What are UTM tags and why are they needed?

How to use UTM tags? Contextual advertising

Marketing activities on the Internet require constant monitoring and analysis. To track the effectiveness of launched contextual advertising, you need to use special tools.

UTM tags are considered one of these tools. They are designed to transfer information about the traffic source to analytical systems and services. These data allow you to carefully analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the developed advertising campaign.

What are UTM tags?

UTM-tag (the name comes from the English abbreviation Urchin Tracking Module) is a kind of variable that consists of the name of the parameter and its value. This data is specified in the URL of the page.

What does a UTM tag look like?

Important! Links that contain such labels are recommended only if you need to work with external traffic sources. When inserting tags into internal links, there may be problems with search indexing of pages and errors in tracking statistics of clicks through external channels.

What are UTM tags for?

Why do we need UTM tags? Using UTM tags allows you to:

  • Get information about all clicks to a specific page, as well as the traffic source. All this information can be obtained and analyzed using reports from special analytical programs or services (Google Analytics, Yandex Metrika, Facebok Pixel, etc.);
  • Get detailed statistics on the fulfillment of the goals of the advertising campaign (applications, sales, filling out forms on the site);
  • Select from the general pool only profitable advertising channels, as well as the most “money” keywords and sites.

What are the types of UTM tags?

UTM tags are divided into two main types – required and optional.


Contain the required minimum set of parameters. For most advertising campaigns, they are enough. The rest are added when more thorough analytics are required.

Required tags include:

  • utm_source. The parameter is required to designate the traffic source. It tells the advertiser where the user came from. Most often, this is the name of a search engine or social network – google, bing, facebook, etc.
  • utm_medium. It conveys the type of traffic and helps to know through which channel the user was attracted. For example, cpc for contextual advertising, organic for organic search engine results, email for newsletters, etc.

Optional (optional labels)

Using this type of UTM tags, you can expand the list of data collected about the target audience, and refine the data received. Thanks to these tags, it is possible to conduct A / B testing of various ads, banners, get a list of keywords that brought traffic to the site, and much more.

Optional tags include:

  • utm_campaign. Used to refer to a specific advertising campaign or PR action. For example, you can use the label black_friday or new_year_promo.
  • utm_term. The parameter is used to track the performance of keywords in contextual advertising. It helps to find out which of the user’s search queries are the most effective, and which ones can be removed from the advertising campaign.
  • utm_content. If you use several different links to the same page as part of an advertising campaign, you can use this tag to identify each individual link.

What does a UTM tag consist of?

What does a UTM tag look like?

The structure of the UTM tag is formed according to a specific template:

  • Parameter. It denotes the kind of UTM tag that is being used. There are two required and three optional parameters.
    Parameter value. It must be unique for each parameter, for example – “cpc”, “bing”, etc.
  • The “=” sign. Used to connect a parameter and its value.
  • Ampersand (&). Connects different parameter-value pairs within one UTM tag.
  • Question mark (?). Separates the main URL from the UTM parameters.

Where are UTM tags used?

  1. PPC campaigns. An advertiser can use tags to understand which marketing campaign brought in the most leads and conversions, which keywords performed best, whether a particular sale was successful, etc.
  2. Email marketing. You can mark up links when sending emails with promotions or as part of a newsletter to understand which of them lead to actions on the part of recipients (purchase a product, register for a webinar, etc.).
  3. Social networks. You can mark up links when placing posts or targeted advertising on social networks. With subsequent analysis, you can identify which platforms drive more traffic to the site and which publications brought the bulk of conversions.
  4. Affiliate programs. To understand how many sales came from partners and affiliates, an advertiser can also use UTM.

Adding a label is a simple process when it comes to multiple links. To do this, select the URL you want to track and decide on the set of required parameters (traffic source and channel, keywords, campaign).

The label is connected to the main link with a “?”. If there is more than one of them, then all subsequent UTMs are interconnected by an ampersand (&). Separate the parameter and its value with “=”.

If you need to mark up a lot of URLs, it’s easier to automate this process. Google Campaign URL Builder or any other online tool will help with this. You need to enter all the necessary parameters there, and at the output you can get a ready-made link with UTM:

Google Campaign URL Builder

How to track UTM tags?

You can usually track clicks on these links in Google Analytics. The tool automatically recognizes UTM tags and includes information about traffic sources in reports.

Google Analytics UTM tracking

To do this, you need to find the “Traffic Sources” item in the left vertical menu. Here you can find the source and channel (utm_source and utm_medium). Information about a specific advertising campaign is located in the “All Campaigns” section. The values of the utm_term parameter are sent to the “Keywords” report.

Dynamic UTM tags for use in Google AdWords

In addition to the required and optional tags, advertising systems such as Google Ads, Yandex.Direct, and Facebook provide additional parameters that can be used when running an advertising campaign in these networks. The table shows examples of such tags for Google Adwords.

UTM tags for Google AdWords

How to use UTM tags correctly – useful tips

Creating UTM tags is a difficult process that requires certain skills to work with it, the ability to correctly interpret and analyze the information received.

There are some tips for optimizing your work with them:

  • A link with a UTM tag must contain only Latin letters;
  • A question mark is required at the end of the link and before the label itself;
  • To tag links, it is better to use the same sequence of variables in the URL. This will make the resulting label more readable, especially if several people are involved in the project;
  • The value of parameters, or variables, is preceded by an equal sign “=”;
  • Use only one case for labeling (for example, GOOGLE and Google will appear as 2 different traffic sources in the final report);
  • You can only use Latin letters, numbers, hyphens, dots, or the “+” sign in the variable name. If you need to add other symbols, you must use the ASCII encoding system;
  • You need to remember that spaces are not allowed when creating labels. Instead, use the plus sign “+”;
  • Labels must be separated from each other. You can do this with the ampersand “&”;
  • The order in which parameters are placed in the link text is not critical;
  • In the case when the label must be attached to a link in which a hash is indicated using the pound sign “#”, the full text with the hash is placed after this icon;
  • Sometimes, the site you’re working with may be configured to redirect URLs with a specific value (such as “?”). Therefore, before launching the AC, it is better to check whether the addresses of pages with tags are cut off on the site.

How to set up UTM tags in Google Ads?

To add UTM tags to your Google Ads account, a so-called tracking template is used. This line can be supplemented with the necessary parameters, which will be monitored in analytical systems.

Setting Google UTM tags Ads

Google automatically completes the chain of required parameters to the URL when the user goes to the site through an AdWords ad.

You can set up UTM tags in Google Ads at the level:

  • ad account;
  • advertising campaign;
  • ad groups.

It is also possible to assign separate tags for a specific ad or keywords.

Important! If tags are added at the ad account level, they will be pulled up for nested groups, advertisements, ads, and keywords as well. In the future, you can connect an additional tracking template that will work at a lower level – for example, for a single ad. Then Google will give it priority.

To set up a tracking template, enter {lpurl} in the corresponding line (Google Ads treats this shortcode as the URL of the landing page), and then after the question mark “?” add the desired labels, separating them from each other with an ampersand (&):

Add tags to tracking template

Attention! If UTM tags are used only to view data from Google ads in Analytics statistics, you can do it easier. Establish a link between your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts, then data on conversions and clicks on ads will be sent automatically, without the use of tags.

All the information written above is relevant for search advertising campaigns. For Google Shopping, you can set a tracking template only at the level of an advertising campaign. To add separate tags for different URLs in Shopping campaigns, you need to modify the data feed for uploading to the Merchant Center manually.

TOP 5 mistakes of internet marketers

Promotional UTM tags only work effectively when they are properly created and used wisely. To comply with these conditions, you need to learn how to avoid the most common mistakes.

The most common mistakes when working with tags:

  1. The question mark before the label itself is missing. In this case, the browser that the user is using does not read it as a label, but tries to find a non-existent page on the site;
  2. Missing separator “&” (ampersand) between labels. In this case, analytical services will not be able to recognize where one label ended, and the second one began, and they will give incorrect statistics;
  3. Multiple question marks. The browser will automatically replace question marks with special characters and again give incorrect statistics;
  4. Mistakes in parameter names. The data that the label carries will remain unaccounted for;
  5. Different names of variables in different campaigns. For example, if you add a UTM tag in one campaign, in which the source is designated as “FB”, and in another as “Facebook”, then it will be extremely difficult to analyze the overall statistics.
Сергей Шевченко
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