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Why You Should Tag Your Inbound Links – Here’s Why #104

When all the bets at a poker game get mixed up, how can you tell who’s winning? Proper attribution is essential for gambling stakes, and for your inbound links as well. Don’t gamble with guessing at what’s driving your traffic!

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Mark: Sometimes you have the opportunity to create a link to your own site. For example, a link to your site in a guest post you write for another site or in a social media post you create. So when you do that, you have an opportunity to add a code or tags to the link that can give you more granular data in your analytics.
Eric: So, what kinds of data can you get from link-tagging?
Mark: Well, link tags can tell you things like the particular campaign the links should be associated with, the type of content it was in, and from what medium it originated. Now, the most commonly used tagging scheme is UTM or Urchin Tracking Module. That’s named after the Urchin Analytics platform that Google bought and then re-branded as Google Analytics. Now, while UTM has certain standard fields, it’s really up to you what you put in them, so you can track pretty much whatever you want.
Eric: But doesn’t your analytics already give you that information? I mean, why go through the extra effort of creating UTM tags for links?
Mark: Well, basically, analytics only takes you down to a certain level of detail. So if you want or need more, tagging is the way to go. Now let me give an example of how I use tagging for our social media marketing here at Perficient Digital.
Eric: Please do.
Mark: Okay. Now if I look at our Google Analytics for our incoming traffic, I can segment out the social channel and see how much traffic we got from each social network. That’s great, but that’s about as deep as I can go.
Google Analytics social channels
But let’s say I would like to know how much of our traffic from Twitter comes from our tweets on our own Twitter accounts and from our paid ads on Twitter. There was no way for me to know that until I started tagging our links that we share on our social accounts with social-share in the medium field for organically shared links, and paid-social for our promoted tweets as you see here.
Google Analytics showing UTM tags
Eric: So now you can see that about 21% of our Twitter traffic comes from people clicking on links shared by our Twitter accounts, and a little over 3% comes from our paid promotions.
Mark. Right, now if I wanted to get even more granular, and I might do this in the future, I would create a unique tag for each of our three Twitter accounts, so I could evaluate which one is driving the most effective traffic.
This was just one example of what you could do with UTM tags. Because you can create whatever tags you want, how deeply you segment your data is only limited by your own needs and how much effort you want to put into the tagging.
Eric: Speaking of effort, is it difficult to create UTM tags?
Mark: Well not really, thanks to some tools that are out there. The UTM coding itself looks complex when you see it in a link as in the image below, but the tools allow you to input your tags and then copy and use the resulting tagged URL.
UTM tagged link example
The Google Campaign URL Builder that you’re looking at below is one such tool. The only required fields are the original URL of the page you want to link to and the source.
Google Campaign URL Builder
You can use as many or as few of the other fields as you want. Also, even though there is a suggested type of input for each field, you’re really free to use them for whatever you want. Just make sure that whatever you do, you do it consistently and that everyone who has access to your analytics knows your tagging scheme.
Eric: So any final thoughts about the importance of tagging links?
Mark: Yes, first before you start any tagging scheme, sit down and think about what information would be useful to you. Look for areas where you may currently be flying blind, because what’s really happening is hidden in more aggregated data. For example, if you run content or social campaigns, it might be useful to tag each campaign so you can find out which generated the most traffic.
Now second, if you decide to implement UTM tagging, you have to commit to it. You have to create a process so that you tag every time it applies. Otherwise, you’ll have gaps in your data, and won’t get an accurate comparison.
Eric: So thanks, Mark. See the Resources section at the top of this post for some tools that will help you implement tagging for your inbound links.
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Thoughts on “Why You Should Tag Your Inbound Links – Here’s Why #104”

  1. Oh, guys! You stopped at the most interesting point! I was already looking forward to a concrete example of this process and a template to download… 🙂

  2. Then stay tuned! I’m writing a much more detailed blog post about this that will grant your every wish 😉

  3. Hey Guys, this was a great post and supplemented some reading I was doing yesterday about UTM tagging.
    However, most of my social content is video on Facebook, and I prefer to upload the video directly to Facebook. That way I can upload the captions and the videos run in mute with the captions in motion. I get more engagement with the uploaded videos than videos linked from YouTube or Vimeo or blog posts. I guess I have to rely on Facebook insights for analytics.
    Again, thanks for this UTM information. I’ll look for ways to use it with non-video content.

  4. Great article and nice tips. Never thought of the tracking aspect of the tags through analytics which is awesome data to have when looking t what his working and what is not. Thanks for all the tips, great stuff!

  5. I have never been able to use this possibility without this analytical information which provided this solid base through these data which allows to create UTM tags, Thank you,Eric and Mark for this video and this Excellent sharing impressive and fabulous, full of positivities and important notions

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Mark Traphagen

Mark Traphagen was our Content Strategy Director for Perficient Digital until February of 2019. He has been named one of the most influential content and social media authors in numerous industry listings.

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