Introduction to UTM Parameters for PPC


UTM parameters, or UTM codes as they’re often called, are simple snippets attached to a URL in order to send tracking information to Google Analytics. This tracking information can be used to report on all forms of your PPC efforts, as well as for other marketing campaigns, such as email promotions. If you’re new to PPC and aren’t quite sure what UTM parameters are, this is a great post for you. Even if you’re a PPC pro, this post has some links and resources to help you better manage your UTM parameters.

What Are They?

Here’s the 5 UTM parameters that are used by Google Analytics:

  1. utm_medium: This describes the way in which you reached someone and convinced them to come to your site. Think cpc (PPC), social, email, referral, etc.
  2. utm_source: This identifies the marketing channel or platform that the traffic originated from. Think Google, Bing, Facebook, etc.
  3. utm_campaign: This portion calls out the campaign. It’s helpful if this matches the channel’s naming convention for the ease of reporting.
  4. utm_term: This optional parameter can help to drill down to the keyword level.
  5. utm_content: This optional parameter can help to further drill down into the messaging the user saw. Think A/B tests and content targeted ads.

It’s important to note that source, medium and campaign name are considered required fields. These parameters are able to give you further insights into traffic that can be a specific or broad as you would like them to be. You’ll want to make sure you always, always, always label these the same way. Otherwise, your reporting will turn into a muddled mess later. If you’re working with a client on this, it’s important to come to an understanding of how to use these tracking pieces.

So why should you use these tracking pieces? Rather than reinvent the wheel, this Practical eCommerce post said it best:

  • Accurately track promotions so you know what’s working and what isn’t.
  • Measure performance of different ad sizes in terms of site traffic.
  • Understand which ad copy is driving the most traffic and revenue.
  • Understand the differences in reporting and tracking between your ad channels and your own reporting.

Once you have a campaign that you want to track, check out Google’s URL Builder. This Builder includes a form that will guide you in the process of creating your URLs properly. It is important to understand the different pieces that are able to be added. There’s also a couple of other builders that I found if you’re looking to see what else is out there:

Auto-tagging URLs

Auto-tagging is a feature that can be added to your Google accounts that will let you more easily track at the keyword level. (If you need help turning on your auto-tagging in Google, check this out.) It’s important to note that if you use other marketing analytics software, you’ll want to make sure that your autotags jive with the UTM parameters that you set up. If you need to test auto-tagging for your website, check out this article from Google Analytics Help. If your manual tags use “PPC” but your auto-tags use “CPC”, that information will not show up together in Google Analytics. That can be a headache if you realize it after the fact, so double check that these different platforms use the same terms and work together before launching.

Useful Articles about UTM Parameters for More Information:

This is by no means all that’s out there about UTM parameters, but it’s a good start.

Do you have a favorite URL builder or tip for UTM parameters? We’d love to hear it in the comments below!