How to use UTM codes for recruitment

Several of my clients asked me for clarity around UTM codes, since Google has a tendency to be overly technical in its explanations. I wrote the below guide on how to use UTM codes for recruitment and marketing in general.

A UTM code is a tag that adds additional information to a URL which is then passed on to Google Analytics as soon as it is clicked. A UTM code contains five parameters, three of which are mandatory: “utm_source”, “utm_medium” and “utm_campaign”; the other two are optional: “utm_term” and “utm_content”.

Why you should use UTM codes for recruitment 

UTM codes allow you to pass additional information about certain traffic into Google Analytics which helps identify where the traffic came from (source), how it got to your website (medium) and with what marketing goal (campaign).

The most important function of a UTM code is to identify the effect of your marketing efforts. As a recruiter, a UTM code helps you to accurately track the source of the candidates which in turn will help with a more precise view on your ROI (Return of Investment).

A standard UTM code contains at least the source, medium and campaign parameters, it is added at the end of a URL and always starts with a question mark “?” below is an example of a UTM code that could be used for this blog post:

?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=how-to-use-utm-codes-for-recruitment-blog

How to use “utm_source”

The utm_source tracks where the visitor is coming from the below URL, for instance, has as its utm_source=facebook :

?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=how-to-use-utm-codes-for-recruitment-blog

This identifies Facebook as the origin of the visitor. Typically, you can use a website as the source. An exception is email campaigns. Here you could use:

– The name of your email service utm_source=mailchimp.
– The type of email e.g. “internal”, “newsletter” or job-referral

The last option is recommended if you send a large variety of emails with different goals.

How to use “utm_medium”

The utm_medium parameter is all about answering the question, “How is my traffic coming to me?” More specifically it labels the type of traffic. Google automatically identifies:

  • organic
  • direct
  • referral
  • cpc (if you use AdWords)

The medium parameter is an important metric since it gives you the insight into how different types of traffic are performing, the traffic is often linked to different aspects of online marketing e.g. organic = SEO, referral = PR, cpc =AdWords.

Use UTM codes to expand on the default mediums and thus add additional info about the type of traffic your site is getting. Often used mediums:

  • social
  • email
  • feed
  • banner
  • cpc
  • display
  • affiliate
  • e-book
  • print
  • billboard
  • partner
  • QR-code
  • widget
  • job-posting
  • premium-listing

Our previous URL example had utm_medium=social, thus tagging the traffic as coming from social channels (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.):

?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=how-to-use-utm-codes-for-recruitment-blog

The same website can sometimes produce different mediums: job boards such as Indeed offer both free and “premium” postings which work on a cpc (cost per click) basis. Say your company invested in some of these postings and wants to differentiate between the “premium” posting and the free one. It could be on option to tag your “premium” job posting as follows:

?utm_source=indeed&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=engineering-jobs

The UTM now tells Google Analytics that Indeed was the source of the traffic, and that it came in on a cpc basis. In the above example “premium-posting” might have also worked as a medium, the most important thing is that you stay consistent and clear with your naming conventions.

How to use “utm_campaign”

The utm_campaign parameter tracks which campaign the traffic was generated by. Here you add the goal of the link: why was the utm created. It could be a push for more engineering candidates, promotion of content etc. In the example below the goal is simply to get people to the blog post, with the title added for clarity so: utm_campaign=how-to-use-utm-codes-for-recruitment.

?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=how-to-use-utm-codes-for-recruitment-blog

The average recruitment company runs multiple campaigns, so make sure that similar campaigns can easily be grouped, for example by always adding the word “job” in the campaign name for campaigns promoting a job or “blog” for campaigns pushing blog content. It further is important to be consistent. Having a thought-out process and naming convention keeps your Google analytics campaigns structured and easier to manage.

You can find campaign data in Google Analytics under Acquisition > Campaign > All Campaigns.

Additional UTM parameters

The below UTM parameters are not a mandatory part of a utm code, meaning Google normally does not track them, but they might be useful in specific circumstances.

Campaign Term (utm_term)
Optional parameter mostly used in paid search to identify which keywords were used in your ad. If Google AdWords is connected to Google Analytics you can ignore this for AdWords.

Campaign Content (utm_content)
This optional parameter allows you to add additional details for A/B testing and to add campaigns varieties e.g. banner size used. If for example you are running a display campaign on Facebook, a good UTM code could be:

?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=get-in-contact-recruitero &utm_content=fbget-help-marketing-online-version2

This allows a space for technical details (in the above case the image used). The utm_content parameter can also be used to keep additional information that you don’t want to put in your campaign name. If for example you have various engineering positions it might be better to put the job title under utm_content:

?utm_source=indeed&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=engineering-jobs&utm_content=mechanical-engineer

This reduces the amount of campaigns and gives more clarity in your reporting. Building on the above example, the utm_campaign parameter can now be used to group jobs into different industries such “engineering-jobs” and “finance-jobs” allowing you to compare the online performance between them.

Some general house rules about adding utm codes:

  • Google is case sensitive, so stick to one style; I recommend to write everything in lowercase
  • No spaces between any of the words you are using, use a dash (-) instead
  • No misspellings
  • A UTM code almost always starts with a question mark (?), this tells the browser that this is extra information. In the rare occasion the url already contains a question mark, add an ampersand (&) instead e.g.

https://www.recruitero.net/event/?gh_jid=562774&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=network-event

  • Be sure to always use the same name for identical sources (e.g. “facebook” instead of “facebook.com”)
  • Never tag links that reside on your website / app, only tag outside sources linking to your website

Google has handy tool that helps with the setup of utm codes: https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/.

Alternatively, you can get in contact with us here at Recruitero, where a proper utm_code setup, including a custom-made tool, is part of our “Google Analytics for recruitment” offering.

I am an online marketer that spend three years working as an online marketer for a large internationally known recruitment firm, I started Recruitero to help small & midsize recruitment enterprises with their online marketing so they can benefit from the recruitment industry´s best practises online.

About Recruitero

We aim to provide small to midsize recruitment firms the kind of specialised online marketing capabilities they need to stay competitive in the online recruitment market.

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