UTM Parameters Explained

UTM Parameters

Gone are the days when brands will let you get away with putting millions of dollars into advertising without showing measurable results. As a digital marketing professional, I have worked with a wide variety of brands from different industries and countries each with different needs, objectives, and markets. Throughout my experience, I’ve learned that the one thing everyone cares about is how much revenue has been generated from their online investments.

A variety of tools like marketing automation, CRMs and website analytics have been created to help marketers track ROI. Each tool serves a specific purpose and can work as a stand-alone tool or in conjunction with others. But they all rely on the need to tie leads back to specific traffic sources. Luckily, many tracking systems have been built to help marketers get a comprehensive look at their online efforts. One of the best known and most useful is the Urchin Tracking Module known as UTM parameters or UTM codes.

Fun Fact: Many people mistakenly think UTM stands for Universal Tracking Module but Urchin was a web analytics company that was bought by Google and formed the basis of their analytics services. Hence… UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module.

What are UTM parameters?

UTM parameters are little snippets of text added to the URL of the page that you’d like to track. When a potential prospect clicks a tagged link, UTM parameters are sent to your Google Analytics account.

The great things about UTMs is that whenever someone visits one of your web pages for the first time, UTM codes can also be captured on other marketing and analytics tools like Salesforce, GoToWebinar, Pardot, HubSpot, Inspectlet etc.

Here is an example of what a tagged URL looks like:


What can you track with UTM parameters?

Possibilities for tracking with UTMs are endless, but let’s look at the most common use cases:

Source: tracks the origin of traffic that comes to your website; LinkedIn, AdWords, Stack Overflow, Google.com etc.

Medium: includes the type of traffic you’re getting to your website; organic, pay-per-click, social, retargeting etc.

Campaign: identifies which marketing campaign effort traffic originated from; demo, asset, free trial etc.

Term: mostly used for paid search ads, the term in UTM parameters specifies which keyword term potential prospects have searched for before they land on your landing page.

 Content: mostly used to distinguish which of the different versions of your ads and landing pages are driving traffic. This is used particularly in A/B testing.

How to build a URL with UTM parameters?

Let’s take a step back and look at the URL I shared earlier in this blog post https://www.glasscanopy.com/contact/?utm_source=webiste&utm_medium=blog-post&utm_campaign=utm-parameters

To build a URL that can be properly tracked via UTMs, simply start with your original URL followed by “?utm_what you’d like to track=value of what’s being tracked” and insert the sign ‘&’ between each parameter.

Let’s look at an example:

I want to track a landing page that came from a blog post on the website. Here are the parts I will need:

Following the instruction mentioned earlier, my landing URL will look like: https://www.glasscanopy.com/contact/?utm_source=website&?utm_medium=blog-post

Keep in mind that your URL can’t contain spaces. If one of your UTM parameters contains a space, you can replace it with a dash sign ‘-‘. This will keep your URL clean.

UTM Parameters

BUT don’t worry, if you forget to use a dash, your URL will automatically replace spaces with “%20”. So next time you see a URL looking like https://glasscanopy.com/contact/?utm_source=website&?utm_medium=blog%20post Do not panic. Google Analytics will read it as a space and it won’t mess up your reporting.

Another easy way to add UTM parameters to your URL is by using Google analytics’ campaign URL Builder. There are many other UTM building tools out there, but AppSpot’s is my favorite. It’s clean and straightforward.

How are UTM parameters reported in Google Analytics?

Provided you have Google Analytics placed on your website, and you’ve tagged your links with UTM parameters, your Google Analytics account will take up to 24 hours to document all the parameters in the dashboard.

Once logged in in Google Analytics, go to acquisition followed by all campaign reports. Then choose which primary and secondary dimension you’d like to see in your report.

For the sake of this article, we will choose campaign as a primary dimension and source/medium as a secondary dimension. The report will look like:

utm parameters with google analytics

The table makes it easy to analyze the performance of your campaigns. It reports traffic to the site, the behavior of your site visitors, and conversions for each combination of campaign, source, and medium that you’ve tagged in your URL.

In a nutshell

As a data-driven agency, we’re constantly looking for ways to track, monitor, and improve our campaigns and advertising efforts. UTM parameters have served us very well to understand the data we get in Google Analytics and get insights into what campaigns and platforms we should allocate our resources for optimal results.

What kind of marketing tactics do you feel like you need to improve? Get in touch or comment below and I’ll be sure to write about it in my next posts. In the meantime, subscribe to our newsletter – glassCanopy focus – for weekly digital marketing news, tips, and tricks.

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