What are UTMs & How Do They Work?
If you’re tracking marketing campaigns for your business with Google Analytics, you’ve likely run into UTMs. Even if you haven’t set them up for your own business, you’ve more than likely have seen UTM codes without even knowing it. They’re EVERYWHERE. And for good reason. So, let’s go over what UTM parameters are, why they’re important and most crucial – how to use them!
What are UTM parameters?
UTM parameters are URL parameters (the stuff the comes after the question mark in a URL) that are used for tracking data for digital marketing campaigns. These tracking codes are used to determine the source of traffic (and potentially conversions) on your website. UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module, which is actually a carryover from the precursor to Google Analytics – Urchin Analytics. Google acquired Urchin Software Corp. in April of 2005 to form Google Analytics. But enough of the history lesson, let’s get back to business.
Why are UTMs important?
UTM codes are important for tracking the performance of digital marketing campaigns. Adding UTM parameters to your URLs will allow you track when users click that link specifically and have it feed data into your GA4 reports.
It’s worth noting that many paid media platforms have their own form of tracking parameters. For example, Google Ads use what’s known as gclid parameters to track performance. It’s possible to combine platform specific tracking parameters (such as gclid) with UTM parameters. In the case of Google Ads, it’s considered a best practice to include UTMs in addition to the auto-tagged gclid parameters. Make sure to consult with your ad vendor on the best approach for other platforms.
How to use UTM codes
Using UTM codes to track your digital marketing performance in Google Analytics 4 is pretty straightforward but time consuming.
Adding UTM codes to the end of your URLs used in marketing campaigns manually, using concatenate in Excel or a tool (see next section) are all pretty easy. There’s five standard UTM parameters and they are:
Only the campaign source and campaign medium are required. The remaining parameters are optional. So to get started using UTM codes you simply need to include: ?utm_source=BLANK&utm_medium=BLANK at the end of your campaign URLs (replacing BLANK with applicable values). For example, if I wanted to do a UTM parameter for a Google Map listing link to the Nuaveu homepage, it would look like – https://www.nuaveu.com/?utm_source=google-maps&utm_medium=organic.
The difficult part is ensuring UTMs are consistently used for all campaigns and that the naming convention is comprehensible. Documenting institutional knowledge and applying a robust process will greatly help in overcoming this challenge.
How to use Google Campaign URL Builder
If you need to create and implement UTM tracking codes for your digital marketing campaign I recommend using the Google Campaign URL Builder. This simple to use tool helps create URLs with UTM parameters so you can measure Custom Campaigns in Google Analytics 4.
Start by entering the website URL for the landing page being used in your campaign. Next fill in all the applicable fields for your campaign using the helpful examples as a guide. And remember, the source and medium parameters are the only ones that are required.
Be careful of copying UTM links
UTM parameters are a great option for tracking the performance of your digital marketing campaigns. But it’s important to remember they are far from perfect. One issue I’ve noticed with using UTM parameters in my career is that users can wreak havoc on your analytics by copying & pasting them. For example, if a user copy and pastes the example Google Maps UTM URL above to their blog – each click will count as though it came from Google Maps. This isn’t an edge case either; I’ve seen digital marketing professionals make this mistake on countless occasions.
I hope you found this quick guide help in your pursuit to understanding how UTM parameters work. Best of luck with your analytics tracking and feel free to reach of it there’s anything Nuaveu can do to help! Lastly, if you’re just getting started with GA4 sure to check out the Google Analytics implementation guide for a step-by-step walkthrough.