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Multi-Channel Attribution

UTM Tags – The only thing you’ll ever need to know about them

It’s a pity how when we look at our Google Analytics reports, we complaint about all the UTM values we see but hardly do anything about them later. UTMs are very foundational and have to be taken care right from the outset. We’re all busy but I’ve seen serious companies invest a lot of time and efforts to get their UTM values right. They create processes, assign team leaders, set up rules and sometimes even invest in proprietary software that’ll help them stay consistent. All of this because these companies understand the importance. Because when they finally sit down to look at their reports, they want these reports to make sense.

Now, you are probably very busy and do not have the time to invest so much time and money in this but if you follow just this ONE thing, you will get avoid 80% of your reporting woes.

There are a number of ways you can name your UTM values when promoting links across different marketing channels. I am assuming you do care about multi-channel attribution and either do not want have enough time or just dont know how to change the Default Channel grouping in Google Analytics. This post is for you because this will give you one simple rule that will bring you years of joy going foward.

Enough. Whats the rule?

Focus on the utm_medium values. That is it. That’s all. All you have to do is learn how utm_medium values affect our reporting and rest of the post details that. SO, even if you have no time right now, just read through quickly.

I urge you to read this help page from Google support that defines default channel groupings. Basically what it tells you is that if you can keep your utm_medium values consistent and follow the rules given out in the table below, you’ll be able to easily assign traffic to a channel thats already built in by Google Analytics for you.

Here is the table:

Rules that define each default channel (taken from Google support page)

You will notice that in almost every case, the rules are based on values of a medium.

Let me make it even simpler for you. If you are in a startup situation – you probably have very limited promotional channels. I’ll assume these to be:

  1. Social media (organic posts)
  2. Social media (paid ads)
  3. Google ads
  4. Emails (newsletters and such from your email software e.g. Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign or Infusionsoft)
  5. Google Shopping (if you are in ecommerce)
  6. Display ads on Social media etc and probably the last one
  7. Referrals/affiliates

Here is the simplified version

To simplify here are 4 rules that will cover all situations for you:

1. For any paid ads, use “cpc” in utm_medium

2. For display ads, use “display” in utm_medium

3. For social organic (non-paid) links to your network, use “social” in utm_medium

4. For any emails, use “email” in utm_medium

The good news is that for all Google properties that you promote your link, Google automatically tags your traffic properly so they fall into the right channel. So you don’t have to worry about UTMs in any of your Google-driven promotions.

If you just take care of utm_medium values you can avoid a lot of traffic going under the “Others” channels and I can guarantee you can evaluate performance in a single view helping you to focus on decisions rather than closing the report tab because it doesn’t make sense 😉

What is your biggest problem at the moment with evaluating marketing performance? Did you consider if this could be related to your usage of UTM tags? Let me know in the comments.

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