No doubt you’ve seen web links ending in something like
?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=engage
They’re called UTM parameters and they allow you to track where your website traffic is coming from. Read on to find out how to use them.

UTM parameters show where your visitors are coming from

How to use UTM parameters

UTM parameters are incredibly easy to set-up and use, and you define what you want them to be.

Firstly you’ll need a Google Analytics account, and then you’ll need to install the Google Analytics code on your website. That’s super easy if you’re using WordPress because you just need to install the Site Kit by Google plugin – there are other plugins you can use too. Then connect it up with Analytics (I’d also connect Search Console at the same time).

There are three core variables that are required for every UTM parameter set you add to a URL. They must have a source, medium and a campaign. There are a few optional parameters you can add too, but that’s really for when you are doing extensive advertising and A/B testing.

The mechanics of implementing them are very simple indeed. You add a string of parameters to the end of your URL that you want to link to. It doesn’t matter what order they’re in. The format is (without any spaces):

URL ? utm_campaign=xxx & utm_source=xxx & utm_medium=xxx

That should give you something looking like:

https://dizzigo.com/?utm_campaign=engage&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

UTM parameter definitions

So what do the terms mean, and how do you use them? The table below shows you the basics.

UTM Parameter NameDescription and Usage
Source
utm_source
Required.
Use utm_source to identify a search engine, newsletter name, or another source.
Example: facebook
Medium
utm_medium
Required.
Use utm_medium to identify a medium such as email or cost-per-click (cpc).
Example: social
Campaign
utm_campaign
Required.
Used for keyword analysis. Use utm_campaign to identify a specific product promotion or strategic campaign.
Example: utm_campaign=engage
Terms
utm_term
Used for paid search. Use utm_term to note the keywords for this ad.
Example: awesome+nails
Content
utm_content
Used for A/B testing and content-targeted ads. Use utm_content to differentiate ads or links that point to the same URL.
Examples: logolink or textlink

Deciding on UTM structure

When you view your analytics in Google’s analytics site you can see how your various campaigns are performing. The data is presented in the Acquisition - Campaigns - All Campaigns section, and is listed by campaign name (utm_campaign).

So how do you decide what variables to put in your UTM parameters? You can put whatever you like. Just make sure it’s meaningful to you and most importantly, consistent. Below you’ll find a few pointers to help you.

Campaign (utm_campaign)

For utm_campaign, I have a few generic terms I use when trying to build brand awareness. So when I want to track the results of engagement activity, I use utm_campaign=engage. If I want to track the results of attempts to drive traffic, I use utm_campaign=drive. If it was for a specific product campaign, I would use the name of the product. For example, utm_campaign=xyz-widget.

Medium (utm_medium)

I use utm_medium to identify what kind of property or advertising type the traffic is coming from. I try and keep the medium very generic and not specific for any particular platform. So, for traffic coming from social media organic activity I use utm_medium=social. For traffic coming from websites, I’ll use utm_medium=website and from forums, utm_medium=forum.

If the utm_source is from advertising, think about the kinds of adverts you run. So when running banner ads, you may want to use something like utm_medium=banner. If you run social media ads, you may want to call it utm_medium=cpc and if its paid search you may want to use something like utm_medium=search. Or to make it really simple, for ads just use utm_medium=ad. It depends on how granular you want to get and whether that granularity will add any value for you.

Source (utm_source)

UTM_source tells you the specific property your traffic is coming from. So if it’s from Facebook, regardless of what kind of medium it is or the campaign you would use utm_source=facebook. Likewise, with websites, I typically use the before the TLD domain name. For example utm_source=etsy for traffic coming from etsy.com.

Consistency is key

To really get the most out of your UTM parameters you need to be consistent. Inconsistency will make meaningful insights from your analytics very hard to work out.

If you have a team, or you’re outsourcing to contractors you really must create a cheat sheet with well-defined parameters they should use. Even if you work along, a cheat sheet will help to retain consistency too. That way, the analytics generated by your UTM parameters is easier to follow and much more valuable to you.

Going further with Terms and Content

There are two optional UTM parameters you can use; utm_term and utm_content. They’re powerful tools, especially if you’re doing a lot of advertising and a/b testing.

If you’re doing advertising based on keywords then utm_term allows you to see which keywords are working for you and which ones are not.

Add all your keywords for the particular advertising asset by + them together (don’t use spaces) like this:

utm_term=keyword1+keyword2+keyword3

or as a keyphrase like this:

utm_term=your+key+phrase

Then just add the UTM parameter to your url link.

You need to dive deeper into your analytics to work out whether your keywords are actually converting to sales or merely driving additional traffic.

In your advertising and organic links, use utm_content to determine which ones are more effective. In the standard example of utm_content=logolink or utm_content=textlink, you can view whether potential customers are clicking on a logo or a text link. If you have other link types you can include those too. In this case, your UTM parameters will tell you not only which ad the click came from, but even which part of the ad too. So, if you’re using long-form text advertising you can even determine how far into the copy the prospect has read before clicking.

When running a/b testing for ads, you can use utm_content=a and utm_content=b on your two ads, then you can see which ad is more effective. Allowing you to learn and constantly improve your ad performance going forwards.

Our UTM campaign builder can also be found on our resources page.

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