With changes to privacy laws, using third-party cookies to track your marketing is out. But cookies and pixels aren't the only ways to track marketing campaigns. A simple, reliable alternative is UTM (urchin tracking module) codes. Adding UTM codes to your marketing links allows you to track links used in your campaigns so you can see the different sources of traffic to your ecommerce store.

There are many best practices when it comes to UTM campaign tracking and some mistakes that can compromise the effectiveness of UTM codes. In this article, we'll discuss some of the best ways to use UTM tags and the pitfalls to avoid. Whether you're a new ecommerce brand or a seasoned pro, these tips will help you make sure your marketing campaigns are delivering results.

1) Choose descriptive and concise names for each UTM parameter 

When using UTM tracking, it's important to choose descriptive and concise names for each UTM code. This ensures that you can easily identify and track the source of traffic from a single glance.

By using descriptive titles, you'll be able to create UTM codes that are easy to remember and understand. You won't have to search through long, complicated UTM parameter names or risk accidentally mistyping a code and tracking the wrong source of traffic.

Descriptive titles are especially important if you work on a team. Other members will need to quickly understand the purpose and source of each UTM tag in order to properly analyze your marketing data. 

When using UTM codes, it's important to consider that people will see the URL when they click on the link, so make sure you don't include anything you wouldn't be happy with potential customers seeing.

2) Record your UTM parameters in a document or spreadsheet

Another important best practice when adding UTM parameters is to keep a record of your UTM codes and link URLs in a document or spreadsheet. This makes it easy to make sure you don't accidentally duplicate your codes and risk mixing up your campaigns.

A simple way to do this is to save links in a shared spreadsheet so that you and your team can easily track UTM link data from multiple campaigns. This will also allow you to quickly review the performance of your UTMs over time and identify any patterns or trends that could be affecting your marketing results.

3) Standardize the naming for your UTM codes

It's important to standardize the naming of your UTM parameters so that they all follow the same format. This will help you keep track of UTM data more easily, avoid errors, and make it easier to share UTM information with others.

UTM codes are case-sensitive, so stick to using lowercase. Any spaces in the codes will automatically get converted to a percentage sign, so use dashes (-) or underscores (_) instead of spaces between words.

By standardizing your UTM naming conventions, you can create a uniform system to help you easily identify UTM data when reviewing marketing reports or sharing information with coworkers.

4) Employ a URL builder to create your UTM links

If you're looking for a simple and efficient way to create consistent UTM codes, there are many free UTM builder tools available online. These UTM generators make it easy to create UTMs that follow the conventions outlined in this guide while also reducing the risk of typos or errors when entering your UTM data.

Here's Google's Campaign URL builder that you can use to generate links to your ecommerce store.

5) Apply UTM codes to external links only

UTM tagging in internal links should be avoided, as they can lead to inaccurate tracking data and a skewed understanding of your marketing efforts.

Internal links refer to URLs that are within the same domain or website. Since the UTM codes are designed to track external traffic (from outside sources such as SMS, email, or social network campaigns), they can cause skewed or inaccurate results when applied to traffic from within the website. This can make it difficult for website owners to get an accurate picture of how their site is performing and where their visitors are coming from.

UTM codes in internal links can also damage your SEO. Since search engines use the URL to understand the content of a page and determine its relevance to a user's search query, the presence of UTM codes in the URL can make it harder for the search engine to understand the content of the page. This can result in the page being ranked lower in search results, which can negatively impact the website's visibility and traffic.

6) Use a link shortener

A link shortener is a tool that converts a long URL into a shorter, more concise version. One of the main reasons to use a link shortener is to make it easier to share links with others, especially on social media platforms where space is limited.

Some popular link shorteners are bitly and TinyURL.

7) Regularly review the data tracked by your UTM codes

Whether you're using UTM codes for your ecommerce brand or other marketing campaigns, it's important to regularly review the data tracked by your UTMs in your analytics tools. This will allow you to identify any errors and make changes if needed so that you can ensure accurate tracking of your marketing efforts.

Regularly comparing UTM data to other performance metrics, such as website traffic and conversion rates, is also essential for analyzing the success of your campaigns. When done properly, this type of analysis can help you identify trends in user behavior, areas where you can improve your marketing efforts, and which strategies are most beneficial for your business.

Attribute success with accuracy

By following the seven best practices we've outlined in this article, you can ensure that your UTM codes are functioning properly and providing accurate data. This information can be invaluable for understanding how your campaigns are impacting traffic so you can improve your marketing strategies.

After you've started to track your campaigns with UTMs, attribution modeling is the next step to determine the true effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Attribution models allow you to attribute conversions and other key metrics to specific channels or campaigns so that you can see the full picture of how each effort impacts your overall success. Read our guide: Ecommerce Attribution: 6 Models to Find Your Most Impactful Channels.