How To Use UTM Parameters To Understand The Source Of Website Leads

Duncan Anderson
March 03, 2021

UTM Parameters for Website Lead Tracking

“It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data.” — Sherlock Holmes

If you ever post a link to your website on social media, you'd probably like to understand how many people follow those links. Whilst social media sites will often give you part of the story, in terms of the number of likes or click throughs, they cannot tell you what happens to that click after it arrives on your website.

It would be really nice to know that a link click resulted in a qualified lead, a sale, or if it simply led nowhere useful at all. Not knowing if a click results in a customer or just someone looking at your home page means you're in the dark about the value of your social media posts. Maybe they are useful for lead generation, or maybe they are not.

UTM Parameters

To start to solve this problem, we need to introduce UTM parameters.

UTM stands for, of all things, “Urchin Tracking Module”!

Urchin Software Corporation was acquired by Google in 2005, and their software formed the basis of Google Analytics. We don't often hear about urchins these days, so it's worth this tiny bit of internet history just to raise a few smiles!

UTM parameters are the long strings you often see on the end of urls around the internet. Something like this:

www.my-fabulous-website.com?utm_source=warm-leads&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=get-rich-quick&utm_content=bottom-button

Rather than just posting a raw link, the UTM parameters serve as a way to tell the receiving website about the source of a link click — therefore allowing that source to potentially be associated with what the user does on the destination website.

Breaking down the UTM parameters

In our case above, we can break down the long URL as follows

  • www.my-fabulous-website — the website receiving a click through
  • ? — separates the UTM parameters from the target URL
  • utm_source=warm-leads — warm-leads is the name of an email newsletter
  • & — separates the UTM parameters from each other
  • utm_medium=email — this is a click from an email, rather than an online ad
  • & — separates the UTM parameters from each other
  • utm_campaign=get-rich-quick — get-rick-quick is the name of our marketing campaign
  • & — separates the UTM parameters from each other
  • utm_content=bottom-button — the source of the click is the bottom button, rather than the top button, in the email

Of course, given that UTM parameters can easily be read by anyone, we do not actually recommend get-rich-quick as your campaign name. This choice of campaign name might appear flippant, but we chose it to make a serious point — make sure there's nothing embaressing in any of your UTM parameters, because anyone can read them if they choose to.

By convention, content and term are considered optional, whereas campaign, source and medium are considered required. You may also use device as a UTM parameter, but this is optional and used much less often, mainly because you don't know the device that someone will use when you create your UTM parameters.

If we add these UTM parameters to the URLs we post, most analytics tools (such as Google Analytics) will use them to enrich what they can tell us about the progress of those clicks on our website. This means we can tell which clicks came from our emails, which from Facebook, which from Twitter and — as we see above — we can even A/B test things by trying different variations. For example, we might have two buttons in an email and use utm_content to tell us which button was pressed. Maybe the placement of a button makes a difference to how many people press it — now we have a way to find out if that's the case, or not.

👉 As making these URLs is a bit fiddly, we built a ✨ little tool ✨ for you that builds them for you.

How Humanise.AI uses UTMs

If you're using Humanise.AI, you'll be pleased to know that we now support UTM parameters and associate them with the conversations in our system.

That means that if someone clicks through to your website with a link that includes UTM parameters and starts a chat, that chat will have the UTM parameters show up in its info panel.

UTM Parameters

Now you know the source of that specific conversation!

Our bots also now include the ability to mark a conversation as a qualified lead when it reaches a certain point in the dialog — eg when someone completes a lead qualification process or we close a sale.

Taken together, this means that our system knows how many leads you received, from where, and what proportion of those were qualified versus not qualified. In other words, we can tell you precisely which sources of leads are performing and which aren't.

Unsurprisingly, we report these statistics in a new report in our analytics dashboard.

Humanise.AI lead tracking

But we also go one step further with our own hrc URL parameter, which allows us to pass specific instructions to a bot via a URL link. Such instructions can be to automatically open the chat window, pass information to the bot or to start the bot at a given point in the dialog.

A real example

The following link embeds both UTM parameters and a Humanise.AI HRC parameter. In this case, the UTM parameters tell us that this blog is the source and the HRC parameter tells Humanise.AI to launch our Legal Lead Generation demo when the page loads.

https://humanise.ai?utm_campaign=utm-post&utm_medium=social&utm_source=humanising-blog&hrc=ewogICJib3RFbnRyeVBvaW50IjogIkxFR0FMX0RFTU8iCn0=

If you follow that link, you'll see our home page load, our chat window open and the legal demo start. Simulateously, we'll be recording the click-through from this blog with the UTM parameters and associating that with the conversation in our system. If you were to go through the legal demo and submit your details as a lead (feel free to play), we'll then mark you as a qualified lead and record this blog post as the source of that qualified lead. In so doing, we're able to see if this blog post has been successful in driving not just click-throughs, but in qualified leads. To be honest, I will be very surprised if this post about lead tracking drives a large number of legal leads. But, rather than guess, we'll know the actual numbers of click-throughs and qualified leads that result!

If you want the strongest possible linkage between clicks and actual qualified leads and sales, and to know which clicks are delivering actual value, these new features in our platform give you unparalleled insights.

Google Ad Words

Creating manual UTM URLs that you post to social media is one source of leads. However, a lot of companies are spending good sums of money with Google Ad Words, sourcing leads through paid ads.

By default, Google Ad Words uses a gclid parameter that's a proprietary encoded form of tracking data. That's great for other Google products, like Google Analytics, but less useful if you want information to flow to other analytics products, marketing automation software or CRMs. Luckily you can turn on the automatic generation of UTM parameters from Google Ad Words.

To set up UTM parameter generation in Google Ad Words, follow these steps in Google Ad Words:

  1. Click on the Campaigns tab and select the campaign you want to track
  2. Click Settings, Additional settings, Campaign URL options
  3. Set Final URL suffix to utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign={campaignid}&utm_content={adgroupid}&utm_term={keyword}
  4. Click Save

Now your click-throughs from Ad Words will include auto-generated UTM parameters, allowing you to better understand what's happening — especially if you're using Humanise.AI!

A note on privacy

We cannot discuss understanding ad performance without, of course, mentioning privacy. The idea of tracking people around the web has gained many unsavoury headlines in recent times and there are well placed concerns about the practice of collecting personal data in order to better target ads. However, this is not what what UTM parameters do.

When we talk about tracing the source of a link click, it's important to note that we aren't profiling users or colating personal information. The practice of understanding the source of link clicks is only to shed light on which sources are performing and which are not — not to understand more about a particular person. New privacy preserving ways to understand ad performance are the subject of much active research by companies focused on user privacy. As such ideas mature, we may see improved ways of understanding ad performance. But we can be assured that UTM parameters do not profile users and do not create a datastore of personal information, they simply allow us to get some insight into which sources of clicks are fruitful and which are not — a valuable part of any marketing strategy.

UTM parameter specification

utm_source — identifies the source of the click, such as google, facebook, etc

utm_medium — identifies the marketing medium, such as cpc, email, banner, social

utm_campaign — identifies a specific product promotion or campaign, such as spring-sale

utm_term — (considered optional) identifies the keywords for an ad, such as converse+trainers

utm_content — (considered optional) used to differentiate ads or links that point to the same URL, usually for A/B test purposes. Example: You have two call-to-action links within the same email message, so you use utm_content and set different values for each so you can tell which button is more effective.

utm_device — (considered optional) used identify the device following the link. Used less often, as it's not always possible to identify the device being used. Example: C for computers (desktops and laptops), M for mobile devices, T for tablets.

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