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Explain Like I am 5 (ELI5): Tracking Parameters

Published on: 2024-2-24 Explain Like I am 5 (ELI5): Tracking Parameters

In today's digital world, knowing where your website visitors are coming from and what they do on your site is very important. This is where special tags added to the end of a URL, known as tracking parameters, come in handy. Among these, UTM parameters are very popular. They help track the success of online marketing campaigns. Let's simplify what tracking parameters are, explore where the UTM prefix comes from, and show how you can use UTM parameters to see if your marketing efforts are working.

What Are Tracking Parameters?

Think of tracking parameters as extra pieces of information added to website links. When someone clicks on a link that has these extra bits, the website can understand where the visitor came from and how they got there. This helps people who run websites and marketers learn more about what their audience likes and does.

The Story Behind the UTM Prefix

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. This story begins with a company called Urchin Software Corporation, which made software to analyze web traffic. Google bought Urchin in 2005, and this technology eventually turned into what we know today as Google Analytics. The term "UTM" is a nod to the original Urchin software, and it's still used today.

Using UTM Parameters in Real Life

UTM parameters are great for figuring out how well your marketing campaigns are doing. By adding these tags to your URLs, you can answer questions like: Which marketing effort is bringing the most visitors? Which campaign led to more sales? Here’s how to use the main types of UTM parameters with simple examples:

Campaign Source (utm_source): This tells you where the traffic is coming from, like a newsletter or social media. For example, if you're advertising a new product on both Facebook and Instagram, you could use utm_source=facebook for all links posted on Facebook and utm_source=instagram for Instagram. This way, you can see which platform is getting more people to visit your product page.

Campaign Medium (utm_medium): This shows you how the message was sent, like through email or a social media post. If you send out an announcement about a sale through email and also post about it on Twitter, tagging the email links with utm_medium=email and the Twitter links with utm_medium=social will let you see which method got more attention.

Campaign Name (utm_campaign): This is used to identify the specific campaign. If you’re having a "Summer Sale," you could tag links related to this sale with utm_campaign=SummerSale. This helps you track how well the Summer Sale is doing compared to other promotions.

An exmaple link with tracking parameters:

Using Web Analytics to track campaings

Web Analytics platforms, such as Wide Angle Analytics, provide a robust mechanism for reporting on every combination of tracking parameters. This capability enables you to segment—i.e., slice and dice—your audience and campaign activities with precision. By doing so, you can gain deeper insights into how different segments of your audience interact with your campaigns, allowing for more targeted and effective marketing strategies. This detailed segmentation ensures that you can tailor your approach to meet the specific needs and preferences of various audience subsets, ultimately enhancing the effectiveness of your campaigns and improving overall engagement.

Using Tracking Parameters to measure effectiveness of marketing campaing with Wide Angle Analytics

Example: A Small Business Promotion

Imagine you run a small bakery and decide to promote a special offer on birthday cakes. You share the offer on your Facebook page, send out an email to your subscribers, and also put an ad on a local website. By adding UTM parameters to each link you share, you can track how many people visited your offer page from each source. You might find out that most of your visits came from the email, which tells you that your subscribers are really interested in your offers.

Example: A Blogger's eBook Launch

A blogger is launching an eBook on gardening tips and uses different ways to spread the word: blog posts, a newsletter, and Twitter. By using UTM parameters, the blogger can see which method brought in the most eBook downloads. It could turn out that the blog posts were the most effective, suggesting that readers of the blog are highly interested in the eBook.

By using UTM parameters in these ways, you can clearly see what marketing strategies work best for you. This means you can make better decisions on where to spend your effort and money, making your marketing more successful.

In simple terms, UTM parameters help you understand and improve your online marketing. They tell you where your visitors are coming from and what campaigns are working best, giving you valuable information to help grow your business.

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