What Is a UTM Tag, and How Do You Create One?

UTM tags can help you get more out of your online marketing campaigns. These snippets of code allow you to track your site’s traffic by source. UTM tags provide valuable insights into the marketing performance of a website, helping you make informed decisions about your online marketing strategies. With UTM codes, you can track where your visitors come from and how they interact with your content.

In this blog post, we will answer the common question of “what is a UTM tag?” and teach you how to create them for your marketing campaigns.

Key Takeaways

  • UTM tags are added to the end of any URL to track the effectiveness of online campaigns. UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module.
  • UTM tags contain five main parameters: campaign name, source, medium, content, and term. You can use UTMs to track the performance of email, newsletter, PPC, and social media campaigns.
  • Google Analytics has a Campaign URL Builder tool for creating UTM tags, but you can also use other analytics tools and sites.
  • Benefits of using UTM tracking include a better understanding of traffic sources, more accurate tracking across devices, deeper insight into campaigns, and the ability to optimize marketing spend for maximum results.
what is a utm tag

What Does UTM Tag Mean?

A UTM tag (also called a UTM code, UTM parameter, or UTM link) is a simple piece of text that can be added to the end of any URL to track the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns. UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module because it was created by Urchin, a web traffic analysis platform founded in the late 1990s. Google bought Urchin’s technology for measuring website effectiveness in 2005 and rebranded it as Google Analytics.

By adding UTM tags to URLs on marketing materials such as emails, online ads, banners, or social media posts, you can identify the source of visitor traffic and gain deeper insights into their behavior. UTM codes help you understand how effectively your campaigns drive visitors to your website and enable you to make data-driven decisions about future campaigns.

Where Do You Use UTM Tags?

UTM codes can be used in many channels, such as email marketing, pay-per-click (PPC), social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, and display advertising networks like Google AdWords. Using these tags correctly will give you deeper insights that allow you to tweak your strategy and campaigns for optimal performance.

What Does a UTM Tag Look Like?

UTM tracking codes are small snippets of text added to a URL that tracks and analyzes campaign performance. A UTM parameter is part of the code assigned to identify the origin point. You can use an analytics tool to create a UTM code, like Google Analytics.

The UTM tag consists of five main parameters combined with ‘?’ and ‘&’ symbols, preceded by your unique website address: utm_campaign, utm_content, utm_medium, utm_source, and utm_term.

A URL with a UTM might look like this: http://yourwebsitedomain.com/landing-page?utm_source=instagram&utm_campaign=10-best-beach-reads&utm_medium=paid-social

The ‘?’ indicates a UTM tag is being used, and the ‘&’ notes that more parameters will follow.

Breaking Down UTM Parameters

UTM tags have five parts: campaign name, source, medium, content, and term. Here’s a deeper look at UTM parameters and the role each one plays:

  • UTM campaign: The campaign is a unique identifier that tracks a specific campaign, such as summer sale, back to school, etc.
  • UTM source: The source highlights the channel used for promotion but with more specificity than medium, pointing to specific social channels like Facebook, Google, or newsletters.
  • UTM medium: The medium identifies the overarching marketing medium or channel used to promote your content, such as email, social media, or paid search ads.
  • UTM content: The optional field of content parameter allows you to track different versions of the same marketing asset within a UTM campaign, such as different ad copy or images. (e.g. green vs. blue button).
  • UTM term: The optional term field helps you track specific keywords used in a paid search campaign that led to clicks on your content, (e.g. shoes, clothes, etc.).

With this information, analytics tools like Google Analytics can better measure your success and help businesses understand their target audience more deeply.

Benefits of UTM Tracking Codes

utm tags

The main purpose of UTM tracking codes is to assess the effectiveness of online campaigns. It helps you understand how website visitors engage with your content and where they come from. This empowers you to make data-driven decisions on optimizing your ads, targeting, and reach.

Better Understanding of Your Traffic Sources

UTM codes allow you to better understand how users are getting to your site. For example, if someone got to your website through a link from social media, you could identify that source by using “utm_source=twitter” code. This way, when analyzing data in Google Analytics, you can easily see which channels generate the most traffic and conversions. Without UTM codes, tracking this information can be difficult and unreliable.

More Accurate Tracking Across Devices

UTM codes also help ensure accurate tracking across devices. When a user clicks on a link on one device but converts on another (for example, clicking on a link in an email on their phone but buying something on their laptop), UTM codes ensure the conversion is credited correctly back to the original source. Without UTM codes, it would be tough to accurately track these kinds of cross-device conversions.

Gain Insight Into Different Campaigns

You can better understand each campaign’s performance independently from other campaigns or projects by creating unique UTM parameters for each campaign or project — such as utm_campaign=summerpromo.

For example, suppose you have multiple campaigns running at once (i.e., newsletter campaigns versus social media campaigns), by creating different UTMs for each one (e.g., newsletter_spring versus social_spring). In that case, you will quickly be able to pinpoint which one performed better in terms of website visits and conversions.

Optimize Your Marketing Spend

It’s much easier to optimize your marketing spend to maximize results over time, thanks to the information from UTM tags. For instance, if newsletter_spring performs better than social_spring, perhaps it would make sense to allocate more resources to future newsletter campaigns rather than social media ones since they provide more value overall (in terms of leads/conversions).

Ways to Use UTM Tracking 

UTMs are crucial for diving deep into your metrics. Using them, you’ll be able to know who engages with your content and where they interact with it most.

See What Kind of Content People Click 

You can use UTM tags to learn what type of content people clicked on when they visited your website. The utm_content parameters will provide this information, allowing you to know which pages were visited or viewed the most and why. This is invaluable for understanding how users interact with your site’s content and helps you create better campaigns around these topics in the future.

Track Where Site Traffic Comes From

Adding the utm_source parameter lets you see which channels drive the most traffic to your website. This information will also answer questions about what is producing the best leads and conversions for your digital campaigns. It also helps you focus your efforts on areas that bring better results.

Get Granular With Source and Medium

When it comes to understanding the origin of website traffic, two parameters can help. These are utm_source and utm_medium. Both represent different communication channels like email, social media, or display ads. However, the source identifies which specific company sent this traffic, and the medium provides additional insights into the type of advertisement, such as paid or earned campaigns.

UTM Tag Basics 

When creating UTM links, there are some best practices you should know. Here are some quick tips for creating and using UTM links correctly:

  • UTM tags are case-sensitive: It’s important to use lowercase letters, underscores, numbers, and dashes when creating a UTM code since they’re case-sensitive.
  • Use unique codes for each campaign: This will help you track which campaigns are performing well and which need improvement.
  • Test your codes before launch: Make sure your tracking platform can properly track all the information in your UTM code before you launch your campaign, and test each link to ensure it goes to the correct page.
  • Keep your codes simple: Don’t use too many parameters in your UTM code, as this can make it difficult to track results accurately.

How to Create UTM Codes in Google Analytics

utm tag

Google Analytics is the go-to tool for creating and tracking each UTM code. While you can create UTM codes on other sites, if you also use GA to get your analytical data, it only makes sense to use their UTM tool as well, which is called the Campaign URL Builder tool. Simply enter the URL of the page you want to track, along with the campaign details (such as campaign name, source, medium, etc.), and Google will generate a unique URL for you to use.

Here’s how to track traffic with UTM codes using Google Analytics.

Access Google Analytics

Once your website is set up in Google Analytics, navigate to the Campaign URL Builder tool to create UTM codes for different campaigns.

Fill Out Your UTM Parameters

Once you’re on Google Analytics’ Campaign URL Builder form, you will add the UTM parameters for your campaign. Enter your website address, source, medium, and campaign name. The term and content entries are optional but will help you keep crystal clear metrics. Each UTM parameter will appear in the URL. Each part of the code reflects the type of promotion for better analysis. The more detailed you are here, the better your tracking will be.

Check Your Tracking Data

Once you’ve created your UTM tracking code, it’s important to keep track of all codes and URLs associated with each one. This way, you will understand the performance behind every marketing campaign. In Google Analytics, click on Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns to select a specific campaign from the list. This section will provide an in-depth look at how your campaign affected your website traffic.

You’ll be able to measure the number of visits you received and where they came from, how long visitors stayed engaged on your site, the average number of pages they browsed during their visit, the percentage of people who ‘bounced’ (left the page without interacting), and any conversions that took place. All this data will help you understand your campaign’s success and make informed decisions about future campaigns.

Best Practices for Using UTM Tags

Here are a few key pointers for keeping things running smoothly when creating UTM tags.

Don’t bother using UTM tags on your website’s pages. You can already track how much traffic you receive to these internal pages on Google Analytics without a UTM code. Adding UTM tracking links to these internal URLs can confuse Google Analytics. You’ll end up with duplicate data that is messy and difficult to sift through.

Avoid Duplicate Codes and URLs

Duplicate URL tracking affects the accuracy of your analytics data, so it’s important to be aware of what new links or codes you are entering into a campaign. When introducing UTM parameters for paid campaigns, ensure you haven’t used the same parameters in the past. Duplicate codes could lead to inaccurate insights, which can be extremely damaging if these reports are shared with clients, partners, or internal teams directly affected by poor data.

Track Each Campaign for Cleaner, More Accurate Data 

Using UTM codes frequently and correctly is essential for keeping your data clean. Tracking unique UTM parameters allows you to segment your traffic and get into the micro-details around campaigns, pages, content pieces, products, and more. With this added level of detail when analyzing website performance, you can ensure stats look as accurate as possible.

Measure Your Success 

UTM tags give you an easy way to measure the success of your campaigns. Over time, you can dig into the data and see how well various campaigns are doing with detailed metrics on conversions, clicks, and impressions. By deepening your understanding of customer behavior and preferences, you can further personalize each user’s experience. Better experience equals better customer satisfaction. Happy customers are long-term customers. Ultimately, UTM tags are crucial for your business’s long-term success.

Don’t Rely Solely on UTM Tags

While UTM tags help you get better insights into your digital campaigns, they aren’t perfect. First-party cookies and other technologies like tag managers are essential to have in place if you want the most accurate tracking and analytics on website performance.

Always Track the Medium for Paid Campaigns

UTM parameters are critical when working with paid campaigns. When running paid ads, it’s critical to set the utm_medium parameter to “CPC” or “paid” so you can easily distinguish organic versus sponsored or paid traffic from all of your campaigns. This ensures more accurate reporting and helps marketers make the best decisions on their budget performance.

Create a Naming Convention for Your UTM Codes

Developing a naming convention for your team is essential when creating UTM codes. Establish a way to distinguish which tags are associated with paid campaigns or organic channels like social media. This helps prevent confusion when looking back at the results later on and keeps data organized, so everyone involved understands what is happening with their campaigns easily.

Final Thoughts

UTM tags help ensure the data you collect is more accurate than manual tracking methods. Without UTM codes, you may be unable to differentiate between organic and paid traffic sources — leading to skewed results that aren’t entirely reliable. 

With UTM code tracking in place, this issue can be avoided altogether, providing you and your team with a more accurate picture of campaign effectiveness.

Now we’ve answered the question of what is a UTM tag, you can get increased visibility into digital marketing campaigns from organic channels like social media or paid sources like Google Ads. Start using UTM tags today to improve your marketing campaigns with data-driven decisions.