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How to Use UTMs to Track Facebook Ads in Google Analytics

Before I sat down to write this article, I spent about half an hour looking for my earphones. I dug through every pocket in my bag, every jacket, and every drawer. I swear I’ve bought at least three pairs in the last year, and I honestly don’t know where they go.

superman-searching
source: Tumblr

It was oddly reminiscent of when I first started using Facebook Ads. I was so eager to run ads, but I had absolutely no idea which ads were bringing in the most traffic and where those leads were going. Luckily, I’ve learned my lesson after discovering the power of UTMs (and hopefully I’ll learn to stop misplacing my earphones too).

If you’re already familiar with UTMs, click here to skip straight to a super awesome new feature from Facebook that’ll save you a lot of time and nitpicking over your UTMs in Facebook.

What is a UTM?

A UTM code stands for Urchin Tracking Module. It’s okay if you don’t remember “Urchin Tracking Model” but you DO need to remember that UTM’s provide a universal way to track your links. I’m sure you’ve seen super long links in URLs like this:

www.example.com/utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Seasonal-Promo-May-2018

You use UTMs to tell you exactly where website traffic is coming from: like what email they clicked, what ad campaign they converted on, which of your marketing efforts is driving the most traffic.

A UTM parameter is a tag at the end of the url, which tells Google analytics 5 things:

Source: Where your traffic is coming from
Medium: The platform you are using
Campaign: The marketing campaign this is a part of
Term (Optional): What keyword you’re bidding on
Content (Optional): Specifies split test variants

But why is this important you ask? That’s an excellent question!

Why Use UTMs?

If you want to drive great results with your ads, you need to measure its exact outcomes. Most businesses use tools like Google Analytics to measure all website activity and traffic sources, especially the ones you’re paying for.

But before you can measure anything, you have to tell Google Analytics how to recognize what traffic is coming from what platform, campaign, or keyword. You can do this by adding UTM parameters to the links you use in your campaigns.

How Do You Structure a UTM?

Adding these parameters is, in most cases, a manual job. You can basically put anything in there you like, but for efficiency sake, we recommended that you draw up naming conventions and, most importantly stick to it! If you’re looking for a place to start, here are some naming conventions that are widely used in the digital marketing space. See below for some of the most common uses of utm_source and utm_medium:

 

Platform utm_source utm_medium
Google AdWords google cpc
Google Display google display
Bing Ads bing cpc
Facebook Organic facebook social
Facebook Ads facebook cpc
Twitter twitter social
Newsletters newsletter email

We highly encourage you to share this with your team and colleagues, so that you have clean and consistent data on Google Analytics.

Common Pitfalls of UTM Parameters

As much as we like to think we’re masters of UTMs, we often make silly mistakes, especially when we first started. Before you go tag all your urls, here are the most common mistakes that you should avoid.

Urls are case sensitive. This includes UTM parameters! If you’re inconsistent with your entries, then you’ll end up with multiple instances of the same campaign which complicates the analysis of your data.

Triple check your spelling. Like with everything else in Google Analytics, you can’t correct mistakes made in the past. If you’ve made a typo, you’re going to have to live with the typos in your analytics data.

Be consistent with your naming conventions. If you use different values that should be the same within a campaign, like using both utm_medium=social and utm_medium=cpc, then Google Analytics will treat them as separate links.

Use names that you’ll actually remember later. Having utm_campaign=sdp-4-18 might make sense at first but you’ll have a hard time remembering later that this was a Summer Dresses Promo campaign you ran in April 2018. Future you will thank you.

Don’t forget to add UTM parameters to future campaigns. Campaigns without UTM parameters will be classified as referral traffic without any additional info on the actual campaign.

Now that you know what to avoid, let’s make your lives a little easier by using some tools!


Facebook UTM Tools

Many of these mistakes can be traced to incorrect text entries or forgetting to add any UTM parameters (we’re all human after all). That’s why we recommend you a few tools that’ll make your life a LOT easier. I mean, hey, no true digital marketing guide is complete without a few hacks, right?

The Good Old Spreadsheet

Are you an old fashion guy like me? Good news, because using a spreadsheet is just fine. There are a ton of templates out there for you try, but our favorite one is by Link to Sheets. You can find the spreadsheet here.

Google Campaign URL Builder

Google’s URL builder is a quick an easy way to build out a UTM. Just fill out a simple form and Google will do the rest for you. Since this doesn’t log your URL history, this tool is great for one-off builds. Check out the Google URL spreadsheet here.

UTM.io Chrome Extension

If you’re a Chrome Extension hoarder like me and need a Chrome extension to organize all your other Chrome extensions, this UTM builder is perfect for you. You can also track presets and every single link you’ve generated on to one spreadsheet. Try UTM.io (formerly known as ‘Effin Amazing’).


Auto UTM Tagging on Facebook

Adding all these parameters manually is one hell of a job and, as stated earlier, is also very much prone to human error. Luckily, paid search platforms like Google AdWords and Bing Ads have a feature called auto-tagging.

As the name suggests, they automatically provide all available parameters to every link in their campaigns. For pretty much every other platform, however, you have to do this all by yourself.

Earlier this year, Facebook has added a feature to Ads Manager that makes the use of consistent UTM parameters a lot easier. It doesn’t go as far as auto-tagging in Google AdWords and you still have to do some lifting yourself but it will definitely save you a lot of time! Here’s how it works.

How to Enable Dynamic URL Parameters

Open your Ads Manager or Power Editor. Once you’re there, scroll down to the ‘URL Parameters’ field and you’ll see something like this:

A common best practice is to use your Facebook ad campaign name as the utm_campaign parameter, your ad set name as the utm_content parameter and your ad name for the utm_term parameter.

For a long while, we’ve manually updated these URL parameters using excel. Now, all we need to do is now copy and paste a snippet of code so that all my future ads are automatically tagged.

utm_source={{site_source_name}}&utm_medium=social
&utm_campaign={{campaign.name}}&utm_content={{adset.name}}
&utm_term={{ad.name}}

Which Parameters are Available on Facebook?

There are plenty of parameters available on Facebook to provide even more specificity when tracking your campaigns. These include:

  • source = {{site_source_name}}
  • placement = {{placement}}
  • ad_id = {{ad.id}}adset_id = {{adset.id}}
  • campaign_id = {{campaign.id}}
  • ad_name = {{ad.name}}
  • adset_name = {{adset.name}}
  • campaign_name = {{campaign.name}}

Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Audience Network

Ever wonder how you can track if a click came from Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, or the Audience Network? In the good old days, you had to split up your platforms through multiple ad sets or just accept the fact that clicks from Facebook and Instagram were equally valuable.

What a nightmare.

Now, with Dynamic URL Parameters, indicated with {{site_source_name}} , you can track your clicks based on the following values:

  • fb
  • ig
  • msg
  • an

But wait, there’s more! You can specify exactly which placement that the clicks came by using the {{placement}} parameter. Adding this parameter to your URL tag tracks if your clicks came from one of these placements:

  • Facebook_Desktop_Feed
  • Facebook_Mobile_Feed
  • Facebook_Right_Column
  • Messenger_Home
  • Instagram_Feed
  • Instagram_Stories

Clean Data = Happy Marketer

Boom! That was easy, right? Now that you’re a pro at tracking, we’d love to hear from you.

  1. What is the biggest tracking mistake you’ve ever made?
  2. What is your favorite UTM tool?

Let us know in the comments below! Thanks for reading.


What to read next:

1. How to connect Google Analytics to AdWords
2. How to set up your Facebook Pixel

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About the Author

Former digital marketing consultant, currently manager of social media en partnerships in the travel industry ✈️. Always looking out for new developments to get the most out of Search and Social. Has a secret craving for Pixels and XML feeds.