How to structure UTM parameters


Written by Caitlin Poliska

June 21, 2016

UTM parameters track web source traffic and the success of content on the web for marketers. These tags are added to the end of a URL and are seen within Google Analytics, helping to identify the best ways to drive more visitors to your website (because you can see what’s already driving them).

Knowing how to structure UTM parameters gives you a foundational piece of your Analytics puzzle, allowing you to have greater insights into what is driving your business forwardUTMs tell the story of how your traffic is coming to you, so it is important to track the performance of each link. Otherwise, they default into the dreaded (Other) bucket that doesn’t provide much insight.

An example of UTM parameters is highlighted in the URL below in blue:

This is where we label the traffic that is generated from this link. A strong UTM link should help you answer some basic questions about your web traffic:

  1. Where is my traffic coming from?
  2. How is it getting directed to me?
  3. Why is it coming to me?

–You may also like: —If you want more content like this how-to for UTM tagging, then our ultimate digital marketing resource guide is for you.

How to Structure UTM Parameters

Use any naming convention that works for you, but I recommend keeping it simple and consistent (e.g. use lowercase letters and dashes and no underscores while omitting spaces.)

I’ve seen analytics become an absolute mess simply because UTM’s have been created with no process or plan! The key is consistency and always using the same UTMs once you establish a naming convention.

There are five different UTM parameters I recommend using at a basic level, which may be used in any order when adding to the URL. The first three are required by Google:

1. Campaign (required): Identifies the campaign title, as it exists in your analytics.

  • Ex: utm_campaign=captain-america-discount

2. Medium (required): Identifies what type of link was used.

  • Ex: utm_medium=social

3. Source (required): Identifies which site sent the traffic.

  • Ex: utm_source=twitter

4. Content: Identifies ad content – it can be ad-size format, link placement, short ad-copy description or any combination thereof specific to the product promotion or strategic campaign. This is often used with PPC or when two identical links are used on the same page.

  • Ex: utm_content=adwords-whitepaper-200x400x
  • Ex: utm_content=headerlink or utm_content=sidebarlink

5. Term: Identifies key search terms.

  • Ex: utm_term=marketing+automation

Be as detailed or broad as you like by using any combination of the above as long as you use the first three (campaign, medium, and source).

Google offers a simple tool to create UTM links where you enter the values in text boxes and it builds the link for you. Your marketing automation platform most likely has a tool as well.

Wait… Don’t Forget These Best Practices!

  • Create a naming convention guide for your marketing team, agency and/or new hires to quickly reference and understand what each parameter means. Consistency is the key with UTM tagging! Have this guide stored in a central location that anyone on your team can quickly reference.
  • Choose the perfect URL builder that’s right for you to help your team manage UTMs. There are free tools available like the Google Analytics URL builder tool, various online tagger templates, or one could be developed in-house using an Excel spreadsheet.
  • Use lowercase letters whenever possible – it’ll be easier to prevent accidents, like utm_source=LinkedIn and utm_source=linkedin as these will show as different sources within your website’s analytics

Want more great content? Get started with more tagging on our Ultimate Marketing Guide, or head over to our Blog or Resources for lots of other marketing-related topics.

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