How to and Why Create UTMs for Your Marketing Channels

Data Analytics

What is a UTM Code? (Urchin Tracking Module)

A UTM is a snippet of code, also called parameters, added to the end of links in order to track promoted content to your website. The three required parameters added to links are Campaign, Source, and Medium. The parameters Term and Content are also used, but are used with paid search and A/B testing campaigns. Definitions for each term are as follows:

  • Campaign: Used for your strategic campaign name that differentiates itself from other campaigns. Be sure to note that this parameter is case sensitive. Example: “SpringSale” would be a different campaign from “springsale,” which has all lowercase text.
  • Source: Used to label where traffic will be coming from. Could be used to identify a specific newsletter, social network, or another referring website that you’d like to name.
  • Medium: Used to label if the medium type is cost-per-click (CPC), a social platform, email, or other media type.
  • Term: Used for paid search to specify keywords in ads.
  • Content: Used to differentiate A/B ads that point to the same link.

Why is it important to track UTMs?

Using UTMs is not only important for knowing which of your marketing campaigns is generating traffic, but also for pinpointing which source or platform is the key driver of traffic to your content. It’s also possible for website analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to incorrectly label the medium traffic to your website. For example, “” and “” sources (the mobile versions of Twitter and Facebook) get labeled as “referral” traffic instead of “social” traffic when doing a medium traffic analysis.

Example screen grab of the Google Analytics Acquisition report for Source / Medium and how social traffic can be hidden in your Referral channel.

Unless a deeper analysis is done to see the source traffic, social campaigns can appear less effective than they actually are in Google’s Acquisition Overview section. This issue can be resolved for links you promote leading back to your site by using UTM links, but can also be fixed in Google Analytics (if you have admin access) by following Bonfire Digital Strategist Alex Gabriel’s instructions for modifying your Default Channel Groupings.

How to make UTM links

You can create UTM links using several methods. The easiest way for making a few links is using Google’s Campaign URL builder (scroll down to the URL builder form). Fill in the UTM parameters and then click Generate URL at the bottom of the form.

Create your UTM tracking code with Google's URL builder form.

If you need to make a large number of links for a campaign, the best method is creating a spreadsheet that automatically adds your UTM parameters to the links you enter. To do this, you can use the CONCATENATE function, which will combine the parameters with your link and save you from having to add them manually. This function is used in the UTM link column in the spreadsheet example below:


Use an Excel function to generate UTM tracking codes.

If you want to go a step above and beyond, it’s a good idea to use a link shortener to help keep your UTM links in tact and to make them more visually appealing.

For making just a few links, the best tactic would be pasting the UTM link into the short links platform. But if you need to create a large number of UTM links, I recommend using Bitly’s Spreadsheet API that they created thanks to valuable feedback from yours truly. Follow their instructions and modify the function code in order to work with a spreadsheet you already have.

 Use an Excel function to build UTM tracking codes and Bitly to generate short URLs for social.

Bonus: UTM link best practices

  • Make sure you don’t have UTM codes / parameters on your link already. Adding another set of code will make tracking incorrect.
  • Clean up your links by removing “/” at the end before creating them.
  • Bitly your UTM links to ensure parameters stay in tact and for a better appearance.
  • Always make sure your link works with code added to it!

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