A Beginners Guide to Tracking with UTM Parameters

Originally published at the Oribi blog.

Learn how to use UTM parameters to know where your traffic is coming from.

Knowing where your website traffic is coming from can be crucial. Does your traffic come from your social media channels? Or maybe from your blog? Which paid acquisition channel is bringing you more users? Where do you get your highest quality users from?

Fortunately, there is a very easy way to answer those questions by using UTM parameters for tracking.

What are UTM parameters?

UTM parameters are simple additions of tags that can be added to URLs. The UTM parameters contain the needed data for tracking, like which channel and campaign deliver traffic to your website. You decide what to enter as UTM parameters, so it’s easy to identify the different parameters later on when analyzing traffic on Google Analytics (or any other tracking system that supports it like Mixpanel). Once a URL with UTM parameters gets clicked on, Google Analytics gets all the data from the UTM parameters on the URL, and it’s possible to segment the traffic.

You can use UTM parameters on any URL to your website. It can be a sponsored ad URL or even a link from your blog to your product sign up page. No matter how you use them, Google Analytics will have the data from the UTM parameters.

Here’s an example of a link with UTM parameters:

http://app.oribi.io/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=campaign_promotion

Of course, you will use your own website, as we used ours — app.oribi.io.

How to create a URL with UTM parameters?

The best way to get started is to use the Google URL builder:

https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/

In the Google URL builder, you simply enter the different parameters:

A URL with all your UTM parameters will automatically be generated:

Now you can simply copy it, and use it in your ad, post or whatever you meant to do with this URL. If you are using it for a social media post, it’s a good idea to shorten it. You can do it directly from the Google URL builder.

Tip: If you need to create URLs in bulk, you can use Excel to do it. Create your first URL with the URL builder, copy it to Excel and then make different variations of it using the Concatenate formula.

There are three basic UTM parameters to use:

1. UTM Source — Where the traffic is coming from

The actual source of traffic, meaning the channel you got the traffic from.

For example, if you are creating a URL for a paid traffic campaign on Facebook, the source is “facebook”, and the URL will look like this:

http://app.oribi.io/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=acquisition&utm_campaign=oribi_brand_campaign

If you are building a URL for a social media source, like your Twitter page, the source can be “twitter” or “twitter_page”, depending on how granular you want to be in your sources segmentation. The URL will look like this:

http://app.oribi.io/?utm_source=twitter_page&utm_medium=social_media&utm_campaign=utm_parameters_post

2. UTM Medium — The type of traffic, or which kind of tool you used to get it

Medium is the higher level. This is actually the medium used to get the traffic: Social media, acquisition, website etc.

For example, if you are building a URL for a paid search campaign on Google AdWords or Bing, the medium can be “acquisition”, “search” or “paid_search”, depending on how you wish to divide it. The source, in this case, will be “google”, “google_adwords” or “bing”. So the URL will look like this:

http://app.oribi.io/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=acquisition&utm_campaign=oribi_brand_campaign

Another example can be, If you are building a URL that will lead to your website from your Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter pages, the medium will be “social” or “social_media”. The source, in this case, will be “google”/”google_page”, “twitter”/”twitter_page” or “linkedin”/”linkedin_page”. So the URL will look like this:

http://app.oribi.io/?utm_source=twitter_page&utm_medium=social_media&utm_campaign=utm_parameters_post

You can also use Medium to distinguish between CPC, CPM or any other bidding methods you may use. From my personal experience, it is better to use Medium to actually distinguish between the mediums you are using. This information will help you with making key decisions about your digital strategy.

3. UTM Campaign — The actual campaign that you got your traffic from

This is where you put the actual campaign name. If it’s a paid traffic campaign, simply copy the campaign name from your paid channel. For example, if it’s a paid search campaign on Google AdWords, that is called “broad keywords search campaign”, use it as such:

http://app.oribi.io/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=acquisition&utm_campaign=broad_keywords_search_campaign

But what do you do if it’s not a paid traffic source and there’s no actual campaign name?

Just use whatever will help you as an indication, of what you did to get traffic. For example, if you are building a URL that will lead users from one of your blog posts (let’s call it: “How to really use UTM parameters”) to your product, the URL will look like this:

http://app.oribi.io/?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=How_to_really_use_UTM_parameters

What else can you track with UTM parameters?

There are more parameters you can track, especially for paid search campaigns. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

1. Keywords — utm_term={keyword}:

Use this UTM parameters on your paid search ads, to segment your traffic by the keywords you are using to target. You Don’t need to actually put in the keywords. When using the keyword UTM parameter, Google AdWords & Bing will automatically send back the actual keyword.

2. Ad ID — ad={creative}:

Segment your traffic by your ads. This UTM parameter will give you data by the ad ID on google AdWords.

3. Match type — mt={matchtype}:

Segment your traffic by the keywords match type. See which match type got you better users, is it Exact, broad or phrase?

4. Ad position — adpos={adposition}:

Segment your traffic by the ads position, meaning the location of the ad in the Google search results page. See which average position you should aim for.

Tip: Pay close attention to this one. Many advertisers tend to think they should aim for an average position of 1–2 with their keywords bids, but in many cases, you will see that the users you got from the positions 3–5 are your highest quality users, and those are the ones you are really after. In this case, you can definitely go ahead and lower your bids.

So, a search ad URL with UTM parameters will look like this:

app.oribi.io/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=acquisition&utm_campaign=broad_oribi&utm_term={keyword}&ad={creative}&mt={matchtype}&adpos={adposition}

These are the main UTM parameters to use, other than source, medium, and campaign. There is another optional UTM parameter you can use:

5. Content — utm_content:

Use this UTM parameter to differentiate the content of your ads. For example, if you are testing some ads, with two different call to actions.

The importance of consistency

Using UTM parameters is very efficient to understand where your website traffic is coming from, but it is very important to do it correctly in order to really understand it, and make the right decisions based on it. Our advice is to create a set of rules on how to use UTM parameters and make sure everyone on the team follows those rules. If the UTM parameters usage is not consistent, and everyone will just fill in whatever they want, you will end up wasting time trying to figure it out on Google Analytics.

Here’s a short example of how to set the rules:

Or, you can even get more granular. For example, breakdown your paid traffic even deeper:

But how do you see the results from your UTM parameters?

In Google Analytics, you can easily segment your different UTM parameters. There are many ways to use the segmentation on Google Analytics.

For example, if you want to analyze the traffic of one of your blog posts, simply enter the post on Google Analytics >> Behaviour. When you are on the post data, click on “Secondary Dimension”, and this drop down menu will open:

Click on Source/Medium, and you will get the full segmentation of your blog post traffic by the campaign and source UTM parameters you used in your URLs:

As you can see we got most of the traffic to our blog post from a Facebook post on our page:

Source: facebook

Medium: social

Of course, there are much more ways to use what you tracked with UTM parameters on Google Analytics or any other system you are using with tracking abilities. This is just one great example of how using UTM parameters helps you segmenting your traffic, and make the right decisions in your digital strategy.

Well, now you know how to use UTM parameters. Make sure to always use them in any new URL, or ad you are creating. Keep the way you create them consistent so you will always know what the data you see actually means.

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