The Complete Guide to Using UTM Parameters in Your Digital Marketing


Measuring your digital marketing campaigns can be tricky, as the buyer journey is never quite so straight forward in the modern digital age.


How is it possible to determine the most popular referral sources for you business? Many make the mistake of attributing their campaign success according to which platform provides the most direct traffic. However, lead nurturing is a multifaceted and complex beast. No one channel is responsible. It is important to be more sophisticated in your attribution modelling nowadays.


This is where Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) parameters become very handy. UTMs are essentially tags you can add to the end of URLs to provide information about how the user got there. UTMs are used regularly by many a Digital Marketing agency.


An example of this could be:



The above line is the original link, whilst the line below it is UTM tag. In this example, the UTM parameters tell us that the person who arrived at the page visited the page through Facebook via social media from the SEO campaign being run there.


Urchins web analytics developed UTMs in the early 2000s and sold their company to Google in 2005, before turning into Google Analytics. Today UTMs are the most common form of marketing tracking.


Unfortunately, UTM parameters can be misleading as the majority of links are copied and shared on various platforms and sites online. This means that your UTM tag for Facebook might be shared on Twitter, then when reshared it looks like Facebook was the popular referral source, when in fact it was Twitter.


Although it has it’s obvious drawbacks, it is still a very good way to organise your campaigns and attribute traffic with greater detail. By applying UTM parameters in your campaigns, you will observe the buyer journey in far more granular detail. UTM parameters are regularly used by a content marketing agency to measure and validate their campaigns.


UTM Parameters Explained


“UTM parameters are simply tags that you add to a URL. When someone clicks on a URL with UTM parameters, those tags are sent back to your Google Analytics for tracking.” (Kissmetrics 2017)


Above is a very succinct definition of UTM parameters. UTM parameters are not as complex as you might expect. Just remember that all you are doing is assigning a tag to a link.


However, if you would like that added bit of assistance, Google have a handy URL builder tool that will guide you through the process of preparing customised campaign URLs –


There are five parameters that you can attach to a UTM tag. They are as follows:


  • Campaign Source – The platform that the visitor has come from ie. Email, Facebook, AdWords;
  • Campaign Medium – Identifies the type of source being used i.e. Social media, QR code, affiliate marketing;
  • Campaign Term – This can be used in AdWords campaigns to tell identify the keyword or type of display content;
  • Campaign Content – This is a great way to identify different A/B testing;
  • Campaign Name – This parameter is used to identify the campaign.


Best Practices for UTM Parameters


UTM parameter tags can be simple to start out with, but the longer a campaign goes the tougher it can be to keep your tracking system organised. Try out these tips for improving the quality of your UTM tags and campaigns.


Are you looking for a content marketing agency? Finding one that understands measurement is crucial.


1. Create a consistent naming system for all your UTM tags


Consistency is everything in keeping an ordered UTM campaign measurement system. Dashes are easier to identify than underscores, percentages and plus signs.


2. Keep everything in lowercase


UTM tags are case sensitive. Don’t make things more complicated by capitalising certain letters. Keeping each parameter in lower case means you avoid the chance of human error in your tagging.


3. Don’t be messy, be smart


Clean and descriptive URLs that are easy to read is what you are looking for when you create UTM tags. Don’t repeat yourself. Some marketers make the mistake of not differentiating between source and medium. A source would be Facebook, whilst the medium would be Social media. Writing out Facebook twice is definitely poor practice.


4. Keep track of all your UTMs in a Spreadsheet


By having a Spreadsheet which lists all your UTMs you will have an easy reference and able to better manage your data when you receive it back in your Google Analytics dashboard.


5. Connect your tracking data to your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software or to Google Analytics


Login to your CRM and connect your tracking data. If you don’t have a CRM, use the ‘Goals’ function in Google Analytics. This data can be good to have in your back pocket, but still priorities concrete data such as lead generations and conversions.


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