UTM Parameters – A No-Frills Guide

I’m not going to kid myself by believing I can write a 1,000 word blogpost on UTM parameters that will outrank all the other websites on page one of the SERP, so I’m just going to give you what you need and move on to other posts.

What are UTM Parameters?

UTM parameters are URL query parameters/tags that help bucket your traffic into useable reporting segments. They look like this (everything after the ‘?’):

https://www.example.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=paid&utm_campaign=june2019&utm_term=utm_parameters

Google Analytics takes these parameters and parses them into their reports. By default, Google Analytics supports five UTM parameters without any work on your end (other than tagging the URL):

Source

utm_source refers to where your user came from. If they came from Facebook, you’d use ?utm_source=facebook. Pinterest? utm_source=pinterest.

utm_source is required for any of the others to work appropriately.

Medium

utm_medium is the method of acquisition. Paid, Organic, Social are all acceptable mediums, but you can really set it to anything that’s helpful.

Campaign

Where source and medium help you define the where and how of your website acquisition, utm_campaign is more of the “Why”. At least as far as the marketer is concerned. utm_campaign is about your initiative or marketing program.

Examples include: utm_campaign=spring_sale, utm_campaign=dad_hats, utm_campaign=ab_test

Content

The utm_content parameter helps you identify what part of your content people clicked on. you might designate utm_content=hero_image, utm_content=body_link_1, etc. to help you identify which parts of your content are actually helping to convert your customers.

Term

utm_term is used to identify search terms that users queried to find your content. This is usually populated dynamically.

UTM Query URL Builders

There are lots of great tools out there to help you build URLs. Personally, I use a Google Spreadsheet that has Bitly integration. You can read about my URL builder and make a copy for yourself.

You can use this URL Builder from Google to help you build urls with accurate UTM Parameters. I recommend keeping track of your URLs in a spreadsheet to stay organized. You might also consider a URL shortener like bitly to help clean up your visible links on social media.

UTM Parameters FAQ

Are UTM Parameters Required?

No, UTM Parameters are never required, but they are often recommended for certain types of advertising campaigns, both paid and organic. They are a great way to organize all your marketing data and distill it down into more functional reporting.

It should be noted, though, that if you do elect to build URLs with UTM parameters, you will definitely need to use utm_source. All other parameters are optional, but their omission will likely result in (not set) value is their respective reports.

Does Adobe Analytics recognize UTM Parameters?

Yes! UTM Parameters are recognized in Adobe Analytics in their corresponding dimensions. You shouldn’t need to set any custom eVars or Props to capture their values. UTM was originally designed for the Google Analytics predecessor, Urchin, but they’ve since become a standard across most web analytics platforms.

Can I create Custom UTM Parameters?

If you want, sure! Ultimately, you’ll just be creating new custom query parameters. Some people like the consistency of the UTM naming convention, though, so feel free to use “custom” UTM parameters like utm_audience, utm_product, etc. to help you stay organized.

Unlike the default five outlined above, custom url parameters have no built-in capture point. You’ll need to create Custom Dimensions to capture these in your reports and clean the URLs in Google Analytics.

Thanks for stopping by. If you have more questions you’d like answered, leave them in the comments!

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