How To Use UTM Campaign Parameters To Track Your Content Promotion Success
You’ve created a piece of rockstar level content.
Now it’s time to promote it.
But how are you going to know which promotional channels are working?
Hint: you won’t know what’s working unless you use something called UTM campaign parameters.
Most analytics software like Google Analytics can only get you so far.
Out of the box, they’re great for top-level data but they can only give you data for an individual campaign if you add these UTM campaign parameters.
And, as the saying goes – “If it can be measured, it can be improved.”
In this post, I’m you’ll learn what UTM campaign parameters are, how to include them into your content promotion workflow, and how to find your campaign data in Google Analytics afterwards.
The result? You’ll have actionable data that you can use to get better results from each piece of content you promote.
Let’s get started:
A quick note before we get started…
UTM campaign parameters can break and result in visitors landing on 404 pages if you’re not careful.
This typically happens if you change permalink structure or redirect the post/page in question to a new location.
So if you are planning any redirects or permalink changes, it may not be best to use UTM campaign parameters.
That said, if you want to monitor the progress of your content promotion campaigns, they’re one of the best ways of doing it. I just want to make you fully aware of the downsides.
What are UTM campaign parameters?
This might sound quite techy but it’s pretty straightforward.
Campaign parameters are tags that you add to an existing URL. Analytics platforms use these tags to help filter data.
They look something like this:
There are three specific pieces of information here:
- Source – This is the traffic referrer. So this could be Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Medium – This is channel type so it would typically include CPC, email, social media etc.
- Campaign – This is usually the name for your promotional campaign. I usually use the date here or something to indicate what the content is.
You can create these campaign parameters based on my example above or you can use an easier option – Google’s campaign URL builder tool.
Now, let’s take a look at how you can incorporate UTM parameters into your content promotion workflow…
How to prepare your UTM parameters
Here’s the good news:
The process I’m about to show you is easy and most of it only needs to be done once. After that, you’ll just need to make minor tweaks.
There are three steps to this process:
1. Install Google Analytics
Chances are you’ll already have Google Analytics installed on your website. Or some other analytics platform, such as Clicky.
I recommend Google Analytics for this because it’s free to use and has all the features you’ll need.
If you don’t have it installed on your website, you’ll need to follow this tutorial to get started.
2. Create a spreadsheet with campaign parameters for each platform
If you want to get better results from your content promotion efforts – you’re going to need to systemize your process.
It’s good practice to have a content promotion spreadsheet with a checklist to run through for each piece of content. And a second tab that includes campaign parameters for each platform you use to promote your content.
First, you’ll need to make a list of each platform you use.
Then, use Google’s campaign URL builder to generate campaign parameters for each platform.
There are a bunch of boxes on the page, but you’ll just need to fill in the first four.
Once you’ve filled in the data, you can grab the URL and add it to a spreadsheet. Then tweak the parameters for each platform you’ll use to promote your content.
The next step is to add them to a spreadsheet. Here’s a quick example:
You can then use this spreadsheet as a template for promoting other blog posts.
3. Create unique shortlinks for each promotional channel
These long campaign URL’s look messy so now it’s time to create a shortlink for each one, and add them to your spreadsheet.
You could use any URL shortener for this but a free tool like Bitly will be fine.
The aim is to use Google Analytics to view your click data, however, a URL shortener like Bitly will give you access to click data that’s easier to view at a glance.
So, if you want to get access to this data, be sure to register a free Bitly account, then create your shortlinks.
You can then create your links by clicking the create button at the top:
Be sure to make a note of these shortlinks in your spreadsheet. Here’s why:
- It will streamline the content promotion process
- You can refer back to this information when analyzing your campaign results
How to find your campaign parameters in Google Analytics
Finding your campaign parameters in Google Analytics is easy.
Simply go to Acquisition → Campaigns → All Campaigns.
You’ll see your list of campaigns like this:
I’m going to click on Buffer, as an example:
We can then see the Source and the Medium that was included in the URL that was shared, and all the associated analytics data:
There’s something missing here – the URL of your content.
We can add that by clicking Secondary Dimension and searching for Landing Page.
Now we can see the URL of our content, like this:
And that’s all there is to it!
Note: Some tools and software will create UTM tracking codes and apply them automatically when people share your content. This could be anything from a social sharing plugin to a social scheduling tool like Buffer. So, if you see campaign URL’s you don’t recognize – that’ll be why.
Check your links work before proceeding
Before using your UTM links, you need to know they work.
So check your links to make sure they load ok.
One final thing to consider when analyzing your data
When you dig into your analytics and see how much traffic is coming from each platform, you may see that some platforms aren’t referring much traffic.
This could mean the platform is a waste of time but you should never discount platforms without considering why it isn’t referring traffic.
Some platforms may require you to invest more time in building an audience, or to tweak your approach in some way such as the time you share, the topics you share, or how you share them.
It’s also worth considering how much time you have to dedicate to a specific platform.
For example, Flipboard is hit or miss for sending traffic. It can either send 100-300+ visitors or nothing. But it takes around 1 second to submit a post to Flipboard so it’s worth using regardless.