No doubt you’ve seen web links ending in something like
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.
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:
UTM parameter definitions
So what do the terms mean, and how do you use them? The table below shows you the basics.
|UTM Parameter Name||Description and Usage|
Used for keyword analysis. Use
|Terms||Used for paid search. Use |
|Content||Used for A/B testing and content-targeted ads. Use |
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.
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,
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,
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.
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_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:
or as a keyphrase like this:
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=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.
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