In our last article about the AARRR metric model we’ll teach you how to track user acquisition for your product. When we think about the most important metrics, we naturally like to think of growth and the drivers of growth. There is no doubt that growth is incredibly important, but you must be prepared for growth before you begin to allocate resources to it.

Acquisition is the metric that measures growth from sources that aren’t directly linked to growth mechanisms originating from within your product. Most traditional and online marketing fall into the category of strategies that attempt to influence this metric.

Measuring acquisition begins with the first data point that you’re able to capture about a visitor, when a visitor interacts with your brand. This can happen through an ad, via a social media post or through a search engine.

Whereas events are used to collect data directly about user behavior within your product or on a domain you own, interactions by visitors and users outside of your product ecosystem are tracked through links, often referred to as backlinks because they link back to your product. There are 2 two types of links with which users interact – those that you control and those you do not.

For example, when a visitor clicks a link in Google’s search results, only Google is able to know the specific details about what that user searched for or how highly your domain was ranked in that search. Google created the link that was clicked by your visitor, not you.

The links that you create for your domain can be posted across the internet and serve as a way to siphon traffic into your product. You’re able to label these links using UTM tags. UTM tags are simply additional parameters that you can add to a base link in order to collect additional information that categorizes the traffic originating from that link. You might want to know for example that an acquisition campaign had a specific name, that the link was used on a specific site or was shared through a specific medium.

how to track user acquisition using UTMs

Google offers a free URL builder at allowing you to build links using Google’s specific nomenclature.

Backlinks are heavily used in paid online advertising as well, often offering a plethora of data that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to collect simply through a URL. For example, if you run an ad campaign on Facebook with the goal of driving traffic to your homepage, you’ll need to select variables that target an audience as well as all the parameters of an ad like the headline, the image and the call-to-action.

Each of your campaigns will have a unique ID associated with them. By adding the campaign ID from a Facebook campaign as a UTM tag, you would be able to associate the traffic from the Facebook ad to the audience parameters and ad characteristics. As you’ll see, you can then use this data to analyze the ad characteristics that perform best and inform your future decisions based on the previous ads you’ve run.

Acquisition funnels

When we refer to a user path in the context of acquisition, we’re defining the first interaction that you’re able to capture from a visitor and every subsequent interaction you expect that visitor to engage in until she identifies herself voluntarily. As we previously mentioned, this is most often done through the creation of an account or a signup form. Many products will opt to skip this step entirely, however, and focus directly on activation. Some products don’t require a user to identify herself, or the product’s creators might prefer attaching acquisition to a payments process or conceal acquisition in another path like newsletter signup.

Funnels are often displayed as inverted pyramids. When you track users moving through an acquisition funnel, they move step-by-step from one interaction to another until they accomplish your acquisition goal. At each step in the funnel, you will lose visitors. Some people will lose interest or find themselves outside of the scope your product is addressing and disengage with your marketing efforts.

How to track acquisition funnels

Your role as a product person is twofold. The first is to decrease the amount of loss passing through your acquisition funnel. Secondly, you will try to increase the number of qualified visitors arriving through the top of the funnel.

At the top of the funnel, you use ad campaigns, content and social media to attract people to your product with your message, by communicating your value proposition and its pertinence to your audience. Every step following your outreach efforts involves simplifying the path to a signup and ensuring that the communication you provide is aligned with the interests of visitors arriving from the previous step in the funnel.

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