The PR Proof Is in The Digital Pudding: Tagging Press Release Links for Better Tracking

I consider myself a nerd – don’t get me wrong, a cool nerd, but a nerd nonetheless. You see I love all things digital. There’s just so much you can do with the digital technology we have today and at the rate it’s developing, the possibilities and implications are endless. See? NERD.


I’ve always looked at my PR counterparts as the beautiful people, the glamorous people of the branding and promotions world. They know everyone who’s anyone and they make brands.


Well PR peeps, our Digital and PR worlds are quickly colliding! The exact effect of PR, much like advertising in print, has historically been tough to quantify. For years PR professionals and the clients they represent have had to rely on data showing incremental lifts and a directional number of impressions to prove their effectiveness. But as tracking and analytics develop and allow us to get deeper and deeper into the data, the ability to precisely measure your results isn’t a nice to have anymore, it’s a must. Clients want to know what they’re getting for their money. Well, rest assured my PR friends, digital is here to help! This blog is going to teach you about UTM parameters and how to use them to tag press releases (and other content) so you can track the website traffic generated by pick ups for each of your campaigns.


UTM parameters are snippets of code added to the url of a webpage in order to measure the traffic generated by that link in Google Analytics (GA). There are three key pieces of information you want to know, and thus Google requires at least these 3 three things to be included in the UTM parameter:

Source = what website/publisher did the traffic come from?

Medium = what channel did the traffic come from? (ie: display, email, referral etc.)

Campaign = which campaign generated the traffic?

Let’s walk through an example. Here at 451 Marketing, we have several clients in the retail space so leading up to Holiday our PR team is working on getting various products into Holiday Gift Guides. When we send releases out for distribution, we want to see what kind of traffic is generated from each source and in order to do this, we must generate a trackable URL.  

Here’s how we do it:
Step 1: Go to Google’s URL builder:

Step 2: Add your URL


Step 3: Add your Source

ex: PR Newswire

Step 4: Add your Medium
ex: referral

*One important note about this step – when you’re typing in your medium make sure it’s all  lowercase. Google get’s picky with capitalizations sometimes so if you accidentally put a title case in there, for example Referral instead of referral, the one with the capital letter would not end up in Google’s default referral bucket.

Step 5: Add your Campaign Name

ex: 451HolidayGiftGiving_2016

*Remember to give each press release for a given initiative with the same campaign name. For example:

451HolidayGiftGiving_2016 – PR Newsire/referral – xx sessions

451HolidayGiftGiving_2016 – The NY Times/referral – xx sessions

451HolidayGiftGiving_2016 – PR Club/referral – xx sessions

Step 6: Click Generate URL

Once we’ve generated our URL we may notice it’s pretty long. We might opt to input it into a URL shortener such as to get a short URL to send to our publisher.

Once the press release has gone out the analytics fun begins!