UTM Parameters: Complete Guide

What are UTM parameters

UTM parameters, which stands for Urchin Tracking Moduleare codes, tags that are added at the end of the URL, with the aim of monitoring the user's click.

When someone clicks on a URL with the UTM parameters tags you've added are sent to Google Analytics for tracking.

UTM parameters allow you to:

  • categorize traffic into Google Analytics to know exactly where a visitor is coming from;
  • reveal important information about the results of your campaigns (email, social, CPC, banners etc.).

But what exactly are parameters? Anatomy of a URL

To understand the UTM parameters well, let's decompose the components of the URL.

There are four basic components that make up the URL:

  • the protocol;
  • the domain;
  • the route;
  • the parameters.
  1. The protocolhttp or https. This is a key component of the URL, as it shows the structure used to transmit data between the server and the browser. URLs ending with an "S" indicate that the data of the site in question, transferred, is protected. Two dots and two slashes, e.g. ://, define the end of the protocol as such.
  2. The domain or host name. An example of a domain is www.leadgenerationadvanced.it, which can also include a subdomain, such as info.www.leadgenerationadvanced.it or blog.www.leadgenerationadvanced.it.
  3. The route. This is one of the most important components of the URL, because it tells the server where to locate the information you're looking for.
  4. I parameters. this is where tracking with UTM parameters comes in. I query parameters represent pairs of values useful to send information to the server. They are completely customizable and the server can use them for any monitoring and identification purpose. UTM tags are simply parameters with particular names, which, through an analytics tool, can determine which campaign was responsible for user engagement.

Why UTM parameter url tracking is important

There is a saying, attributed to John Wanamaker, considered a marketing pioneer who lived in the 1800s, that goes:

"Half the money I invest in advertising is lost. The trouble is, I don't know what half is lost."

John Wanamaker

I UTM tracking parameters are an important resource, which you can use exclusively for your benefit, to really understand where the visits are coming from and their subsequent performance.

However, each UTM parameter must be created specifically for the purpose you are interested in. Plotting with UTM parameters, is useful for example for:

Once you have identified the purpose you have to create the url with the parameters, for example with UTM Builder, distinguishing between:

  • Campaign Source: Considered mandatory, it is used to identify the source of traffic;
  • Campaign Medium (medium used for the campaign): considered compulsory, as it identifies the medium used to manage the campaign such as email, cost per click, newsletter, etc;
  • Campaign term: mainly used for paid search (Google ADS) and includes the specific keyword for an advertising campaign;
  • Campaign content (the type of campaign content): such as a logo, a text link etc;
  • Campaign name: Used to identify your campaign.

How to create a url with UTM parameters: 3 tools

Now that we understand what UTM parameters are and what they are for, here are 3 tools to create your own UTM parameters.

  1. You can create UTM parameters using the Analytics tool, https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/;
  2. You can create UTM parameters for social campaigns, using the Facebook tool https://www.facebook.com/business/google-analytics/build-your-url;
  3. You can use Google Analytics URL Builder https://raventools.com/marketing-reports/google-analytics/url-builder/which allows you to tag URLs with custom campaign variables that allow you to track which ones perform best and monitor conversions;

How to use UTM parameters in your social campaigns

To set the UTM Social parameters there is a difference you have to make, that is between sponsored posts and organic posts, although the latter are increasingly in the minority.

Use "Social" as a UTM parameter in the URL and you won't have any problems, just keep it generic. If you use something different, make sure you follow predefined channel groupings . Edit them if necessary.

"UTM_source" is also a required parameter, but what is important to keep in mind, is that the campaign name must be consistent with the UTM criteria.

To set up sponsored posts, however, you should use "paid+social" or "paid-social", depending on the group setting parameters already defined. Don't use "cpc", as Google Analytics defines it as a "paid search channel" by default.

Here you can see how to edit the group setting parameters, thus verifying that Google Analytics routes social media traffic to where you want it.

Should I use the CPC tag when I do a social campaign?

While the "CPC" tag is one you see most often as a UTM parameter in social media ad and promotion campaigns, you should know that it's not the most correct one to use.

Just read the predefined channel grouping definitions and you'll realize that when asked whether or not it's better to use the CPC tag, the answer is no. This type of tag is perfect for campaigns of Google Ads o Bing Ads, but not for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others.

The CPC tag can be used for social campaigns, if you change the default channel grouping settings and if, you create a specific and custom one in Google Analytics.

Do UTM parameters go in uppercase or lowercase?

The tags are called "Case Sensitive", this is because it changes their meaning if you put the UTM parameters in lower or upper case.

It is usually recommended to always use the tags of your lowercase campaignsbecause if for example you create two different campaigns, but they have the same purpose and in one you use UTM tags in lower case and one in upper case, the campaigns will be seen as different in Google Analytics and you won't be able to properly evaluate the results.

You can also add lowercase filters on campaign parameters, here's how to do it:

You tick Lowercase, tiny, and set the campaign.

The importance of standardization: an example

It is very important to pay attention to lowercase and uppercase tag concept, because even Google Analytics is "case sensitive" and if you name the campaign with "Facebook", but then it's actually called "facebook", it doesn't recognize it as the same one. Always keep it lowercase and you won't have any problems.

Use an Excel spreadsheet

To maintain order, create a labelling system and document everything on an Excel spreadsheet and make sure that anyone creating UTM parameters follows this system, so that everything is always easy to track. You can also use this free spreadsheet by Sam Wiltshireto share with the whole team.

Hyphens or underscores?

The percentage of use of hyphens is greater than underscores. Hyphens are recommended for use.

One of the most frequently asked questions is whether you can generate space between words without using underscores in Google Analytics. Yes it is possible, just put the "+" sign between words, which is translated into space in Google Analytics.

Differently if you put the "+" sign in the URL builder, it will be coded as " "in your URL and therefore you will not see the space character in Google Analytics.

Follow the default channel groupings

The average values that you should use when creating your UTM parameters should follow the default channel groupings in Google Analytics.

Where to see your metrics in Analytics

Once the UTM parameters you must clearly display the tracking, and that's where Google Analytics comes in.

Here's an example:

  1. Go into Google Analytics, go to the Acquisition tab, check the "All Traffic" option and then "Source /Medium". This action will show you where your site's traffic is coming from;
  2. Now that you have filtered the results you have to select "Secondary Dimension" and choose what you want to see of the advertising campaigns you have created. Once in Analyitics you can see all the information about the data you have collected;
  3. At the top of the table, in the search bar, choose the advanced option. This will open additional filter options, such as origin/support or you can add additional filter options yourself;
  4. Now type in the details for the URL you want to display, so "facebook", "newsletter", "blog". This way you will see exactly what you want and click apply. Once you've filtered your search you'll understand which visitors are coming from Facebook and which post.

Where is the data for utm_content and utm_term?

There are a number of ways to find the data you collected during tracking:

First, use the Secondary dimension (secondary dimension) of the analytics table and type in the search bar, the term that corresponds to the analytics campaign you have created.

  • utm_content corresponds to "Ad content" in Google Analytics;
  • utm_term corresponds to "Keyword" in Google Analytics.

Here are the steps you need to follow, step by step. Open "Acquisition" and go to "All traffic", then to the source/medium campaign report. Then go to all campaigns (Ad content or Keywords) in the second dimension field and you will find the date of the campaign you are looking for.

Second, you can also find the date by searching the first dimension

Third, you can build a customized report, choosing the size you want, the metrics and you can also decide how they should appear.

You can do this:

Customization - Custom Report - New Custom Report

How to use UTMs to track Facebook Ads in Analytics

As regards the UTMs parameters to track Facebook Ads, Instagram, Linkedin Ads in Google Analytics, there are specific directions you need to follow to make the data you want to get even more detailed, such as:

  • Fb
  • Ig
  • Msg
  • An

I dynamic URL parameters allow you to enter the specific page the click came from such as "home", "feed", "stories". This way you can track your clicks with much more accuracy. Here are a few examples:

  • Facebook_Desktop_Feed
  • Facebook_Mobile_Feed
  • Facebook_Right_Column
  • Messenger_Home
  • Instagram_Feed
  • Instagram_Stories

UTM and Autotagging

In many email creation tools, such as Mailchimp, there are automatic options that create URLs using UTM parameters.

Many of these paid tools offer this option.

Google Ads

Those who deal with Google advertising should already know that Google offers a feature of automatic coding within Google Ads using UTM parameters.

Usually this is a default feature in all Google Ads accounts. However, in case you are not sure about this particular or simply want to enable or disable automatic tagging, go to account settings, then preferences in Adwords and then mark yes or no with respect to UTM parameter tagging functions.

Should I use UTM parameters in Google Ads?

That depends.

There are special cases where automatic coding is a Google-recommended approach, while there are special ones where you might want to use UTM parameters.

Here's an example of a special case:

Do I need Google Tag Manager for UTM parameters?

No, not necessarily. You don't need Google Tag Manager to start coding your links.

Using Google Ads automatic coding and manual coding with UTM variables, can this lead to tracking issues in Google Analytics?

You tend to have to allow manual encoding (the UTM values) to override automatic encoding (GCLID values). Otherwise there may be data discrepancies.

1) If you have a free Google Analytics account (not GA 360), enabling UTM values to override GCLID values may result in sampling for some of your Google AdWords reports.

2) If you have linked your DoubleClick Search account to your Google Analytics account, this setting also applies to all clicks from search campaigns managed in DoubleClick Search.

3) Manual tags and UTM override are not supported in the Multichannel Channels report in Google Analytics.

4) If you want your Google Ads clicks to show up in Google Analytics AdWords reports, you need to use: utm_medium = cpc, utm_source = google.

If you haven't specified UTM values for one or more of these parameters, Google Analytics will use the auto tagged values from the parameter tool.

Is it possible to hide the UTM parameters of Google Analytics?

One of the most frequently asked questions is whether the presence of UTM parameters in the link makes them less reliable to potential users.

Before deciding whether it's better to include them or not, it would be a good idea to do two tests. One link with UTM parameters and one without. Short URLs with little or no visible tracking information tend to be more reliable.

However, it is also possible to hide URLs that are too long, i.e. keeping the UTM parameters short and meaningful. The latter should make sense in reports and graphs, while trying to be functional at the same time;

If, however, we want to hide the UTM parameters, there are different ways:

  • You can use simple URL snippets and some GTM tricks to hide UTM parameters while continuing to track different traffic sources with Google Analytics. All you have to do is use a feature in Google Tag Manager called "Search Table". Not all marketers are fully aware of how important it is to use UTM parameters. Set up Google Tag Manager and once installed proceed with creating URLs, including UTM parameters hidden inside. You need to set up your campaign in Google Tag Manager and you need to create Analytics Universal Tags that will look good on every page. Basically, all you do is tell Google Analytics to recognize in one word, all campaigns together (source, medium, term) when they visit the site you created. Clearly, you need to tell Google Analytics your decisions about classifying campaigns so that it can recognize them;
  • The second way to hide UTM parameters in links is to use bit.ly or other shortening tools;
  • In some cases, you may also want to put UTM tags on Redirect 301 to hide these parameters.

Be careful with this last step, though, because 301 and 302 redirect processes don't always work properly and can, therefore, go on to affect tracking data, misclassifying traffic from custom campaigns.

If you use 301 and 302 redirects, make sure they keep the tracking parameters (utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign) at the end of the final URL.

Do UTM parameters also work for internal links?

No, it tends to be the UTM parameters should not be entered for internal links because they overwrite the original referrer. UTM parameters should only be used for external links to your site, otherwise you're going to confuse Analytics tracking.

Also, you should not use UTM parameters to track the transition from your Home page to the Blog, you should always use the same UA-ID on your blog and homepage. Also make sure you have set the cookieDomain to "auto".

Move UTM parameters from one URL to another with Tag Manager

You can move UTM parameters from one URL to another using Google Tag Manager. It is better to do this when you have an intermediate page between the first click of the user and the final stage of his conversion. In this case you have to create UTM variables to be inserted in GTM.

Here's how:

  • Make sure that there are all three parameters in the URL of the page, click on the domain name you have established and make a redirect, which at this point should also contain the UTM parameters, the end result should be a link that contains the parameters and the referral inside, to the page you want to analyze.
  • the use of UTM parameters does not contribute or create problems to the optimization of your website (SEO), if you're asking yourself that question. Google and Bing, meant precisely as search engines, know the UTM parameters and know that they are used for tracking, so they don't consider them.
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