Recently, a client told me that they use Google’s Campaign URL Builder tool, and that it works just fine for them. I have used that tool myself and found it useful. Digital Pi CEO Ryan Vong even mentioned it in one of his posts on using UTM parameters in Marketo. The tool certainly has its place; however, it falls short for regular use in real-world marketing operations, and especially as it pertains to Marketo.
This got me thinking. How many people use the Google tool and do not realize its shortcomings? More specific to this audience, how many Marketo practitioners use this tool and are inadvertently ruining their reporting on digital marketing tactics in Marketo?
There are at least two relevant key points to consider in your UTM strategy. Let’s review. (To the sticklers out there: I’m intentionally using “link” and “URL” interchangeably. I know they’re not technically the same thing. Just go with it.)
UTM links must be unique
If you’re using UTM parameters, it is vital to your reporting that each and every link created be unique. Using Google’s tool, it is quite easy to inadvertently create a duplicate link — one that matches a link previously created and used. When these duplicate links are used to create Marketo programs and smart campaigns to track the UTM parameters, they may actually mirror the UTM values configured in other pre-existing Marketo programs. As such, they result in “double dipping” for reporting purposes and accidentally assigning success credit to multiple programs for what are supposed to be distinct touch points on a customer journey. To address this issue, a centralized, authoritative repository is needed to store all UTM links created to ensure that each link is unique and that the particular set of UTM parameters has not been used before.
UTM values must be consistent
Also essential to effective use of UTM parameters is consistency. UTM parameters are case sensitive, and any difference — in punctuation or even in capitalization — creates unique values. Many characters must also be properly encoded and accounted for in your Marketo smart campaign setup. The Google builder accounts for some of this — properly encoding reserved characters in the final URL — but does not impose hard-and-fast parameter normalization rules. This should be dictated by your own company’s business rules and internal processes, so it’s not something that Google’s generic URL builder can or even should enforce. This must be managed another way.
Digital Pi’s UTM Link Builder
So how do we handle this at Digital Pi? Well, as with the rest of our Gold Standard Marketo infrastructure setup, we have a standardized, scalable solution for creating and managing UTM-laden URLs — the Digital Pi UTM Link Builder.
Our UTM link builder tool helps to prevent duplicate URLs from being created and used by highlighting duplicates so that they can be modified to be unique from all previously created URLs.
The tool also provides predefined picklists for utm_medium and utm_source values, mitigating the possibility for typos and other human error. Further, it normalizes utm_campaign values, converting inputs to lowercase and removing spaces and all punctuation except dashes and underscores. This consistency helps to ensure seamless reporting on normalized values.
This tool is made available to all Digital Pi clients. For further information, please contact us.
How do you use UTMs with Marketo?
So what about you? Are you using UTM parameters with your Marketo instance? If so, how? And how do you create the URLs? How do you ensure that you do not have duplicate URLs? How do you ensure that your UTM values are consistent across all campaigns, team members and geos? Let me know in the comments below.