UTM Basics and Best Practices for Marketers

UTM Parameters help marketers understand where traffic comes from and helps answer questions like:

  • How many leads did we get from last week’s newsletter?
  • Which ad format performed the best?
  • Which campaign performed better and what can we do to improve the ones that didn’t performed well?

These are some valuable questions and finding the answer is not always easy without having a good Google Analytics setup with proper UTM parameters. Before we dig in deep, let me clearer on the UTM basics:

UTM parameters are simple tags that you add to a URL in order to track a source, medium, and campaign name. This enables Google Analytics to tell you where searchers came from as well as what campaign directed them to you. Here is an example of what a UTM code may look like:


As you see, this is a Google AdWords retargeting campaign running in the US in 2018 with a banner ad of 300×250. Each parameter answers a question:

  • What campaign is this? Google AdWords US Home Page Retargeting 2018
  • Where was the URL clicked (i.e. source)? URL was on Google AdWords
  • Where/how was the URL displayed (i.e. medium)? Retargeting display

This article focuses on some of the best practices for using UTM parameters in online marketing.

  • Standardize your medium and sources – when building campaign URLs make sure you select source and medium values from drop-down lists instead of freely typing values. Facebook.com/social and facebook/SM is completely different.
  • Force all UTM parameters to lowercase – Google Analytics is case sensitive, so ‘Search’ and ‘search’ will report differently.
  • Tag all traffic that you have control over – Even unpaid traffic and links in emails that you send out should be tagged.
  • Never tag internal links with UTM parameters – UTM parameters are supposed to be used for external links only. Tagging internal links of your website will overwrite the original referrer.
  • Use hyphens to separate words instead of spaces or underscores – for example, if you campaign name is “Google Latam Home Page Retargeting 2018” consider using “google-latam-home-page-retargeting-2018”. You should always follow a clear naming convention. Here are some variables you can consider including in you name: ad network, geo, goal, promoted product, and date.
  • Capture UTM parameters in your CRM for proper marketing attribution – This will allow to track which campaign is working better by measuring sales and quality of the leads.
  • Maintain a spreadsheet of all tagged URLs – I recommend maintaining a spreadsheet that stores and catalogs your UTM parameters. Remember that consistency in naming conventions is the number one most important rule.

I created a tag building spreadsheet tool that automatically creates tagged URLs. It includes drop-down menus for faster URL tagging. Click the image below to download.

If you have any questions, post in the comments or tweet me @sebastianbehar.



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