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Tracking tools to have in place before you get started with digital advertising

Digital advertising can play an integral role in a marketing campaign designed to generate leads or increase brand visibility. Before you launch your campaigns, it’s critical to set up tracking parameters. Without them, it can be hard to determine the success of your efforts and know where you might need to make adjustments in the future.

As marketers, it’s fascinating to see what’s working and what’s not. Beyond us nerding out over strong performing campaigns and creative, we need to know which creatives and platforms are driving results. Analytics are the lifeblood of successful campaigns. There are a few specific tracking tools that make it easier to pinpoint which digital ads are performing well. Like many aspects of this field, there’s a lot of jargon to untangle before taking action.

In this post, we walk you through the difference between “UTM codes” and “tracking pixels” to better understand which to use and how they benefit your ad campaigns.

Set up custom UTM codes for each campaign

Perhaps the simplest way to set up tracking when you’re developing a new digital advertising campaign is to utilize UTM codes, which serve as an extension to the URL and allow Google Analytics to track how specific audiences are making it to your website.

Custom UTM codes allow you to account for the following information:

  1. Campaign source – A specific media outlet, email newsletter, Facebook or Google, etc.

  2. Campaign medium – Banner ad, paid search, etc.

  3. Campaign name – To identify specific campaigns

  4. Campaign content or search terms – To distinguish between ad creatives

For example, if we were running a Google display campaign to promote annual planning, the URL for our ad campaign might look like this:


A free tool for setting up your own UTM codes can be found at:

Install tracking pixels on your website

Pixels are snippets of code that are placed on the backend of your website to track specific user actions as a result of clicking on your ads and provide more detailed insight than UTM codes. Beyond tracking where a user is coming from, they are able to track specific user behavior once the user reaches your website – such as filling out a form or placing an order. This allows marketers to attribute sales, appointment bookings, or other actions to a specific marketing campaign.

Several ad platforms including Google and Facebook have integrations such as Google Tag Manager to help you install tracking pixels directly on your site. For WordPress and many e-Commerce sites like Shopify, plugins can also be used to help install tracking pixels.

If your website does not have a thank you or confirmation page, button click event tracking can be put in place to track button or link clicks. Since this tracks intent rather than completions, the results are not as accurate as would be provided with forms that have a confirmation page. However, it would still enable you to capture data for your campaigns to optimize toward.

Types of pixels:

  1. Retargeting pixels are a form of advertising that many users will be familiar with. Consider the times you’ve been viewing a specific product on a website and then immediately begin seeing the product on your social media channels or other websites. Retargeting pixels track what a user does on your website to then keep that information in front of them after they leave your website.

  2. Conversion pixels, on the other hand, track completed goals or purchases and are valuable in tracking results related to specific ad campaigns. This type of pixel is usually placed on an order confirmation or thank you page after a purchase has been made or a form has been filled out. In the case of a brand awareness campaign where the measurement of success is impressions and visits to the website, conversion tracking would not be needed.

Tracking phone calls

Google does also offer some ability to track calls made either from your ads or website. No additional tracking code is needed for tracking calls made from ads, but if you want to track calls made from your website, a tracking pixel can also be used to dynamically change your phone number so that site visitors who make a phone call using the Google phone number can be attributed back to the ad campaign.

There are call tracking service companies that also enable you to use multiple unique phone numbers for tracking calls from your campaigns across ad platforms. You can either track at a high level and issue a unique phone number per ad platform and per campaign or more granularly down to the keyword level if needed.

Best practices for tracking pixels

While there’s nothing stopping you from tracking to your heart’s content, focus on being intentional with your tracking. Too many pixels can actually slow down your website, not to mention overwhelm you with information and data that might not always be relevant to your current marketing efforts. Place your pixels intentionally – both for your own benefit in sorting through data, and so your users are not overwhelmed by advertising served as a result of your tracking.

It might seem overwhelming, but once you have these tracking tools in place you’re well on your way to making smarter marketing decisions. If you’re ready to take the next step with digital advertising but need some additional guidance, contact us to see how we can help you get started.

Fluent IMC is a Maine marketing agency specializing in integrated marketing communications. Our expertise ranges from brand strategy and marketing planning to digital marketing and online advertising to public relations and communications.


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