Using UTM Tags to Enhance Digital Marketing Strategies


Zac Martin

Don’t use UTM tagging already? Here is a look at what UTM tags are, how brands could use them, and why they should incorporate UTM to maximize digital marketing strategies.

Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) tagging is an incredibly undervalued tool. Despite it being immensely powerful, simple to implement, and resource-efficient to operate, it surprises me how few marketers use it – especially as businesses demand more data and better insights from their marketing team.

What Are UTM Tags?

UTM tags are pieces of code you attach to the end of a URL to provide richer information about where that traffic is coming from. When clicked, these variables send signals to Google Analytics allowing you to better understand how your digital marketing strategy is performing.

For example, this URL – – becomes this URL with three pieces of additional data attached to it through UTM tags:

Google Analytics will now record any user who visits the site through the above URL that come from ClickZafter clicking on a banner ad as part of the launch campaign.

How Will UTM Tagging Help Me?

UTM tagging can support your digital marketing strategy in a number of ways:

Cross-Channel Measurement

Anything you tag, you can measure. The low-hanging fruit are channels like your display activity and email campaigns, but it should extend beyond that. Touch points like your social posts, the share buttons on your website, and the link in your mobile app can all be tagged. This information allows you to look across channels to analyze all aspects of your digital marketing efforts.

Return on Investment

Beyond just being an attribution tool, UTM tags allow you to measure your return on investment (ROI). Not only in terms of which individual digital channels are driving traffic, but also understanding the value of their return. We can (finally) move beyond measuring display click-through rates or email open rates and actually understand which activity is driving conversions.

If you have a value attached to those conversions (for example knowing how much they purchased in a transaction, or knowing how many leads you need to turn into a sale) you can weigh the cost of individual activity against its return. Then optimize accordingly.

Deeper Measurement

The URL example above is a fairly simple execution, using only three of the five available variables (but the number of combinations is limitless).

We could add a deeper level of measurement by including other meaningful attributes. For example, including the target market the banner was served to as “women” or “men.” Or if it was an “mrec” or “leaderboard” format. Or if the “brand” message performed better than the “product” message.

UTM tagging allows us to go as deep as we like, to a point where we can understand the ROI on everything we do, right down to the footer link in the email, targeting X people from Y database with the Z call-to-action. This also enables us to easily test variables across message, media placement, format, targeting, creative, call-to-action, URL destination, etc.

Broader Measurement

Not only does UTM tagging allow us to analyze deeper tracking, it also allows us to measure more holistically. Beyond looking through a narrow campaign-by-campaign lens, we can start to measure consistent variables across longer time periods. For example, we could review the performance of a specific publisher across the whole year, irrespective of campaign. Likewise for any of our other variables which could help us answer questions such as, “Is there is certain banner format I should be using (or stop using)?” or “Do people tend to respond better to ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Find Out More’ call-to-actions in emails?”

A Single View

Lastly, UTM tagging gives us a single view of the results through Google Analytics.

While most ad-serving tools and email providers allow you to measure some of this information, it isn’t to the same depth nor is it in a single place across all your channels. UTM tagging allows you to have a single window into your data from all digital channels, where you can compare, analyze, and optimize performance. So if you (or your media agency) is still only reporting on click-through rates, or you’re measuring your channels in silos, it might be time to start using UTM tags. It’s a free tool and is simple to implement, giving you no excuse to not have a trial up and running tomorrow.

From having everything in one place, to analyzing both deeply and more holistically, UTM tagging will give you visibility on data like you’ve never seen before. Use this to not only evaluate channels and the ROI of your digital marketing efforts, but build insights to optimize and plan accordingly.