15 Mar Don’t Use UTM Tracking Internally – Use Event Tracking Instead
– 15 March 2017 –
UTM vs. Event Tracking
Tracking interactions are an important part of any digital marketing strategy, but it is important to implement to record this in the best way possible, without affecting your other data.
UTM tracking and Event tracking are two way to measure interactions, but it is crucial you use them in the correct situations.
UTM tracking is brilliant at measuring external campaigns. UTM tracking simply involves adding a number of parameters, to a url. When the link is clicked, Analytics receives this and interprets the url to determine many things, including, most importantly, the source of the click (eg. Google, Facebook etc.).
For example, if we created a post on LinkedIn for one of our events, we could use the following url:
We can then easily filter our data in Google Analytics to only see people who have arrived at our site having clicked that particular link.
There are five different utm parameters available to use:
- Source – This identifies the source of the session (eg. Google or Facebook)
- Medium – Identifies the marketing medium (eg. cpc or email)
- Name – Campaign name or specific promotion (eg. January Sale)
- Term – Should be used to identify the keywords used
- Content – Used to differentiate ads (eg. when A/B testing)
Google do provide a helpful url builder for this purpose, which given the desired UTM parameters, will provide the campaign url to use.
UTM tracking could be used for:
- PPC Advertising
- Display/Banner Advertising
- Email Marketing
- Social Media Advertising
Helpfully, plenty of services (including AdWords & Bing Ads) have an option that will auto-tag all urls, which means no extra work for you!
However, tracking internal interaction is a different matter. Examples of the type of interaction we may want to record on our site are:
- Button Clicks
- Video Plays
- Form Completions
- PDF Downloads
However, there is a major issue here. When you track an interaction (eg. a button click) using UTM tags, you will lose the original source of the session when the user clicks on the button.
The button click will overwrite the original inbound traffic source and replace it with the new source that was set in the UTM parameters. This also means that sessions will be double counted.
For example, if someone enters your site after clicking an ad on Google, their source will be ‘Google’. If there is a button on the landing page with UTM tracking set up with a source of ‘Button’, then when the user clicks on the button, the source will change from ‘Google’ to ‘Button’.
Everything the user then does on the site will now have a source of ‘Button’, and we will not be able to tell what the original source was. Clearly, this means the data will now be incorrectly attributed, which makes it very hard to evaluate the performance of each acquisition channel.
For this reason, we strongly recommend that UTM tracking tags should never be used on any interaction within your own site.
Instead, we would advise using events to track internal interactions.
Events are extremely simple to implement using Google Tag Manager. Google Tag Manager is a free and incredibly easy way to manage adding small snippets of code to a site, and is something we would recommend installing to anyone who is not currently using it.
In Google Tag Manager, we can give each event its own Event Tracking Parameters to distinguish them from each other. These parameters are Category, Action, Label & Value. It doesn’t matter how you complete these fields, but it is important to keep a strict naming convention across your site.
We suggest these parameters are used as follows:
- Category – Should be used to group interaction you want to track (eg. PDF Downloads)
- Action – This should be what the user does to trigger the event (eg. click)
- Label – The most specific identifier of the event (eg. An Evening of Ecommerce)
- Value – This should be used when an event has a monetary value. Otherwise it can be left blank.
I’ve included a portion of a tag we use on our site to track PDF downloads, which is the same as the examples given above.
Once live, these events can then be handily viewed in Analytics by navigating to Behaviour > Events. However, a much better way of viewing these event completions is to create goals measuring the completion of specific events. Fortunately, Analytics makes creating goals extremely easy. The example below is the goal created to count the number of PDF downloads on our site. We simply configure the goal to trigger when an event Category equals ‘PDF Download’ and the action equals ‘click’.
These goal completions can then be viewed in Analytics under Conversions > Goals. As mentioned earlier, the major advantage of this is that the original source of the user remains unchanged. This means that we can tell exactly where a user has come from, whereas the use of UTM parameters does not allow this.
The easy creation of goals using event can be considered a bonus!