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June 02, 2015

How to Show ROI: The Power of UTM Tracking Codes

June 02, 2015

A few weeks ago, SmallBox hosted a panel on Social Media and Email Marketing at our monthly Serial Box event. The lively conversation led to a hot topic for community managers – how do I face traditionalist non-believers when asked about the ROI of our social efforts?

Define The Return

Proving the ROI of social efforts can be a challenging endeavor. It starts with defining the “return” – what do you hope to get out of your social activity? Comments? Likes? Shares? Retweets? Maybe even direct sales?

The list goes on and on – and it’s unlikely that you’ll choose just one thing you want to track.

Once you define the return, the next challenge is finding a tool that accurately measures the metrics you are interested in. For some, this means a laborious, manual process or even an expensive tool that does more than you need it to. One free tool that came up during our discussion (and is often overlooked) is the UTM tracking code.

Let’s say you post or tweet a link to your site – using UTM tracking (which is a snippet of code that you add to the end of the link) will allow you to track the performance of those visits in analytics. Sure, the social platforms already provide you with some numbers related to web visits, but what about after they get to your site? What did they do on the site? What’s the bounce rate? What other pages did they visit?

Really – anytime you are sending out a link, whether via email, social media, or even advertising, you can (and should) connect it to analytics by using a UTM code.

So how do these codes work and where do you find them in analytics?

Once you've started using the codes, you’ll find their data under the Acquisition tab in your Google Analytics account. Under that tab, you’ll click on Campaigns and then All Campaigns. 

There are several different parameters you can add in, but our favorites are the Source, Medium and Campaign metrics. You can define these as you wish, but you want to think of it as a top-down categorization going from broad to narrow:

Source: the primary channel such as email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Medium: something more descriptive: if you have multiple emails, which email is it? If you are on Facebook, which ad campaign?
Campaign: the most detail: precisely which ad are you testing or what was the date of the email you sent?

To show an example we’ll use our “Inside the Box” newsletter, for which we define our parameters as:

Source: Email
Medium: Inside the Box
Campaign: Date

That would make our UTM code for April’s edition:

Which shows up in analytics like this:


Note: when you go to “All Campaigns” in analytics, it will initially show only Source/Medium. If you then click “Add secondary dimension” – you can also add Campaign so you get all three dimensions.

Not only does this let me see how this particular email performed, but I can sort my data by Medium and see how all of the Inside the Box emails performed over time! I can also see which ones generated goal completions – which is a great way to show ROI.  

If you want to learn more about creating UTM codes, you can use Google’s custom URL builder. And, as always, feel free to reach out to us with any questions!

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