s fantastic. Unfortunately though, depending on where it’s opened, if you don’t tag it. This computer program the bouncer is on the door with her very specific, system defined rulebook, may put it somewhere else.
So if I open it in a browser, I’m always working on a browser, because I’m remote working. And if I’m in Gmail and I just log in, I find your email and click on it, this computer program thinks that it’s a website giving me a link. So it thinks that the medium is referral, it thinks that Gmail, in that instance, is a marketing channel as a big broad bucket and obviously that is wrong. I don’t want my email campaigns data going into referral traffic that’s where my digital PR should be coming in. That’s where my social media influences should be sending links from their blogs, that kind of thing.
If they open it on their desktop. So this is very common in B2B environments, where you have users where they’ve got their outlook locked in the bottom of their computer.If they click on the link and the computer program cannot work out if there were any parameters. Then it says, direct, so it goes into the direct bucket. Which is obviously also wrong.
Now if we tag it correctly, then the bouncer will put it in the right bucket, but the rulebook states that if you want your email traffic to go in the email bucket, then the medium has to exactly match lower case email. If you get this wrong, then it either goes into the other bucket, which is, I was saying to the girls before, I like to call the other bucket that man drawer data of how I got a drawer that my husband….We’ve moved times with this drawer.
It’s got loads of currency and pens and stuff that doesn’t work, and it’s just crap. Nobody ever goes in there to try and unpack what’s actually happening and we don’t want that. And so we want to make sure that our medium. If the email is tagging back correctly, lowercase email.
Now, something that always gets a little bit confusing, but I think if you think of it as a bit like the Russian dolls where you’ve got your mediums, and then the source and then the campaign names, everything goes into nice little neat buckets. The source is the name of the database, when it comes to email. So where does the link live? So if I’m sending a newsletter out to my entire newsletter database, then you would call it something common like, newsletter database.
If it was an onboarding program for users that have just signed up to your fabulous software as a service. Then the medium is email and the source, where does the link live? This is the onboarding database or maybe you’ve got some premium users, you would call them the premium users.
Now remember that anything that you write in a UTM parameter can be seen by your customers. I think when GDPR came around, there was an example on Twitter because it blew up for this company. They were obviously trying to just claw people back and they called the source waste of spaces. And obviously people were going, what did you just call me? Am I not a valued customer? Big facepalm fail for that company!
So, let’s have a look at some email campaigns, because you can do this yourself. You can have a look at your own campaigns to see what you’d be using. And you can look at your competitors, because everybody can see the same thing, which I get really excited about, especially if they’re doing it wrong.
Now, I haven’t given the name of the company because that’s just a bit mean. So I’ve just got a website name, but these are actual links from emails that I pulled out of my inbox over the last week. So I go to the website, and I see what I’m meant to be doing. And I’m like, I’m just going to have a look at the source code here. And it says UTM source, Salesforce. I’m like, okay, but this is a big company. So am I just your general database? This could be further refined as, they are customers, they bought something from us, it’s the newsletter database. At the moment, I just know they’re using Salesforce and everything coming from Salesforce has been tagged on Salesforce.
And if you can see here, medium equals email with a big E, which means for this company, all of that email traffic because I opened mine in my Google browser. The source is going to be mail.gmail and the medium is going to be put in as other, because Google’s like, we don’t we don’t have email with a capital E. So if I don’t know where to put you, you go into the other Broken Dreams bucket, because I can’t work out where to put you. And if you have multiple instances of this, it gets really complicated to try and go into analytics and pull all of this out.
And there’s another one here that was for a competitor of mine. I know I shouldn’t be doing that. I’m not naming them so it’s not too bad! At source, customer.io and I was like, oh, they got it. Oh, no, no, no, that’s just another email service provider and their medium is not quite, lowercase email action, that doesn’t exist. So off it goes into a completely different bucket. Boohoo for their email marketeers. Good for me because I’d like to tag mine properly.
And thankfully, the third one that I pulled out of my inbox. Source, where does the link live? Newsletter, I’m like, fantastic, this is indeed the newsletter that I signed up for. Well done, you!
Medium, lowercase email if confetti could throw out. I would throw the confetti. At last, some marketing going in the right bucket. Wonderful and we all keep our job!
Because at the end of the day, getting these very boring, and it does seem boring. UTM parameters will save you money. It will save you time, it will keep your clients, it will keep you in a job. Because we need to give that computer program, a little bit of help to understand exactly where our marketing has come from.
Now when it comes to assigning credit. One of the things that I really like to do when I’m looking at my acquisition reports, again, otherwise known as, how do people find you. Provided everything has been tagged correctly. So my social is in the right bucket, my PPC is in the right bucket, my emails in the right bucket, the data is all looking clean. Remember when I told you about that customer journey where we went through the pain aware and you’ve got your most aware, that kind of thing?
And this is where, again, another slight hiccup can happen. You do all of the work to actually get this working, that all of the data in this is correct, the marketing channels are correct. But those conversions, again, 100% of the credit goes to the last non direct channel.
Now depending on your marketing, you may have some fantastic email campaigns that are really just the beginning of the journey. They’re the welcome campaigns, they’re the nurturing campaigns, and then you look in here and it looks like PPC AdWords has just stolen all the thunder. And what happens is, sometimes people use these reports and they just look down on it and go, yeah, no, yeah PPC smashing it. So we’re going to give them all the money and we’re going to get rid of social, and we’re going to get rid of some of the email campaigns, because it’s not driving conversions.
Now, there are actually seven acquisition reports in analytics. They just happen to pick this one. And I always wonder and pose the question. There’s one attribution model which is 100% of the credit goes to the first channel that they touched. Now imagine if that was the case. I’m pretty sure, thinking about it, that social media campaigns would get more money, that the PR pieces that we do would get more investment, and PPC maybe wouldn’t get as much of the shining darling budget that they actually get.
So thinking about this, when you’re reporting on what’s actually working for your business.
You can use another report in Google Analytics, which I really want you all to start using provided your campaigns attacked correctly and you’ve obviously got goals you need conversion data in here to work. There is a report in the Multi-Channel Funnels report called Assisted Conversions.
And what this does is it helps identify what channels assisted in a sale. So think about that marketing journey and how you’ve got channels that might have been the pain aware, first instance exposure to the brand. And then you’ve got some other campaigns in the middle that are really good at nurturing but didn’t quite get that, and then you’ve got the guys at the end that actually converted and gave you some money.
So we take our data from acquisition and say organic brought in this many users,and conversions email brought in this many users and conversions. But you can use this report to also show the assisted value. So it’s saying to your boss, I know email didn’t necessarily and here’s one I made earlier, didn’t necessarily look like it brought in a lot of cash. So for this example, the default channel grouping that powers the acquisition report, paid search always got all the glory. I’m like, man, they made £273,000 in sales. Go paid search!
Well, yeah. In this particular example, paid search was the brand terms, it was the most aware stage people typing into Google, found the ad and converted, they never would have found that particular ad or know about the brand, if we weren’t doing social media campaigns, if we weren’t doing PR, if we weren’t doing press, if we weren’t doing emails.
So as well as saying to the boss look email here got 135K, based on 100% of the credit, going to the last non direct channel. But the bottom section here is pulling in the data from the Multi-Channel Funnels report, which is the Assisted Conversions. So it’s almost like saying to your boss. But wait, there’s more. Email also assisted in £165,000 worth of sales. So it isn’t the, I’m terrible at sports, but the quarterback or the scorey-goalie person that likes the Ronaldo’s of this world. It’s the guy, whenever I watch sports, there’s always the guy that like, throws the ball in and you never see him again. Like, he just kind of throws the ball in and he doesn’t score the goal, but if you haven’t kicked the ball to somebody, then the playoff would never have happened, and the goal wouldn’t happen.
Marketing’s the same. Like if you don’t tag things correctly and show what is assisting in terms of your marketing campaigns, then you don’t really, you don’t really get a lot out of it. So I know that was a lot. I’m sorry, it is a lot, but hopefully you’ve got a bit more knowledge about it. The team should have been tweeting, tweeting? Why do I keep saying tweeting? Zooming, we’ve got a free PDF download that you can all go ahead and get that explains all of this in detail all nice and colorful coloring in so you’ve got something as a kind of go to resource.
I have written a beast of a marketing blog post, which explains exactly how Google tracks your website traffic ad campaign. So go along and read this and massive shame plugging, go and do my awesome course. I have spent the last year and a half, working on a course with my co founder, Aiden Carroll and we have pulled in everything we know about doing nearly 200 GA audits, teaching about 6000 students this particular topic.
And it’s basically 10 years of my brain boiled down into a brilliant course, if I do say so myself. And there’s one particular module, module nine is dedicated solely to the joys of UTM tagging because there’s actually more you can learn about this and become an absolute wizard to understand exactly what’s working, so you can make better decisions with your data.
Joanna Wiebe: It’s @ColoringIn on Twitter. Is that right?
Joanna Wiebe: Excellent, thank you everybody for your great chats and participation today. Yes, the replay will be available in a couple of days. I know everybody wants to see it, there was lots of like comments around note-taking throughout. Jill, thank you so much for sharing this with us today.
Jill Quick: Thank you so much for having me.
Joanna Wiebe: No, it was amazing. And we’ll look forward to seeing everybody next week, stay safe. Thanks again, Jill. Thanks Ange, Sarah and everybody. Have a good one. Thanks, everyone. Bye.