What Are UTM Parameters and How Are They Used With Advertisements?

September 11, 2018
Meaning and History of UTM Parameters

UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters were introduced by Urchin, an analytics tool preceding Google Analytics. Google then acquired Urchin in 2005, and incorporated the Urchin technology into their unveiling of Google Analytics during that same year. One aspect that remains of Urchin is the UTM parameter.

UTM parameters are tags placed at the end of your URL that allow you to track where clicks are coming when analyzing your websites traffic. There are 5 different types of UTM parameters available

  1. Source
  2. Medium
  3. Campaign
  4. Term
  5. Content

All 5 parameters help track and analyze how your campaigns are performing.

Types of UTM Parameters
  • A source parameter shows from what site your traffic is coming from. Example: utm_source=google
  • A medium parameter shows from which advertising medium your traffic is coming from. Example: utm_medium=cpc
  • A campaign parameter will track what campaign your traffic coming from. Example: utm_campaign=fall+2018+sale
  • A term parameter tracks from what keyword your traffic is coming from. Example: utm_term=sandals
  • A content parameter is useful when differentiating between two types of ads running to the same URL. Example: utm_content=image or utm_content=text
Formatting UTM parameters

Parameters (including “UTM Parameters”) are added to the end of your page’s static URL. When your page URL ends, you begin a parameter string with a “?” (only one “?” should exist in URL). To add multiple UTM parameters, each should be separated by an “&”. You can add all 5 UTM parameters or do any combination of the parameters that apply to your campaign or ad.

Example: https://clothingstore.com/shop?utm_campaign=2018+sale&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=summer+clothes

If you prefer, Google Analytics offers a free ‘UTM parameter’ builder, or you can make your own in Excel or another tool. Each URL should only have, at most, one of each type of parameter.

Why use UTM parameters?

Using all 5 UTM parameters will help you optimize your paid media efforts more effectively. You will be able to directly compare an image ad’s traffic with a text ad’s traffic and see which technique had better results. You will also be able to identify any source or campaign that may be driving lower quality traffic to your site. This will allow you to truly understand which combination of source, campaign type, and ad type drives the best results for your company.

This is most important for non-Google channels (such as Facebook, Bing, or Gemini). With Google Ads traffic, it’s recommended to enable ‘auto tagging’ which replaces the need for UTM parameters.