The Tool Shed Blog

URL Tracking: A Guide to Understanding Where Your Traffic Comes From

Grasping the sources of your web traffic is pivotal for decision-making, especially when it comes to search engine marketing. By employing search engine marketing strategies alongside analytics, you can refine your website and content to attract a more targeted audience, thus enhancing your site's performance.

For example, if you see that a particular social media platform is sending a lot of traffic to your site, you might want to invest more time and resources into that platform.

On the other hand, if you see that a certain page on your website isn't performing well, you can use URL tracking to figure out why and make changes to improve its performance.

If you're reading this, you're likely looking to understand where your traffic comes from and how to track it. In this guide, we will provide you with a comprehensive overview of URL tracking and how it can help you understand where your web traffic is coming from. By the end of this guide, you will have a better understanding of:

  • The basics of URL tracking
  • The benefits of using URL tracking for your business
  • How to set up and implement URL tracking for your website

One of the key benefits of URL tracking is that it can help you understand the sources of traffic to your website. By identifying the channels and campaigns driving the most traffic to your site, you can make informed decisions about improving your online presence and reaching more potential customers. In this guide, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions for setting up URL tracking and tips and best practices for using this powerful tool. So, let's get started!

What Is URL Tracking?

A tracking URL is a standard link modified to include additional parameters to track and analyze user behavior. These parameters are typically added to the URL's end and separated by a "?" or the "&" symbol.

The added parameters, often referred to as "tracking tags" or "query parameters," can be used to identify the source of the traffic to a website, specific pages on a website, content generating the most engagement, and the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns.

They are a great resource for all inbound efforts and provide details at the most granular level for marketers.

The Role of URL Tracking in Smart Marketing Investment Decisions

A tracking URL is a valuable tool for monitoring the performance of marketing campaigns. By adding a unique identifier to a website or landing page URL, businesses can use tools like Google Analytics to measure important data, such as:

  • The number of page views
  • The average time people spend on the website,
  • The number of conversions

Tracking tags help businesses to make informed investments in marketing channels. They provide valuable insights into the sources of traffic to your website.

For example, if a business runs ads on multiple social media platforms, tracking tag data will indicate which platform generates the most clicks and conversions. With these insights, businesses can decide which platform to invest more resources and which to de-emphasize potentially.

Ultimately, tracking tags enable businesses to understand the effectiveness of their marketing channels and invest their marketing budgets effectively.

Here is an example of a tracking URL:

In this example, the URL is for the website, and the tracking parameters are indicated by the utm_ variables at the end of the URL.

In this case, the link is being tracked as part of a newsletter sent via email as part of a "Winter sale" campaign. The specific tracking parameters used in this example (utm_source, utm_medium, and utm_campaign) are commonly used by marketers to track the effectiveness of their campaigns.

When a user clicks on this link, the website will record the URL and the tracking parameters, which can be used to understand how the user found the website and which campaign they were part of.

UTM Parameters Explained

UTM, or Urchin Traffic Monitor, is a tool that allows you to track user engagement from outside sources within your analytics platform.

UTM parameters are added to the end of a URL as strings. They track the origins of different traffic and provide information about the campaign, medium, content, and traffic source.

But why is this important? By tracking user engagement, you can gain valuable insights into where your traffic is coming from and what content is most effective at driving engagement. This information can help you improve your marketing efforts and target your audience.

Here's how UTM parameters work:

  • When a user clicks on a link that has a UTM parameter attached, the code is sent along with the user to the destination website.
  • The analytics platform on the destination website then records the information in the UTM code.
  • This information can track the performance of different campaigns, sources, and mediums, allowing you to see which are most effective at driving engagement.

Let’s break it down further:

Here is an example of a UTM string:


In this example, the UTM parameters indicate the following:

  • utm_source=google: The user came to the website from Google.
  • utm_medium=cpc: The user interacted with a pay-per-click (CPC) ad.
  • utm_campaign=ExampleCampaign1: The traffic can be attributed to the "ExampleCampaign1" campaign.
  • utm_term=examplekeyword: The user was led to the website by the keyword "example keyword."
  • utm_content=ExampleContent1: The content that led to the click was "ExampleContent1".

This UTM string provides detailed information about the traffic sent to the website. They enable a business to understand better where their traffic is coming from and the effectiveness of different campaigns.

What You Can Track With UTM Parameters

As mentioned previously, businesses can use five UTM parameters: source, medium, campaign, term, and content. Here's a guide to what each parameter is used for:

  • Source: This parameter tells you where the user was before visiting your site. It could be a specific website, an advertiser's name, or a YouTube channel's name.
  • Medium: This parameter tells you what content the user interacts with before coming to your site. It could be video, email, an advertisement, or organic social media.
  • Campaign: If you're running a specific campaign for your promoting content, you can use this parameter to specify the campaign. Use a code name, slogan, or campaign name to identify the campaign.
  • Term: When running Google Ads, this parameter allows you to track which keyword or term you bid on that led to the user visiting your site. This can help you understand how your ads are performing.
  • Content: This parameter allows you to track which content led to a click on your site. This can be useful for testing different pieces of content during a campaign to see which ones are most effective.

Creating Tracking URLs

So, how do you actually go about setting up URL tracking on your website? The first step is to choose a URL tracking tool. Plenty of options exist, so it's important to do your research and choose one that suits your needs. Some popular options include Google Analytics and HubSpot.

Once you've chosen a tool, you must add the tracking code to your website. This typically involves adding a small code snippet to your website's header or footer.

Ready to start tracking the origins of your website traffic? Here's a quick guide to creating tracking URLs:

Before you create a tracking URL, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Set up your campaign first

Before creating a tracking URL, set up your campaign and add or build any related assets. That way, you can associate your tracking URL with the campaign and track its performance in your analytics.

Check your spelling and grammar

No one likes a typo! Before creating your tracking URL, double-check your UTM parameters' spelling, grammar, and naming conventions to ensure they align with your brand guidelines.

Have fun with it

Creating tracking URLs doesn't have to be a chore! Get creative with your UTM parameters and have some fun with them. After all, a tracking URL is only as good as the data it collects – and you'll have a lot more fun analyzing the data if you're excited about the campaign you're tracking. So create some tracking URLs, and get ready to track your way to marketing success!

How to Create Tracking URLs on HubSpot

  1. In your Hubspot account, click the settings icon in the main navigation bar.
  2. In the left sidebar menu, navigate to Tracking & Analytics > Tracking URLs.
  3. Click on the "Create Tracking URL" button in the upper right corner.
  4. In the right panel, set up your tracking URL. Enter the base URL of the page you want to track traffic to and select the appropriate protocol (http:// or https://).
  5. In the "UTM Campaign" field, select the Hubspot campaign you want to associate with the tracking URL.
  6. In the "Source" field, select the traffic source (e.g., email marketing, paid search, organic social, etc.).
  7. In the "UTM Medium" field (optional), enter the name of the medium the tracking URL is associated with (e.g., banner ad, social post, email, etc.).
  8. In the "UTM Term" field (optional), enter a keyword or term that is associated with the tracking URL (e.g., for use in pay-per-click ad campaigns).
  9. In the "UTM Content" field (optional), enter a name for the content associated with the tracking URL (e.g., if you have multiple ads on a page and want to differentiate between them).
  10. Click the "Create" button to generate your tracking URL.

How to Add a Tracking URL to Your Content

  1. Log into your Hubspot account and go to Settings > Tracking & Analytics > Tracking URLs section.
  2. Find the tracking URL that you want to use and hover over it.
  3. Click on the "Actions" dropdown menu and select "Copy Tracking URL" to copy the full tracking URL to your clipboard.
  4. Alternatively, you can click on "Copy Short URL" to copy a shortened version of the tracking URL to your clipboard.
  5. Paste the tracking URL into the content where you want it to appear.

If you’d like to review tracking URL data within HubSpot, log into your HubSpot account, navigate to Reports > Analytics Tools

For a guide on analyzing your tracking URL's performance, click here.

URL Tracking in Google Analytics

Tracking URLs are an essential part of any PPC campaign. Without them, the data we receive from our efforts won’t be used well.

By tracking URLs, we can track the performance of our campaigns in platforms like Google Analytics, which allows us to see how users interact with our ads. This data is crucial for reporting and optimization, allowing us to see the big picture and make informed decisions about our PPC strategy. In short, tracking URLs are a must-have for any successful PPC campaign.

You must add campaign parameters to your URLs to measure custom campaigns within Google Analytics. This can be done via Google’s Campaign URL Builder.

To track your URL with Google Analytics, follow these steps:

  1. Select the URL you want to track. This could be a website, ad, or landing page link.
  2. Go to the Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder website.
  3. Paste the URL you want to track into the "Website URL" field.
  4. Complete the fields for other parameters, such as "Content Source", "Content Medium", and "Content Name".
  5. Once you've confirmed all the parameters, the URL builder will generate a Campaign URL at the bottom of the page.
  6. Copy this tracking URL and paste it into the appropriate area of your email newsletter, blog posts, or social media campaigns.

Analyzing URL Tracking Data Results in Google Analytics

Once your tracking URL has been active for a day or more, campaign data can be monitored via Google Analytics.

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics account and click on ‘Acquisition’.
  2. Select ‘Campaigns’ from the dropdown menu.
  3. Select ‘All Campaigns within Google Analytics’.

The Benefits of Using URL Tracking For Your Business

Now that you know how to set up URL tracking on your website, let's look at some of its benefits.

Better-informed decisions

As mentioned earlier, understanding where your traffic comes from can help you make better-informed decisions about your website and its content.

By tracking your URLs, you can see which pages are performing well, which ones need work, and where your traffic is coming from. This information can help you identify areas of your website that need improvement and make changes to boost its performance.

Improved SEO

URL tracking can also be useful for improving your website's search engine optimization (SEO).

By tracking the keywords that users are using to find your site, you can gain valuable insights into the terms and phrases that are most effective for driving traffic.

This information can help you optimize your content and improve your ranking in search engine results.

Enhanced user experience

URL tracking can also help you improve the user experience on your website. By tracking the pages that users visit, you can see which ones are performing well and which aren't.

This information can help you identify issues with your website's design or functionality and make changes to improve the user experience.

Increased conversions

Ultimately, the goal of any website is to convert visitors into customers. URL tracking can help you achieve this goal by giving you insights into the performance of your pages and where your traffic is coming

Bottom Line

Understanding where your traffic comes from is essential for the success of any website and business.

By tracking URLs, you can track the performance of your campaigns in platforms like Google Analytics, which allows you to see how users interact with your ads. This data is essential for reporting and optimization, allowing you to see the big picture and make informed decisions about your PPC strategy.

By following best practices for URL tracking and using it in conjunction with other analytics tools, you can unlock the full potential of this tool and take your website to the next level.

Ready to take your website to the next level with URL tracking? At gardenpatch, our team of growth hackers will help you get started so you can unlock the full potential of your website. Let’s talk!

Subscribe by email