Should You Combine UTM Codes with Anchor Links?

UTM codes you add to links help you track the performance of marketing campaigns. However, should you add them to URLs that can be clicked or seen by the search engines?

Video Transcript

From David Zimmerman:

All right, Janelle, you’re not here, but we’re going to talk about you anyway. So, you had asked a question. You have a client who’s a sponsor for a podcast, blog, and webinar, and they need two unique links to track data over the next quarter. Okay. They’ve requested two specific links on their site. I plan to create UTM links. Is there any harm in doing this if these will be hyperlinked? I don’t know about the distribution methods. Okay. Okay. So, it sounds to me, if I’m going to put, Janelle, your question in a slightly different phrasing, that your client is doing a podcast, blog, and webinar, and they need links for tracking. And you’ve secured two names, which you’ve provided here. One is something one and something two. Great. So, you want to create UTM links in them. Is there any harm in doing these if they are hyperlinked? I don’t know about the distribution methods.

Okay, here we go. So, the UTM codes that you’ll be doing with this are kind of like I do with all my speaking engagements. I created a fake page that doesn’t exist. The ATD1 page doesn’t really exist. It only exists in a redirect. It redirects to a page that I want people to land on that contains the UTM codes. So, I can give them the name ATD1, and they will just type that in for ease. Right? ATD1. Done. Every time that page loads up, it has the UTM codes and tells Google Analytics how that person found that page. So that is the primary use for it. If you put the ATD1, for example, in a hyperlink, it will override what would normally come in as the referral source and medium for the normal link, which is the whole point of a UTM code. It overrides the default, and you’re able to designate it.

So, let’s say you put ATD1 in an email. Great. Someone clicks on ATD1, it redirects, and it says whatever the source you set, whatever the medium you set, and whatever campaign you set. However, if you use ATD1 in a Facebook post, it will come and override the source and medium of that visit, and you won’t be able to distinguish whether someone used this from Facebook or got this from the email.

Here’s the other thing: If you put that on the podcast website, people from the podcast website will now be clicking that link. And whatever you set as UTM code associated with that redirect is overridden. And so, you won’t know which podcast it came from. In fact, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, in this case, whether it was from an email or from social or from the podcast website. Okay, so we just have to plan ahead. So, for example, if I’m on a podcast, people are listening to me on their earbuds on the plane or whatever, and I want to be able to say verbally ATD1 because then they can write that down, and I’ll know they came from the podcast. However, I would ask the podcast not to publish ATD1 on the webpage. I would put a straight-up link with no tracking code on the webpage because Google Analytics will then insert this came from this page as a referral and help you distinguish it came from the referring page of the podcast versus someone hearing it on a podcast. Now, in an email, emails are notorious for not adding UTM codes. So, I think it’s okay to do, but I would use the other ATD2 for emails, for example. Or maybe use ATD1 for the podcast and ATD2 for the webinar. And that will help you distinguish between who heard of you from the podcast and who heard of you on the webinar.

But again, if there’s a page that’s open to the public, don’t use your tracking URLs on the page. Link straight to your website without tracking URL and without any UTM codes. Google Analytics will know it came from that page because it will be able to read the referring information, the source information. So, in short, use the shortened ATD1 and ATD2 to distinguish verbally what’s articulated or maybe even what appears in a presentation on the webinar because those aren’t links that can be clicked. However, if you’re going to have the opportunity to put links to your client site from a podcast page or from a webinar page that’s open to the public that people could then click, don’t use them there because then you’ll be able to see the traffic from the one site to the second one. Also, when we think about this in terms of link building, we don’t want the links to have redirects, so we get full credit for those links. So, if you use a redirecting UTM code link on a public page, we get a little less link credit for that link. One of the things we have to remember for our clients is that Google uses that link credibility to make our website seem credible because that website links to us, and we must be the experts. And so, if we can avoid having a redirect in that, it will end up leaving more value to our website from the link.

But I want to commend you. Yes, these are great use cases for UTM codes but only use the shortened ones if you have to articulate them verbally or in a presentation that can’t be clicked. But if you’re putting it on a page, putting on something like a web page, even within your own site, you can override what Google would normally see. So, we don’t want to use UTM codes on clickable links on normal web pages. I know that most people read the email out of a browser, but that’s not what I’m talking about. We actually do want the shortened URLs with tracking in a URL for the email.


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