How to Track Your Online Marketing ROI using UTM Variables

How to Track Your Online Marketing ROI using UTM Variables

Do you ever wonder what kind of return, if any, your online marketing is bringing in?

You’re not alone. One of the biggest challenges for an enquiry-based business with an online presence is measuring the ROI of their campaigns. It’s easy enough to measure the raw number of enquiries from each medium by using goals in Google Analytics. However, issues arise when trying to remove spam enquiries from the equation. The complications continue into finding out what exact ROI comes from those enquiries.

Enter Bob

Let’s take the example of Bob. Bob is a builder. From Google Analytics and his own observations of his business, Bob knows that he gets:

  • 100 enquiries a month
  • 50 enquiries from organic traffic
  • 30 enquiries from PPC traffic
  • 60% of all enquiries are spam

Bob’s jobs can vary anywhere in size from $1,000 to $100,000. When Bob gets a big job – over $20,000 – he can track it back to the specific enquiry. HOWEVER, he does not know whether that enquiry came from organic or paid search or a referral. On top of that, he doesn’t know if they searched on his business name or a targeted keyword. Bob doesn’t want to appear rude by asking his valued client how they found him, and he doubts that they would remember anyway. Besides, if they say they found him on Google – would they remember if they clicked on an organic or paid listing?

He could say that there’s a 50% chance it’s from organic, and a 30% chance it came from his PPC campaign. But Bob also wonders if the only people that search for builders on the internet are tyre kickers and price shoppers. After all, the internet is a Mecca for price shoppers. I know, I’m one of them! 🙂

So anyway, now Bob has ripped his hair out trying to figure out whether he shoud continue on with his online marketing or not, or whether he should increase his spend on it.

We Have the Technology…

The good news for Bob is that there is a solution. Google Analytics tags each visitor to a website with information on how that visitor found the site. It does so using what are called UTM variables inside cookies (if you don’t understand the lingo, don’t worry – only your web developer has to).

These UTM variables track:

  • medium: E.g. organic, cpc/ppc, email newsletters, direct or referral traffic
  • source: E.g. Google/Yahoo for search traffic the referring site for referral traffic, etc
  • keyword: E.g. “builder sydney”, “Bob’s Building Emporium”

It tracks other things too, but they’re not important for the sake of this conversation.

The Solution

The little known fact is that these variables can actually be accessed by modifying the code of your website. Again, if you get lost here – don’t worry, your web developer is the one that needs to understand this. These can then be included in the enquiry body for whoever receives the email.

Bob finds this out and passes on the instructions to his developer. The rough steps are:

  1. Extract UTM variables
  2. Include them in the code of the pages as hidden variables
  3. When an enquiry is submitted through the contact form, the hidden variables are included in the message body

Note – extracting the variables can be tricky. There is a great article written about how to extract the variables – again, you don’t need to understand this as long as your web developer does!

Now whenever Bob receives an enquiry, he knows what medium it came from as well as the keyword they used. Since Bob is smart, he has his web developer send the info directly to his CRM. Over time, he finds out that a good number of big jobs from enquiries from search, but none from the Yellow Pages. Bob passes on the keywords that bring in good enquiries to his online marketing company. And, more importantly, Bob cuts his $50,000 a year Yellow Pages campaign and uses it all on AdWords.

Within 2 years, Bob retires on a luxury yacht.


The Takeaway

This solution is a bit of a hack – it doesn’t come built into any CMS that I know of (…if you know of one, let us know in the comments!). However, if you have a significant spend in online, it’s worthwhile having this set up. Integrate it into your CRM if possible, or an enquiry tracking spreadsheet at the very least. It’s a once-off change that will net huge tangible results, as well as giving you the insight to know that your advertising and marketing budget is being spent wisely.

Won’t that help you sleep a bit easier at night?

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We’ve been in the digital marketing field for over 18 years and worked with hundreds of Australian (and international) businesses to grow their web presence. Specialising in SEO, search ads (PPC), social media, content marketing, email marketing and conversion rate optimisation.

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