UTM Tagging in Google Analytics

UTM tracking is a tagging convention for URLs that let you analyze where your users are coming from. If you look on the URLs you click from most marketing email or banner ads, you’ll see UTM tagging. It is those long links that end with things like utm\_source and utm\_medium.

Google Analytics uses UTM tagging to know where your traffic is coming from. Some of this information comes from the HTTP referer but the rest of it you have to supply yourself with UTM parameters. When you see “google adwords” or “email marketing” it means those UTM parameters being recorded from the original link click and then stored in users' cookies. From there, GA uses that data to attribute interesting behaviors on your site. Understanding what those parameters are for helps you understand how best to set up and use UTM tagging.

Best Practices for UTM Tagging

The following lists the five most important things to remember when setting up your URLs with UTM tagging.

1. Aim to tag every URL you can control coming to your site

Every time you ask people to click a link, you should be setting up UTM tagging. This includes all your email links (your email service provider likely has a way to automatically tag your URLs), ad links, press articles, blog posts, etc.

2. Use a tool to create the URL

UTM-tagged URLs can be pretty cumbersome. Instead of trying to type them out longhand, use a tool like this to help you. This ensures you are thinking through adding all sensible parameters to the URL, and you get the URL to copy-paste right out of it. To manage social links, tools like Hootsuite include the option to add custom URL parameters to all of your links.

3. Make sure you are case sensitive in the parameter values

It is important to remember that the tag utm\_source=adwords is a different tag than utm\_source=Adwords. Consider making everything lower-case.

4. Store the UTM parameter values in your database

Each time a transaction or event happens, you’ll want to evaluate the performance of your marketing activities. You can do this by reading the values of the UTM parameter values from the Google Analytics cookie into your database.

5. Think about how you name campaigns

In order to track how your marketing efforts are improving over time, you’ll need to be smart about your naming conventions. Keep it simple and minimize as much as possible. Complicated naming systems are harder to maintain.

Once you are capturing this data in your database, you can evaluate the performance of your marketing and advertising by more sophisticated analysis including Customer Lifetime Value, Repeat Purchase Rates, and Average Order Value.