What are UTM Parameters? | All You Need to Know

Who doesn’t love quality traffic coming to their website? But it is essential to know from where does this traffic originate? Does your traffic come from your social media channels? Or maybe from your blog? Which paid acquisition channel is bringing you more users? Where do you get your highest-quality users from?

In this article, I have tried to explain what are UTM parameters and how to use UTMs to ensure the traffic you acquire to your site shows up correctly in Google Analytics, and you can analyze the performance of your marketing campaign. First, let us start with the basics.

UTM parameters Tracking in Google Analytics

What are UTM parameters?

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module parameters and are five variants of URL parameters used by marketers to track the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns. They were introduced way back with an analytics tool called Urchin; the tool was later acquired by Google and evolved into Google Analytics. Over the years, UTM has become the industry standard for tracking marketing campaigns across various tools. Now lets us decipher these five utm tracking parameters.

UTM Source: In simple terms, you can consider Source as the one who sent the visitor to the site.

  • If a user visits your website link through Google ad, then you can mention Source as google.
  • If a user visits your website link through a post on Facebook, you can mention Source as facebook.
  • In some cases, Google Analytics cannot determine the origin of your website traffic; then, it will report the Source as ‘direct’ 

UTM Medium: Medium is how your website’s traffic arrived at your site. Think of this as a channel. Social, Organic, Paid, Email, Affiliates, are all core marketing channels that include multiple traffic sources. Let us taken an example to understand the same. The Source of your traffic might be Google, but the Medium could be Organic, CPC, Display or Referral

There are some core categories within Medium:

  • Organic (non-paid traffic from search engines)
  • CPC/PPC (paid traffic from search engines)
  • Referral (a link from another website)
  • Email (link from an online email tool such as Yahoo or Gmail)
  • Social (link from a social media site)
  • None (direct traffic)

UTM Campaign: You can mention it as the name of the campaign you are running. Feel free to fill this in as per your requirements. Names that allow you to easily identify product launches, promotional campaigns, individual emails or posts, etc., can be used here.

UTM Term: One can use this to track specific keywords for paid campaigns. Since Google Ads has its tracking methodology and deep integration with Google Analytics, you will rarely need to use this field.

Campaign Content: If you are doing A/B testing of the ads, then this is a useful metric that passes details about your ad. Also, you can use it to differentiate links that point to the same URL.

So now since you have understood the terminologies, let us understand UTM by creating a UTM link. You can use the Campaign URL Builder tool to create the UTM tracking code. It’s a free tool 🙂

Link: https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/

utm parameters example

A URL with all your UTM parameters will be automatically generated:

utm parameters best practices

Sample URL:

www.website.com/product1?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=paid%20social&utm_campaign=diwali%20launch&utm_content=advertisment1

Let’s break down each individual element of this URL to really understand it.

  • www.website.com/product1 – This is the web page URL for which you want to track the traffic.
  • ? – this tells your browser that everything after this point is just data.
  • utm_source= facebook – In this example we have defined “facebook” as our UTM Source. This is the platform from where the traffic is coming to your website. e.g. If we are running a traffic campaign on Facebook to bring users to our landing page.
  • & – this informs our marketing tools that we have finished defining the previous UTM and we are about to start a new one.
  • utm_medium= cpm – In this example we have defined the UTM Medium as “cpm”. This means that the traffic is coming from a paid Facebook ad campaign.
  • utm_campaign=diwali launch – In this example we have defined the UTM Campaign as “diwali%20 launch”. Since spaces can’t be used in a URL, the space is replaced with ‘%20’
  • utm_content=advertisment1 – In this example we have defined the UTM Content has “advertisment1” so we can track the performance of different ads we are running.

UTM Parameters Best Practices

  1. Develop a Standard Naming Convention for UTM Parameters
  • Stay consistent with lowercase throughout all of your campaigns. For example, utm_source=Facebook is different from utm_source=facebook.
  • Use dashes over underscores, percentage (representation for spaces inside GA), and plus signs in your URLs.
  • Also, the UTM parameters are visible to the users in their address bars. So, be transparent and don’t use values that you don’t want to be seen by the user.
  • Track your UTMs in a spreadsheet. To keep your UTMs organized and consistent, it’s helpful to document the naming conventions you choose. While Google Analytics tracks the data related to your links, a separate document is useful for managing all your links and UTMs.
  • Tie your UTMs to marketing metrics. Put your data to use. Tie the data from your UTMs to marketing metrics that help you measure your results and marketing ROI. Track and monitor data like conversion rates, traffic, and sales driven by each of your unique links.
  • UTMs give you an opportunity to collect granular data that you can’t find without tags on individual links. But the data aren’t always perfect. Users can copy links and share them on other platforms, which can alter the data and provide incorrect metrics.

How UTM tracking works in Google Analytics?

If you don’t have access to Google Analytics, you can try using the demo version of Google Analytics for learning purpose. Here is the link: http://bit.ly/GoogleAnalyticsDemoAccountSample

Navigate to Acquisition and Select All Campaigns. You will find a list of all campaigns mentioned. Click on any of the campaigns to check the Source/ Medium of the campaign.

In the above screenshot, you can see the Source: Google and Medium: CPC. It means that for the campaign that was run, the traffic had come from Google Search Engine and through paid search ad campaign.

Well, now you know how to use UTM parameters. Make sure to always use them in any new URL, or ad you are creating. Keep the way you create them consistent so you will always know what the data you see actually means. Do bookmark the website www.whitehatlink.com for all your seo related queries.

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