When talking about UTM campaign tagging, most blogs only mention Google URL builder. But it’s worth exploring a few other tools, some of which not only help you build, but also manage your UTM tracking URLs. You can then choose the best tool for your marketing campaigns considering your analytics requirements, team size, risk tolerance, and budget.
Let’s look at some analytics URL builders from the most basic to the most advanced.
1. Manual tagging
This is not really a tool, but it’s still a commonly used method for building tracking URLs. It is also the most primitive way to build URLs. You have a high chance of making a mistake — even if you know everything about URL formats. I can’t imagine why you would ever use this method.
But let’s try building a URL to get familiar with its format. Let’s say you need to track visits to your site at www.yoursite.com for your summer_launch campaign that you promote on Twitter. So you have,
URL = www.yoursite.com
utm_source = twitter
utm_medium = social
utm_campaign = summer_launch
The tagged URL will be
You will notice that a question mark (?) separates the actual URL and the first parameter while ampersand (&) separates the other parameters.
- No software or website needed
- Extremely error prone
- Your memory and knowledge of URL formats is all you have
- Very difficult to be consistent
2. Google URL Builder Tool
This is the most popular URL builder tool out there. It’s the first to come up in search results and most blog posts on UTM tracking talk about it. That’s why many people think that it’s the only URL builder out there. Or maybe they think that since it’s by Google, it must be more correct than others. They might even believe that it helps Google Analytics recognize their campaign parameters.
But that’s not true. There are better builders out there as we will soon see.
Google URL builder tool is good for one-off URL creation. It’s much better than manually tagging your URLs. You provide your destination URL along with all the campaign parameters, click a button and your tagged URL is ready. Here’s what it looks like if you haven’t seen it already:
- Simple to use
- Does not remember your campaign tags or your URLs
- No way for you to force consistency in tagging
- Does not automatically shorten URLs.
3. URL Builder Spreadsheets
As soon as you need to tag more than a handful of URLs, it’s better to start saving them along with their campaign parameters. For this purpose, spreadsheets are an obvious choice. You can either go with Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheets (preferred).
If you are a serious marketer, you should keep track of your URLs. Combined with a good tagging strategy, it can enable you get accurate analytics reports. You can then compare your traffic and conversion numbers across different mediums, sources and even year-over-year. You can gain a lot of insight from such comparisons. Without saving your campaign parameters, you cannot implement any tagging strategy consistently.
There are many spreadsheets templates available online for campaign tagging. If you decide to go with the spreadsheet option, you could try free Google Analytics URL Builder Spreadsheet.
- Remembers your past URLs and campaign parameters
- Your team has a central place to go to for building URLs
- Helps achieve consistency for your tagging guidelines
- It’s free
- Cannot handle anchor tags, e.g. example.com#top, because of URL parsing limitations of a spreadsheet.
- Cannot URL encode arbitrary UTM values. This can result in invalid URLs.
- Easy to overwrite the formulas and break the spreadsheet
- Difficult to tag URLs in bulk
- Cannot automatically shorten tagged URLs (possible with some advanced spreadsheet voodoo)
- Cannot see clicks on shortened URLs
Terminus, like spreadsheets, helps you build and manage UTM tracking URLs, but also has a several other convenient features. It also hides the nitty-gritty details of maintaining a spreadsheet.
To build a tracking URL in Terminus, enter one or more destination URLs. You can then either select from pre-existing UTM parameters or enter new ones. Here’s how the Terminus URL Builder looks like:
You can also save the combination of UTM parameters in a preset. It can then be used to quickly tag new URLs with the same set of parameters.
If you need to add multiple sets of UTM tags to a URL, say you are publishing a new blog post, you can do it in as little as two clicks.
You can even quickly add UTM tracking to all the URLs in your emails and generate a fully UTM tracked email in seconds.
After you save the URLs, Terminus automatically shortens all of them. If you like, you can configure your own custom domain, use Terminus shortener, or connect your own Bitly account. You can then copy shortened URLs with a single click and use it for your various marketing campaigns. A typical list of URLs looks like this,
- Remembers your past URLs and UTM parameters
- Your team has a central place to go to for building URLs (each team member can have fine-grained permissions)
- Automatically shortens UTM tagged URLs
- Keeps track of clicks on shortened URLs
- Can tag URLs in bulk
- Many other features like custom parameter, presets, preset groups, redirect codes, clicks reports, audits, etc.
- It’s not free
Start your 21-day free trial to find out if it works for you and your team. Cancel with one-click. There’s zero risk.
I’m sure there are more such tools out there. Once you understand your needs and the capabilities of these tools, you will be able to choose one with confidence.
Having said that, all of the above tools are just that. Tools. Without a coherent and consistent strategy, all your UTM tagging will fall apart and you may even ruin your traffic reports.