You're sending emails, tweeting, posting on Facebook, and investing in paid ads. Each time you promote something happening at your school — whether it's an an event, open house, summer camp, etc — you're putting in a ton of time, effort and strategy to drive website traffic.
The key word here is time.
It's something you already have very little of. So knowing which marketing campaigns give you the most bang for your buck — both time-wise and budget-wise — is pretty helpful. And, you don't need a fancy-shmancy marketing platform to figure it out.
All you need are UTM parameters.
UTM parameters are tags that you add to any URL on your school's website to track campaign traffic and engagement. When someone clicks on a URL with UTM parameters, those tags are sent back to your Google Analytics for tracking. UTM parameters are extremely helpful for tracking outside website traffic from external sources such as Twitter, Facebook, email, or paid ads.
Using UTM parameters, you can to track website traffic from a particular call-to-action in an email, tweet, post, etc, providing you with important intel on which sources generate the most traffic, and which ones are virtually being ignored.
Here's everything you need to know to get started:
Step 1: Determine What You Qualify as a Source and Campaign
UTM parameters are great — if you can get yourself organized. UTM parameters require you to identify campaign names (ex: fall open houses), as well as their sources (ex: social, email, etc). So, before you start building your tracking URLS, consider the following:
- The source is where the website traffic would come from. Make a list of all the typical sources where you promote content. It is important to not bundle social media networks together. For example, Facebook should be a separate campaign from Twitter.
- The campaign is what you are literally promoting. This is where things can get granular and complicated. You can choose to promote each micro-campaign separately (ie. September Open House) or lump them together as one on-going campaign (ie. 2016 open houses). We recommend the latter for simplicty (and your sanity).
Once you've identified your number of sources and campaigns, you can start building your tracking URLs.
Step 2: Build Your Tracking URLs
Since UTM parameters are tracked in Google Analytics, there is an extremely simple UTM tracking URL tool that you can find on their website. (Yep, bookmark it, now). When you use this tool, all you have to do is simply fill in the blanks with your campaign information, and it will automatically generate a link for you to use in your marketing.
When you go to use the URL builder form, you'll be asked to identify the following:
- Website Url: This required field is the actual link to the news article, blog, landing page, event invite that you are promoting externally.
- Campaign Source (utm_source): Required. Use utm_source is used to identify a referrer — AKA where the website visitor came from, such as as a search engine, newsletter name, or location on your website.
- Example: utm_source=twitter or utm_source=email or utm_search=google
- Campaign Medium (utm_medium): Also required. Use utm_medium to identify a slightly more detailed explanation of where the visitor came from. This can be a specific newsletter, or social media account you want to track the success off.
- Example: utm_medium=monthlynewsletter or utm_medium=twitterusername or utm_medium=CPC
- Campaign Name (utm_campaign): Also required. Use utm_campaign to identify a specific strategic campaign. For internal school website traffic monitoring, you would want to use the type of traffic you're trying to drive.
- Example: utm_campaign=inquire or utm_campaign=campustour
Campaign Term and Campaign Content are not required fields when building your tracking URL, and you won't need them for internal website traffic tracking, but you can read more about them here.
When building your tracking URL, keep these two things in mind:
- UTM parameters are case sensitive, which means if you use inquire for some utm_campaign tags and Inquire for other utm_campaign tags, they will show up as separate campaigns in your Google Analytics.
- UTM parameters will be shown in the browser's address bar, so be sure you're not using any tags that you would want to remain unseen.
Let's use Camp Thayer, Thayer Academy's summer camp.
If I were marketing the summer camp, I would first identify my campaign and sources. Hypothetically, the campaign (because I prefer the more general use of campaigns) would be Camp Thayer. And I want to promote this on Facebook (using paid and organic ads), parent newsletters, and alumni newsletters. Therefore, I would need to create four different tracking URLs.
1. Alumni News
2. Parents News
3. Facebook (Paid Ads)
4. Facebook (Organic Reach)
As you can see, the URL and Campaign stay the same in each of these URLs, but the medium and source change. For each campaign, you will have multiple sources, and in some cases multiple mediums. Keep everything organized in a spreadsheet or word document as you build your URLs to ensure you are consistent throughout your marketing.
Step 3: View Campaign Traffic
To view your campaigns in Google Analytics, you will go to your website profile and click on Traffic Sources > Sources > Campaigns. Here you will see an overview of your various campaigns as tagged using the utm_campaign UTM parameter on your links.
From here, you will be able to see typical Google Analytics data, including:
- Number of visits (AKA clicks)
- Average time on site
- Percentage of new visits
- Pages per visit
- Bounce Rate
Step 4: Improve Your Campaigns
Was it something you said? As conversion-driven marketing, advancement and admission professionals, it should be your goal to determine how to make your email newsletters, social media campaigns, social ads, and pay-per-click ads work in your favor. Look at your campaign traffic and consider the following:
- Campaigns with high visits are great website-traffic drivers for your school. For example if Twitter brings in a ton of website traffic, but Facebook not-so-much, it is completely OK to put less effort into Twitter and more effort into Facebook.
- Campaigns with high bounce-rates may be indicators that, although your source is successful, the page that you are sending them to isn't what they expected. This may mean it is time to revisit your website content.
- Campaigns with a high percent of new views (which would typically come from a paid ad) indicate that this source is successful for your school, as long as it isn't accompanied by high bounce rates.