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UTMs: What are They Good for in Recruitment Marketing (and Best Practices for Using Them)

UTMs: What are They Good for in Recruitment Marketing (and Best Practices for Using Them)
Profile photo of Sam Elsley
Written by Sam Elsley

What the heck are UTMs, and can you use them to track and improve your Recruitment Marketing strategy? Find out everything you need to know!

UTMs: What are They Good for in Recruitment Marketing (and Best Practices for Using Them)
5 (100%) 1 vote

I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see how engaged practitioners are getting about how to track and measure their Recruitment Marketing efforts, especially using the variety of tools available today, but there is one relic from the past that many recruitment marketers aren’t taking advantage of: UTMs.

While they don’t provide the most complete Recruitment Marketing tracking insights (something we’ll show you how to overcome below), they’re free to use, allow you to track many aspects of your strategy and deserve to be a part of every practitioner’s toolkit. 

Without further ado, let’s jump right into what UTMs are, what data they offer and how you can use them in combination with other tools to track and improve your Recruitment Marketing strategy. 

Rally note: For a deeper dive into tracking, download our free guide, How to Track Your Recruitment Marketing Strategy

What are UTMs?

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module, which was a web analytics system created by a company called Urchin Software that was acquired by Google in 2005.

Different people call UTMs by different names. Whether you call them UTM Tags, UTM Parameters, or UTM Codes, they all mean the same thing, so the terminology you use is just a preference.

Technically, using UTMs allows you to append additional parameters to a URL and that information can be read by the server that hosts that webpage, whether that’s your ATS, CRM or your careers site.

In other words, they allow you to add more information to your URLs so that you can better understand how people are interacting with them.

What does a UTM look like?

This is what a URL that includes UTMs looks like:

example of Recruitment Marketing URL with UTMs

An example of a URL with appended UTM parameters.

Your destination URL is everything before the question mark. And then your UTM parameters are appended after the question mark. You’ll notice that each UTM parameter is connected by an ampersand. 

UTM parameters best practices

In the example above, you’ll notice 5 parameters appended after the destination URL: 

Utm_source
Utm_medium
Utm_content
Utm_campaign
Utm_term

Here’s what each parameter means and examples of how to use it:

how to use UTM parameters

UTM parameters and how to use them.

It’s important to understand the purpose of each parameter so that when you’re creating your UTMs, you’re inputting the right information into each parameter. Trying to track and gain useful insights from UTMs with incorrect or inconsistent parameters isn’t helpful for anyone.

How do you actually create UTMs?

One common way to create a UTM is with Google’s free UTM Builder. With it, you simply have to input your information for each parameter which then spits out an appended link with your parameters attached at the bottom of the page that you can copy. 

When you add UTM parameters to your URLs, it makes them much longer. This can make working with social media character counts harder, come off less professional and even look suspicious to people wondering why you’re asking them to click on a multi-line link with a bunch of random symbols and words. To solve this, it’s good to use short  links. 

url with utms vs. short link

A comparison between a long version of UTM link and a shortened version.

In the example above, the shortened version looks cleaner, still contains all relevant tracking information and can be more easily dropped in a social post, email or anywhere else without looking suspicious or out of place. 

Note: There are many tools that allow you to create shortened links, including our free analytics and benchmarking tool, Rally Inside. 

How are UTMs useful in Recruitment Marketing and employer branding?

The information that UTMs provide can help answer the question: What drove someone to your website (this can be a channel, specific piece of content or overall initiative). From there, it can give you insight into: 

  • How many of those users did you get in a given time period 
  • What pages did they visit on your site
  • How long they stay on each page
  • What percentage of these people bounced, or left immediately without any interaction with the page 

In combination with the information provided by Google Analytics (GA), a free tool you’ll need to set up to be able to access the information provided by your UTMs, you can use these answers to improve your Recruitment Marketing and employer branding strategies in the following ways:

  • Understand what keywords candidates are searching to find you and double down on those keywords throughout your careers site to improve your positions on search engine results pages (SERPs)
  • Uncover which channels (i.e. Google, paid, email or social) are driving the most traffic to your careers site and invest more time and money in these channels
  • Compare the number of visitors you’re driving to your careers site month over month to understand if your strategy is working
  • See which pages are producing the most applications, talent newsletter signups and other conversions (this will require setting up custom goals in Google Analytics)

These are just a few examples of how you can  track your Recruitment Marketing and employer branding efforts with UTMs, and what you can do with the information provided. 

Where UTMs fall short in Recruitment Marketing and employer branding tracking

As helpful as UTMs can be, there are 6 reasons why they shouldn’t be your only tracking method for Recruitment Marketing and employer branding, including:

  1. UTMs only let you track clicks to domains you own
  2. You’re limited to tracking content with clicked links
  3. There isn’t enough Recruitment Marketing-specific information
  4. Google Analytics can be tricky to set up for recruitment marketers
  5. It’s hard to keep your UTMs organized
  6. They don’t let you learn from other people’s data

1. UTMs only let you track clicks to domains you own

By far the biggest challenge to using the traditional UTM and GA setup is that it only allows you to track visitors to websites you own. 

This is such a big problem because analysis from Rally Inside over the past year found that only 57% of  shared links go to careers sites, with almost half of content that practitioners are using to attract and engage talent going to some other website that they don’t own. — and can’t be tracked through UTMs.

That’s a huge gap in information!

2. You’re limited to tracking content with clicked links

Looking at one year’s worth of tracked social media posts, Rally Inside also found that 50% of LinkedIn and Facebook posts don’t have links, and 30% of RM links don’t have clicks.

rally inside data - recruitment marketing content without links

Data from Rally Inside proving the amount of content that isn’t trackable with UTMs.

When you consider that UTMs only track content with links that get clicks, you can begin to see why this is an issue. While we want to know what is getting clicks, knowing what isn’t getting clicks, as well as what content is getting engagement in ways other than link clicks (i.e. Likes or comments) teaches us just as much about how to direct our content strategy.

4. There isn’t enough Recruitment Marketing-specific information available

The 5 parameters of UTMs provide a lot of information but, in terms of information that’s useful to Recruitment Marketing and employer branding, there are a lot of gaps, including:

  • What’s the destination are you sending people to
  • Who created this piece of content and where or how is it being shared? 
  • What is this link about? 
  • Which candidate persona is this content intended for (could be type or level of the role)?
  • What’s the creative that’s being used (i.e. images or specific messaging)

Being able to append this information to your links will make tracking much more useful as it relates specifically to Recruitment Marketing and employer branding. 

5. Google Analytics can be tricky to set up for recruitment marketers

As mentioned, for you to be able to use the information provided by your UTMs, you first need to prepare it in a report using a tool like Google Analytics. But as informative as GA can be, there are some challenges to using the platform. 

The biggest one for recruitment marketers is properly setting it up, as you have to add a piece of code called a global site tag to the backend of each site (and page) you want GA to track. When you have multiple systems generating pages, multiple teams operating them and varying levels of access, as is often the case for Recruitment Marketing teams, this can quickly get challenging. 

For example, your ATS might generate job pages, your Recruitment Marketing platform might generate the pages that host employee stories and company culture content and your CRM might host pages for event registration. For tracking visibility into all of these sites, you’ll need to add a global site tag to all of them separately, and that’s not always possible.

Beyond setup, GA can pose issues if it’s owned and controlled by your corporate marketing colleagues who may restrict some or all access to the data. 

6. It’s hard to keep your UTMs organized

The more you track, the better. But the more you track, the more important it becomes to keep your UTMs organized, especially as more teams and people begin using UTMs in your company. 

One option is spreadsheets, but this quickly can get messy. Oddly enough, the more segmented you get with your spreadsheets in an effort to stay organized, the more likely you are to suffer from data gaps. The more campaigns you launch, new tabs you add and documents you create, the harder it is to look at your data as a whole without missing something, as you’re constantly having to switch back and forth. 

disorganized UTM tracking data

The cost of disorganized UTM tracking is the loss of precious data.

The end result is potentially losing precious data you can use to improve your strategy and bring to leadership to show the impact of what you’re doing. 

7. You can’t learn from other people’s data

For the purpose of learning what works, your data is great but everyone’s data is better. With UTMs, you’re only able to track and learn from your own performance. Benchmark data, on other hand, opens up the doors to so much more information you can learn from and use to improve your strategy even faster. 

There are plenty of industry reports and resources you can read to help in this regard but there are also tools like Rally Inside, our Recruitment Marketing analytics and benchmarking tool, that give you access to the benchmark data of all of its users.

You can use this data to learn what content types are engaging talent en masse (and by job family), where the majority of employers are sending candidates through their links, what channels are producing the most engagement and so much more. 

—————

Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of UTMs, what they’re used for, how they can be useful in tracking Recruitment Marketing and how to address the challenges of trying to track Recruitment Marketing with UTMs alone. 

The right tool to combine with UTMs that effectively tracks Recruitment Marketing and employer branding

Our new tool, Rally Inside addresses all of the challenges associated with UTMs described above, allowing you to:

  • Track link clicks to both domains you own and don’t own
  • Access your reporting without Google Analytics or any other third-party tool
  • Track links with clicks, without clicks and even social content without links
  • Keep track of all of your links and campaigns, both paid and organic, in one dashboard for easy analysis
  • Access benchmark data
  • Append more Recruitment Marketing-specific information to your links
  • Create UTMs from right within the tool
  • Shorten links to include in your social and digital strategies

Through these additional tracking features, and the data these features produce, you can start answering questions much more specific to Recruitment Marketing, including: 

  • Does your talent audience engage more with stories about your employees or content about helping them progress their careers?
  • Do you get the most engagement from LinkedIn, Tiktok, Twitter or somewhere else? Where should you be posting most? How does your content need to be changed to cater to each channel?
  • Are blogs, emails or social posts authored by employees better received by your talent audience than content authored by your CEO or high-level managers?
  • Does your talent audience respond to more direct messaging (i.e. necessary information, clear CTAs and no intro or outro) or do they prefer a warmer, more casual tone (i.e. “Hey talent community!”)?
  • Do big bold words and imagery with faces produce more engagement or does your talent audience prefer a more muted, technical aesthetic?
  • Do job ads get more clicks when placed at the top of your newsletter or at the bottom? Or somewhere in between? The same goes for CTAs in your landing pages and other content. 
  • Are social posts better received in the mornings? What days are best to post? How often should you send your talent newsletter for the most email opens?

Start tracking now with Rally InsideAs a result, by using Rally Inside in combination with UTMs, you can more confidently make decisions around your Recruitment Marketing strategy knowing that you’re working with the most complete data map possible. 

To put the tactics covered above to use right away, sign up for your free account of Rally Inside!

UTMs: What are They Good for in Recruitment Marketing (and Best Practices for Using Them)
5 (100%) 1 vote

About the Author

Profile photo of Sam Elsley

Sam Elsley

Sam Elsley is the Content Marketing Specialist at Rally Recruitment Marketing and a regular contributor to the Rally blog.

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