Using UTM Codes To Track Press Release Traffic

Do You Know How To Track Who Clicks On Your Press Release Links? 

Online press releases are an excellent addition to your marketing strategy. They are widely distributed on a variety of news and media sites, they help lend credibility to your company, and they result in numerous backlinks (links on other sites that go back to your website). Of course, the ultimate hope is that your customers will read your press releases, click the links within the release, and visit your website.

But how can you tell if your press releases are directing traffic to your site? And within your press release, how can you tell which links are performing the best? Enter: UTM codes.

What Are UTM Codes?

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. In 2005, Google acquired a company called Urchin Software Corporation. This laid the framework for today’s Google Analytics – widely known as the authority on website traffic and engagement analytics (i.e. how well your website is performing, who’s visiting it, and what they’re doing on your site). 

Essentially, UTM codes are unique website addresses created for websites to tag information about the user who clicked on the link. More specifically, UTMs can help you to understand where your traffic is coming from, as well as how and why it is coming to you. We’ll discuss this in more depth later.

How To Include Tracking Links In Your Press Releases

Online PR Media offers customers an opportunity to insert anchor text links within your press release. These are underlined clickable words that link to a specific webpage. Online PR Media refers to this anchor text as “keywords,” and this is where you will enter your keyword text and associated web address (URL). 

When choosing which words will become your anchor text, it’s important to note that only UTMs linked to a page within your website will be trackable. For example, if one of your keywords links out to the website of a company that you are partnering with, you will not be able to track clicks on this link since the primary URL links to their website – not yours. 

Parts Of A UTM

Before we get into how to create a UTM code, it’s helpful to first understand the different parts of it. The four key components, or “parameters” of a UTM are:

  • Campaign – there are several philosophies to naming campaigns, but most commonly, this should be the name of the piece of content you’re linking to. For example, if you’re linking to a blog about pollution, your campaign name could be something as simple as: pollution-blog. 
  • Source – this shows where the traffic is coming from. This should be a fairly broad category. For example, for a UTM in a press release, you could choose “news” as a source. Other common options are paid, unpaid, organic, CPC, etc.
  • Medium – this describes how the traffic got to you. This would be the subcategory of the Source. For a press release, the medium could be “press-release” or simply “pr”
  • Content – this is not mandatory, but useful to differentiate between sources that are otherwise the same. For example, if your company publishes press releases frequently, you would want to choose a name for “Content” that differentiates it from other press releases. For example, if you publish one press release per quarter, Content may be named 2019-q4-pr

One important consideration before moving forward is that UTMs are an extraordinarily helpful tool – and once you see the value they bring, it’s hard to stop creating them! If you’re generating a decent amount of content, you should consult this article on UTM naming strategies that can help you develop a system that is organized, consistent, and works for you.

How To Generate A UTM

Google makes generating UTMs easy with their Campaign URL Builder. Using the naming strategy described above, we can fill in the parameters to create a UTM for this blog to be used in a November 2019 press release. It could look something like this:

This tool will then generate a UTM in the box below, which looks like this:

Congratulations! You’ve made your first UTM code.

Inserting A UTM Into Your Press Release

This is the easy part! Once you have identified the anchor text or keywords for your press release, you’ll scroll to the Keywords and Anchors section when uploading your release on Online PR Media. In the field labeled Keyword #1, you’ll type the word(s) being used as anchor text. In the corresponding cell to the right, Link #1, you’ll paste the UTM link in its entirety. Because UTMs are long, it may appear to be truncated even though a quick scroll to the right reveals that all the text is present. 

And that’s it! You can generate a separate UTM for up to three other pages you’d like to link to. 
Bear in mind that if you will be linking to the same Campaigns in other media (i.e. sharing the same pollution blog on your Twitter account, or as a guest post on a local conservation group’s site), you will need to generate separate UTMs, where Source and Medium should change accordingly. In this way you’ll be able to not only identify which links perform best within your content, but also which form of media receives the most clicks to each of your campaigns.

Interpreting Results From Your UTM Codes
Here’s the fun part: using Google Analytics, you can watch the results come in.

In your Google Analytics Account in the left-hand side bar, click AcquisitionCampaignsAll Campaigns. 

Each of these rows represents a single campaign. This page shows a summary of how many “clicks” each campaign received (regardless of source or medium), as well as some other pertinent stats about user behavior while on your site. 

More information can be gathered about source and medium when an individual campaign is clicked on:

Here we can see that one campaign received 21 users, 19 of whom came from the signature line from company emails, and 21 of whom came from organic posts on Twitter. While further analysis would be required to draw conclusions (knowing how many times the link was posted on Twitter, how long the link appeared in email signature lines, etc.) you can see how these insights can really help shape your future marketing efforts! 
Now that you know how to track traffic from your press releases, we know you’re anxious to get started! Stay tuned for our next post where we’ll discuss how to prep your website to maximize traffic from press releases. Think: collecting leads, growing your email lists, and ultimately boosting sales!

    Kevin Petersen

    Online PR News + Online PR Media offers affordable multimedia press releases that achieve high search engine visibility -- putting your message in front of the right people at exactly the right time. We’ve combined all of the features that internet marketers, business owners, and journalists have asked for in an online press release distribution site.

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