When it comes to photography marketing, a lot of photographers struggle with how to get started. I don’t blame them. If marketing isn’t your first language, there is a lot of information to absorb and it isn’t always easy to understand what to prioritize. One of the ways to help make those priorities more clear is to look at your data.
Website Analytics for Photographers
My favorite analytics platform is Google Analytics. It’s free, and once you get started you’ll find it fairly straightforward to use. Most content management systems (CMSs) have their own analytics solutions, as well. For example, if you use WordPress (as I do), you might have Jetpack installed and you can see your site stats at a glance when you log-in to the Dashboard.
Built-in analytics are great for a glance every now and then, but for your measuring and decision making, it’s important to get comfortable with something more robust. Google Analytics also syncs with your website management tools, like Search Console and Google Adwords. You might not use all of those services, but in the event that you do later on, everything can be integrated.
Measuring Photography Marketing Efforts in Social Media
There are a lot of data points to consider in looking at your analytics, but this post is going to focus on UTM tags. UTM tags are easy to use and they work seamlessly with Google Analytics to help you understand where your traffic is coming from, how that traffic is getting there, and why those visitors are arriving at your site.
This is especially important when it comes to social media traffic. For example, if you just look at the Source/Medium column, you can see any number of referrals from the same site. In this example, you see that there are four different versions of Facebook referrals showing up in Google Analytics. While we can add those all up and come up with a number of visitors that are on our sites, it doesn’t tell us any more information.
This is where UTM tags shine. UTM stands for “Urchin Tracking Module” and it adds pieces of information to your URLs that help you identify the way your traffic is coming into your site. These tags can be high-level and show you where your traffic is coming from or they can be hyper-detailed, and allow you to track how much revenue comes from a specific blog post or tweet. I personally love using this kind of data to reconcile data from what one social network is telling me in their analytics with what is happening on my site. For example, Facebook Ads insights might tell me how many clicks they’re sending to my site, but UTM tracking and analytics might prove that an ad that drives the least amount of traffic also converts the highest amount of revenue. Or, that I get more email signups from traffic that comes via Twitter than Facebook. UTM tags can also tell me which photo on Instagram is driving the most traffic, or which blog post is responsible for the majority of my inquiries.
In short, there is a wealth of information derived from tracking your traffic. A little bit of foundational work in the beginning will your photography marketing efforts much simpler as time goes on.
Dissecting UTM Tags
You have probably seen UTM tags many times before, but never realized what they were or how they were used. In my example, you can see that I created tags for my post about why you shouldn’t boost Facebook posts. The first UTM area is the Source box. Google recommends that you use this parameter to describe the entity that is referring to your site. In my example, I use “fb” to signify that this is the link I have on Facebook. When posting a link to this same page on Twitter, the Source box will say “Twitter” and if I’m sharing a link to the post in my email marketing newsletter, the Source will say “Newsletter” Pretty easy, right?
The next UTM tag is “Medium.” This part of the URL tag tells you how people are getting to you from the Source. With my example, I share my blog posts on Facebook organically and I often pay to promote them. So Just denoting the link as a referral from Facebook isn’t specific enough; it’s important to know how your paid referral traffic behaves in comparison to your organic traffic.
In my example above, the cpc stands for “cost per click.” I use this because I also run Google Adwords campaigns and I like to measure all of my CPC efforts against one another. For the Medium section, Google recommends using something general in this area, as well: email, newsletter, banner, etc.
The final UTM parameter is Campaign. This is the parameter that informs you why traffic is coming to you. Of which effort is this traffic a part? For example, when I launched this site I used a campaign parameter of “launch” on my links. That way I could tell the difference between organic traffic I had tagged as part of the promotion of the launch, and organic traffic that came on it’s own. I could also then compare how Facebook Ads as part of the launch campaign compared to Facebook Ads as a part of other efforts, and so on.
As you can see from the photo on the left, when you go into Google Analytics, you can see that the “launch” campaign is specified in the Campaign section. I didn’t have to do anything other than initially tag the link with the parameter. It automatically shows up in the analytics.
In a photography marketing campaign, you might tag links to your site with campaigns like:
- bridal fair offer
- client referral discount
- mini sessions
- new year promotions
- fresh 48 offers
Other Ways UTM Links are Informational
Another way that UTM links come in handy is understanding how your site – blog posts, pricing lists, etc. – is shared on the social web. For example, if I see a link on Facebook and I think it’s something my sister might like, I’ll probably click on it, grab the URL and then IM it, or email it or Facebook Message it to her. When she clicks on that link, if there are not any UTM tags in the URL, it’s going to show up as “Direct Traffic,” in Google Analytics, as if she had typed the entire long URL into her browser window. We know that people don’t type in our long blog post URLs. It’s just not really possible.
Now when she visits the site, Google Analytics is going to log the visit as a referral under that campaign. Even though my sister didn’t see the original link and click on it herself, the referral came from someone who originally saw that link in that campaign.
This is helpful when you are trying to reconcile the difference between Facebook Insights information and your website analytics. This gap in information – where you know it came from a referral, but you don’t know exactly how it was shared – is called “dark social” traffic. It’s a much deeper and more detailed area of focus than the little I’ve touched on it here implies, but for most photography marketing purposes, knowing this little bit should be enough. If you were a publisher of a magazine or news site, it would be much more important to your business.
How to Create Your Own UTM Tags for Your Photography Site
Now that you know what UTM tags are and why they’re important to your photography marketing plan, the last step is to teach you how to make them. As I mentioned, it’s low-effort, but high-value.
The first way is to use the Google URL Builder. You enter the link to your site, then proceed to fill out the mandatory areas: Source (where they’re coming from), Medium (how they’re getting there), and Campaign (why they wanted to visit). Then hit “Generate URL” and copy/paste the URL in the right channel. If you use a link shortener, like bit.ly, the tags will still work and track, so you can use those to your heart’s content.
I use Chrome as my browser of choice, so I have an extension installed called – wait for it! – Google Analytics URL Builder. I can create the individual URLs right from my browser, without having to go to another page. This extension also has Quick Sets, which means that I can rapidly create links from a preset like “Facebook Ad” so I’m just adding the campaign part.
Those who use social media tools may already have a form of this in place. For example, my favorite scheduling tool is Buffer. I don’t earn anything by promoting them, they’re just my favorite (and their level of customer service is nothing short of mind-blowing). The individual plan is FREE, and it allows you connect up to one account on each platform, so it might be a good place to start. In your Buffer settings, you can easily attach your insights to Google Analytics and track anything you share from Buffer there.
Keeping Track of your UTM Tags
The final step in UTM tag creation and management is actually managing them. If you’ve used a convention that makes sense for you, you won’t need to look up your tags every time you are in Google Analytics. However, there are going to be times when you want to re-share the links you have made. Remember, photography marketing isn’t just sharing your link one time on social media, you have to curate and promote multiple times over the course of your plan. But it doesn’t make sense to make new links over and over again in most cases, so I recommend keeping a uber-simple Google Doc or spreadsheet with your links ready to go. In my example above, you can see that I put a short title for each blog post, and then in the Medium category, I have both my source and medium listed – FB Ad or FB Organic – followed by a column for the campaign and a column with the UTM-tagged link. Whenever I need to share the link again, I can simply copy and paste it as needed.
It’s especially handy to have when you are using tags to do some A/B testing. You may have heard this term before, but if marketing isn’t a second language to you, it might be new. A/B testing is when you are testing two variations of something against the same test group. For example, when considering a rebrand or new website, testing two or more versions of a home page to see how people interact with it (spoiler alert: you’d be surprised at how insanely informational something that simple can be!).
I often use A/B testing for Facebook Ads. I only want to use the one that performs best with my target audiences. In this case, I use the “content” part of the URL builder to differentiate between ads, so I can differentiate those ads in my analytics with just one glance.
To close out this introduction to UTM tags, remember to keep your parameters simple. This isn’t a difficult workflow to add to your mix. It really should take less than a minute for each blog post. Think about how much value there is in understanding WHICH photograph drove the most traffic from Instagram. Think about how nice it would be to know, with just a few clicks, that one blog post results in 60% of your inquiries? If that’s the case, then guess which blog post is your new best friend?
These are just a couple of reasons that it’s important to know what is performing best, and why. As you start working more with UTM tags and start becoming more comfortable with analyzing your website traffic, you’ll start to see patterns and ideas that give you a starting point when it comes to other marketing activities.
Go and do great things!