What Are UTM Links and Why Do They Matter?

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By Boris Dzhingarov

Analytics is an integral part of any digital marketing campaign. They give you a better insight into different types of data such as the number of people visiting your website, how much time they spend on the website, what pages they visit and so much more. UTM links are a very important part of analytics as they give you detailed information about your traffic sources. Because of how important they are, every digital marketer should be using them. But what are they, and why do they matter?

UTM Links and Parameters

UTM links are simply links that have UTM parameters attached to them. UTM parameters, on the other hand, are query strings that are attached at the end of URLs to help track web traffic.

A campaign URL is made up of two parts; the base URL and the query string. The query string is the string of UTM codes attached to the base URL with these codes used to track different attributes of your website’s traffic.

A typical UTM link looks like this:


Everything before the first question mark is the base URL and everything after that are the different UTM parameters this example campaign is using. With the UTM parameters in place, digital marketers can gauge their campaign’s performance and understand their audience much better, since the paraments will give them insights into their visitors’ preferences and online behavior.

By seeing metrics such as where visitors are coming from and what campaigns made them click your link, you can measure your campaign’s performance and understand what works and what does not. This gives you an idea of how effective the different campaigns you are running are, especially when you need information about channel and campaign-specific traffic as well as your return on investment.

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The Five UTM Parameters

There are five UTM parameters you could add to your base URL. They are:

  • Campaign source (utm_source) – This parameter is used to identify the source of the traffic. The source can be a newsletter, search engine, social media, a paid campaign, or another source.
  • Campaign medium (utm_medium) – This is used to identify the medium a visitor used to find your website. The medium can be Cost Per Click, a QR code, social media, or affiliate.
  • Campaign term (utm_term) – This parameter is used to track keywords used during a paid campaign. The term used is usually the keyword a particular campaign is tracking.
  • Campaign name (utm_campaign) – This parameter is used to identify a particular campaign when you run more than one. The campaign can be a sale, a specific promotion, or even a guest post on another website.
  • Campaign content (utm_content) – This parameter is used to track the effectiveness of different call-to-action words which is useful in differentiating ads or links that point to the same destination but have different anchor text when doing A/B testing.

Why Do UTM Links Matter?

Website visitors can come from anywhere on the internet. When running a lead-generation campaign, you might have any of the following initiatives running:

  • Display advertising
  • Affiliate partnerships
  • Email marketing
  • Paid search
  • Social Media

With so many campaigns, you need a way to see how each of them is contributing to your website traffic, and by how much. If you do not tag your URLs with UTM parameters that are unique to each campaign and channel, you will end up with a messy pile of traffic sources with no way to know which visitors came from where or which channels and campaigns are bringing you the most or the least traffic.

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Because of everything getting jumbled together, it becomes impossible to measure your campaign’s performance or understand what types of content, tone, and information resonate with your audience. In addition, you will not know which campaigns to allocate a bigger budget and which ones need to be terminated.

Best Practices to Follow

To make things easier on yourself or your campaign managers, it is important to follow some best practices when tagging your URLs.

The first practice to follow is to establish a consistent naming convention. Staying consistent reduces confusion and makes reporting easier. Some good rules to follow include using dashes in place of underscores where you can, use a percentage sign to represent spaces and plus signs to link different UTM parameters together.

It is also very important to stay consistent by only using lowercase. When you use uppercase or camelCase in some places, you are forced to remember everywhere you did so, which makes things much harder than they should be.

Your naming convention should also mandate that the codes you use are easy to understand and do not give away too much important information. Remember, people will see the links and the paraments attached to them. So, be sure to keep things clear and avoid any confusing language.

The second practice is to always keep records of all your UTM links, either by using a spreadsheet or software. By keeping these records, everyone on the team, especially the marketing teams, knows to use the same links as everyone else. It is also a good idea to add a style guide that lays out the naming conventions your teams need to use when naming and tagging links for the sake of consistency.

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The last practice is to connect your UTM analytics with your customer relationship management software. By doing this, you will get a clear understanding of how the different campaigns you are running affect your revenue and profits.

Also, you could set goals that are relevant to your campaigns. Depending on what you need to track, you can set up your goals to track leads generated, amount of time spent on your website, number of items purchased, or any other metric you would like to keep an eye on.

Now that we have seen the power of UTM links, tags, and parameters, every marketing team should take the necessary steps to implement them in their campaigns. Don’t forget to track them to get a better idea of how your campaigns are performing and, most importantly, don’t forget to set goals that you can use to gauge the effectiveness of your campaigns.