UTM parameters are identifiable information that you add to a URL to track digital marketing campaigns online. When a user clicks a URL with UTM parameters, data is sent back to a publisher or publishers about that particular website visit.
The acronym “UTM” stands for “UTM” stands for “Urchin tracking module.” It’s a name taken from the Urchin Software Corporation. That company was acquired by Google in 2005. Google simply kept the name of the technology they created.
With using UTM’s, a marketer can gauge metrics and performance of the source, medium, campaign, terms, and content of their marketing content or campaigns.
For example, you can find out how much traffic came from a Facebook post or ad instead of looking at Facebook referrals. If you are doing an email blast, you can append links or URL’s in your email with UTM parameters. If these links lead back to your website, and your website is attached to an analytics tool such as Google Analytics, then you’ll receive valuable data isolated to your link. This data includes information such as where the user came from, how long they spent on your website, what pages they visited, did the user complete specific actions you wanted them to take, or what kind of device they were using.
When using UTM parameters, the parameters are usually separated from the base URL by a question mark, and each parameter is separated from other parameters by an amper sign. You may also notice the %20’s within a lot of UTM parameters. %20’s represent a space since URLs can not contain spaces. Therefor your analytics software will read “space%20travel%20yoga%20pants” as “space travel yoga pants.”
Overview of Standard UTM Parameters
The five parameters should be are used consistently across channels. The source, medium, campaign, term, and content UTM parameters. These parameters take on the form of utm_source=, utm_medium=, utm_campaign=, utm_term= and utm_content=. The word after the equals sign identifies the name of the parameter for that URL. So for the parameter: “utm_source=google,” the source of traffic would be Google. For our email blast example, the medium would be “email,” and the UTM parameter would look like this: utm_medium=email. But how do we determine what is a source or mediums?
- Source: The source is the channel, platform, or vendor in which the traffic arrived from, regardless of the medium. It answers the question: “From where?” It is also usually a proper noun, i.e., a particular website or brand. Think proper noun here.
- Medium: The medium answers the question, “how?” What medium did the user get to your site? Although the user may have come from Facebook, was it via a paid campaign on Facebook or a social/organic post on a Facebook page? It differentiates paid campaigns from an organic, affiliate, email regardless of source. The definition of “medium” is an agency or means of doing something. Remember this, and you can’t go wrong. Another way to identify your medium is by thinking of common or improper nouns that describe the source.
- Campaign: We use the campaign name to identify a specific product promotion or strategic campaign. This “name” is usually the exact name that appears within the publisher’s interface. For example, if we were running a back-to-school marketing campaign and we set up two ad campaigns to support that initiative, the utm_campaign would be the individual names of those two campaigns within Google Ads NOT the actual initiative. It’s good practice to acknowledge the campaign type within the campaign name for Facebook Ads.
- Term: This parameter is quite versatile. For paid search campaigns, we use this parameter to identify the paid search keyword. However, with Facebook campaigns, it can be used to determine the ad set name, which usually corresponds to a specific audience or targeting. Therefore, to create consistency within Google Analytics, it should be used to differentiate targeting groups such as keywords for paid search, devices, locations, audiences, demographics. Layered targeting can be separated using plus signs. This parameter answers the question “who” or “what.”
- Content: We use the content parameter to identify OR differentiate ads. Usually, we do this by using the ad name. The content parameter can be used to identify an ad group name in paid search as well. Usually, when identifying ad groups in this manner, the ad group name and ad name can both be placed within the parameter and separated by a plus sign. This parameter is essential when it comes to paid social channels since ad creative has a considerable impact on overall performance.
Download the handy UTM parameter setup guide to make your life easier as a digital marketer, especially when it comes to creating UTM’s for large accounts.