How to Use UTM Parameters Like an Expert (Template Included)
By Tommy Griffith • Last Updated: August 1, 2021
Learn how to correctly use UTM parameters to track all your campaigns in Google Analytics. Click here to grab this comprehensive walkthrough and template.
Creating UTM parameters (also known as UTM tags, UTM tracking codes, or Urchin Tracking Module parameters ) is a very important part of digital marketing and SEO – mostly because it allows marketers to measure everything they do and optimize along the way, at a very granular level.
If you do it the right way, every single action you take for your online marketing efforts can be quantified.
A UTM code is a tracking code that you add at the end of a URL. Creating UTM codes to track your campaigns on Google Analytics takes only two minutes, and the high-level overview behind it is below:
The goal: to easily create and keep a database of all the UTM URLs for the different campaigns you are executing and which drive traffic back to your website.
The ideal outcome: consistent usage of UTM parameters across your team, across platforms, and across campaigns, which makes it very easy to understand the actual impact of the campaigns you are executing in a third-party tool like Google Analytics.
The importance of this action: this will allow you to assess how effective your marketing is. It’s often very difficult to find consistent usage for UTM URLs, but if you do it the right way, it makes metrics measurement super-easy.
Where this is done: in your UTM Campaign Builder spreadsheet—available for download in this post. This is a freebie we’re offering for you to fill out with your own information.
When this is done: an UTM link is needed any time you plan to link to your site as part of an individual campaign.
Remember: some believe that you only have to do this for paid campaigns – however, this is something you should be doing any time you’re trying to track traffic and drive it back to your website and you want to measure it, as well as any time you are running A/B testing for your marketing campaigns. Or, in other words, any time you are doing campaign tracking.
Who does this: Whoever is responsible for the execution of the specific campaign.
Get This Entire Walkthrough and All the Resources in This Post
Understanding the UTM Campaign URL Builder Spreadsheet
Before I dive into the UTM Builder spreadsheet and show you how I filled it out for the purpose of this example, it is important to learn a bit about how this works and what are the best practices to keep in mind:
Fill out the custom campaign parameters first: Your campaign name, the base URL, the source, the medium (i.e which of the marketing channels or campaign medium you are using: social media, PPC or CPC ads, email campaign, etc.), and maybe the content as well.
Stay away from special characters – use only numbers and letters. It just makes it easier for everyone.
The spreadsheet will automatically generate a destination URL that always uses lowercase. Google Analytics UTM tags are case sensitive, so you don’t wanna miss any data by not knowing if your case is right with a specific campaign.
The URL generated by the spreadsheet will not use spaces – you can use them in the cells of the sheet, but on the search engine they will be eventually changed in the final website URL. In the digital marketing world, URLs dashes and hyphens are spaces. This gets mixed up especially by programmers because they use underscores – but remember, you want to use hyphens in all UTM terms (spaces will just get encoded weirdly, with a “%20”).
You might also want to implement a rule in your organization regarding the use of hyphens so that everything is consistent. With this spreadsheet, you couldn’t do anything wrong in any way, precisely because the spreadsheet will not allow you to do anything like this.
The spreadsheet will also add the current date automatically when the website URL is generated. This is super-helpful because you want to keep a time reference of your tags both inside the Google Analytics tool and within your UTM log. This way, when you will be analyzing big time periods, you will be able to quickly get a general idea of the period when that specific URL was promoted.
The date is also generated in a way that allows you to sort by the date, inside your analytics tool, by sorting it by a name inside the platform.
This spreadsheet will also let you select your source, mediums, and placements from the list. This is important because you want to make sure everyone in your organization tags using UTM parameters in the same way. For example, if one teammate uses Campaign source equals “FB” and another one uses Campaign source equals “Facebook”, this can cause problems. You want everyone to have this consistent pattern. It makes way for easier metric analysis later on.
Some of the columns in the spreadsheet have preset drop-down menus you can select according to your particular situation. If you don’t need all of these, or if you need to add other options in the dropdown menus, you can edit them (add or remove lines to the columns) in the “Settings: Source/Medium/Placements” tab in the spreadsheet.
Filling Out UTM Campaign Builder spreadsheet
Okay, so here’s how I filled my own UTM campaign out – use the following as an example and apply it to your particular business needs:
Click on the URL you have just generated using the spreadsheet.
Click on the Google Tag Assistant Chrome Plug-in.
Make sure it’s enabled, then click “Record” (on right-hand side).
Refresh the page.
Go back to the Google Tag Assistant Chrome Plug-in and click “Stop Recording”.
Click “Show full report” (blue button) → “Google Analytics Report”.
On the report, you will see all the parameters of your Google Analytics campaign. If they all appear there, your UTM parameter URL worked.
If you are not seeing any results (no analytics found, no information found, no data found, etc.), check to see if you’re not using an AdBlocker or some type of Google Analytics opt-out (that blocks Google ads or your traffic from Google Analytics). Disable that and try to test your UTM parameter URL again.
That’s it! You’ve learned how to build UTM URLs using our builder template and you’ve tested that your URLs are working properly—now you’re ready to start tracking all your marketing efforts in Google Analytics.
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Tommy Griffith has been doing search engine optimization for almost 10 years. He was previously managing SEO at PayPal and Airbnb.
He feels weird writing about himself in the third person, but admits that it sounds slightly more epic.