utm.codes by Chris Carlevato


I usually feature premium or paid WordPress plugins here but this time around I’m making an exception to that rule with utm.codes. This plugin, from developer Chris Carlevato, helps take the madness out of creating and maintaining campaign marketing links. With his plugin you can ditch spreadsheets and other cumbersome ways to make UTM codes and handle it all in-house inside of WordPress.

Chris talks to me about his personal history with WordPress, how the idea for utm.codes came about, launching the plugin on Product Hunt and why he’s decided to make the plugin free without any paid versions or add-ons.

Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself and how you became involved in building WordPress plugins?

My name is Chris and I’m a developer with a penchant for marketing. If there’s a problem to solve, a process to automate, or systems to integrate, I’m usually lucky enough to be involved. My introduction to WordPress development came through creating custom themes for version 1.5.

I currently work at Flickerbox, a digital marketing agency where we specialize in doing creative things with open source CMSs, and WordPress is a big part of that.

How did the idea for utm.codes came about?

Not long ago I began to notice a trend. The tools being used to create and manage campaign links lived at opposite ends of the spectrum. On one side are spreadsheets filled with cryptic formulas that make it easy to make mistakes. On the other are services that offer convenient link building, but that impose usage limits or require paying for features you don’t really need.

I decided there was an opportunity for something in between. A tool priced like a spreadsheet template, but with thoughtfully crafted features focused on making the creation and management of links easier. That is what utm.codes aspires to be.

utm.codes Screenshot: Link List
utm.codes provides a standard WordPress admin-style interface for managing your links.

What was the most difficult or challenging part of developing the plugin?

I hesitate to say this for fear of how it will read, but it wasn’t really a difficult plugin to build. One of the things I like about working with WordPress is the depth and breadth of resources available to developers. Having worked with a number of platforms I can say WordPress developers are pretty fortunate. We owe a debt of gratitude for the quality of work that goes into the documentation and tools at our disposal.

How have you gone about spreading the word about utm.codes? Do you find it difficult explaining to people what a UTM code even is or are you targeting people already educated on running marketing campaigns?

A strength of the WordPress community is that there’s so many opportunities to connect and talk about what you’re doing. The chance to have a listing on WordPress.org is awesome. Here in Portland our local WordPress group has regular meetups and a Slack channel allowing us to share things we’re working on with one another. I’ve also done some traditional marketing: a website, social, Product Hunt, newsletter, and even a few (badly made) videos for YouTube.

The core audience is certainly professional marketers. They are a savvy bunch when it comes to analytics and well versed on the subject of UTM codes. But, like a lot of things that start out the domain of marketers: SEO, SEM, Content Marketing, etc., UTM codes have become pretty ubiquitous and are being utilized by websites of all sizes.For publishers of all experience levels utm.codes provides an easy means to employ one more marketing best practice using WordPress.

You could think of utm.codes as doing for campaign links what Yoast does for SEO. You could think that. But I would never compare myself to Yoast. That would be foolish.

utm.codes Screenshot: Settings
utm.codes allows you to configure link formats, social network settings and more.

Related, can you talk about how your recent launch on Product Hunt went? This isn’t something I see many WordPress plugin developers taking advantage of so I wonder if you have any insight or advice.

Submitting utm.codes to Product Hunt was a lot of fun. I think they provide a fantastic opportunity for WordPress plugin developers to reach an engaged audience and I’d strongly recommend doing it. There are a lot of write-ups that offer insight on how to maximize your experience being listed, but I think the best one is available on the Product Hunt blog.

The listing for utm.codes is pretty simple – almost a minimal post. Three things I think I could have done better would be:

  1. Add a (good) video,
  2. Make the description more tweet like instead of a bullet list
  3. Post an introductory comment.

In hindsight I think my listing looks a bit sparse without these elements, and by posting a comment I may have spurred some discussion. Overall it was awesome to be featured and has helped a lot of new people learn about the plugin.

I think you’re the first plugin featured on this site that is a 100% free product. Can you tell me about what went into your decision to keep utm.codes free for the public?

The decision was partly pragmatic, but also a bit idealistic. The investment required to build a compelling commercial plugin is significant – and the market for a commercial plugin with the scope of utm.codes is likely pretty small. In contrast, the number of WordPress users who can benefit from utm.codes is considerable. My expectation is that by making it free I’ve eliminated the financial risk that might deter otherwise receptive users from giving it a try, which I hope will help it reach more people.

I started building utm.codes for the fun of trying to solve what I think is a reasonably common problem, with tools I enjoy using. I’ve benefited both personally and professionally from free and open source software. My ambition is for utm.codes to return that in some small way.

What is next for utm.codes and for you personally?

utm.codes has room for several features I think would be interesting. Some form of templating, or conventions support, would help with link consistency for multi-user teams. An importer to rescue people from their spreadsheets would probably go a long way to spur adoption. And despite their long rumored demise I think a QR code generator to use links in print might be fun.

But the big goals have remained pretty much unchanged from the start: that people enjoy using it, that it saves them a bit of time, and maybe they tell a friend or two about it.

I’ll be on GitHub, perfecting the art of the typo-ridden commit message.

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