Digital Analytics

How to Create a UTM Code

how to create a utm code

Updated on March 19, 2022

To be successful, marketers need to be able to track their campaigns. One of the tools marketers can leverage to make that happen are UTM tags. Let’s discuss how to create a UTM code to track your marketing campaigns.

What are UTM codes?

First, let’s start with what a UTM tag is. A UTM tag (or code) are the text parameters appended to the end of a URL in order to identify specific criteria when a link is clicked.

UTM tags allow marketers to gain more insight into each click. They make it possible to attribute link clicks to particular marketing campaigns.

Why use UTM codes?

Well, in case it wasn’t clear already, UTM tags allow you to track campaign performance. They provide additional visibility into the acquisition sources. They allow marketers to identify which campaigns and variables (including channels and ad copy) were the most successful.

Adding a UTM code to your campaign link will provide data that otherwise would be lost. In almost every case the data you gain from the UTM tag is not available from a different source.

UTM tags are great, but they aren’t always the answer. UTM tags track acquisition sources (external links) whereas events can be added to track internal links. If you aren’t sure if a UTM tag is right for your need here is some information on UTM tags versus event tracking and when to use them.

How do I make a UTM tag?

Let’s get into the nitty gritty and actually create some UTM codes.

Google offers a Campaign URL Builder that makes it simple to add UTM tags to your URL.

If you use Google’s URL builder, you can enter the desired data into fields and then copy and paste the final URL with the UTM code included. This eliminates the need for any technical knowledge. But, you still want to understand what the fields mean to get the most value out of the data.

Website URL (Required)

The first item you’ll enter is the URL you want the UTM code appended to. If you’re sending traffic to your homepage, then enter your homepage. If you want to add UTM tags to a URL that goes to a specific campaign landing page, then enter the campaign landing page into the Website URL field.

Campaign Source (Required)

In the campaign source field you’ll want to enter the referring source. This will usually be the website where the link could be found. So, it might say the URL of the referring domain, or it may be more vague such as mailchimp or google.

Campaign Medium (Required)

This is where you’ll enter the type of marketing campaign. Some examples would be email, cpc, or banner.

Campaign Name (Required)

This is where you’ll enter the name of the specific marketing campaign.

Campaign Term (Optional)

This is an optional field that can be used to enter in keywords. This field is rarely used with organic efforts or paid Google campaigns. It can be useful for 3rd party (Bing, Quora, and Facebook) paid campaigns.

Campaign Content (Optional)

This is another optional field, but can be very useful. This is where I like to add detail. If you’re creating a link for an email campaign use this field to enter the date sent and subject line.

If the campaign you’re tracking will have different variations, use this field to differentiate them. Trying different ads or send dates? Take advantage of this field. That way you can look at the complete campaign data using the campaign name field, but you still can break the data down by variation when needed.

Are UTM Tags Different for GA4?

The method we just went over to create UTM tags is the same whether you want to track in Universal Analytics or GA4. It uses the same exact tag. You’ll be able to see the data in both profiles.

The one difference you need to be aware of is right now GA4 only shows the required data fields. There is no place to view the optional UTM parameters in the GA4 profile right now. GA4 is still being improved so I’m sure this will change in the future. Right now it doesn’t hurt to add the other data if you’d like it tracked in Universal Analytics, and maybe someday it will appear in GA4 as well.

For more information, Google offers a resource that outlines the exact URL parameters you can add to track campaigns via the URL in GA4.

Make Sure You Entered the Required Fields

Do not forget to add campaign source, medium, and name to your UTM tag. These fields are required. If you forget one, and go to the URL to test it, the page will still load. The page won’t be broken but the data won’t be collected properly. That means, while the page is still accessible you won’t be able to view the data properly in your analytics account.

Use a URL Shortener

Appending all of the UTM parameters to your campaign URL can create a cumbersome and messy looking URL. You don’t want to burden people by asking them to type the entire URL in.

Most of the time you can hyperlink text (create a link) so the actual URL length is irrelevant to the user. But, if you want to track a URL in a printed marketing material or on a social network, you can’t always hide the link URL.

To make your URL with UTM code easier for people to use, shorten it. You can use bitly or ow.ly to shorten the URL to a more manageable length.

UTM Tags are Case Sensitive

It’s important to know that UTM codes are case sensitive. Campaign sources and mediums should be entered in the same way every time. If a medium of email is entered once, and then Email the next time, it will be difficult to analyze the data. Instead of combining those mediums together, they will appear as two separate rows on your data.

For each case variation, added space, and type-o, there will be a new row of data. This is why you’ll want to keep a spreadsheet.

Track Naming Conventions in a Spreadsheet

Track your common UTM tags in a spreadsheet to keep your data as clean as possible. Staying consistent with your naming conventions will make it easy to review and analyze data.

Once you start using UTM tags, you’ll re-use sources and mediums often. Add these to a spreadsheet. Instead of typing them in each time, just copy and paste them. This makes it easier to avoid type-os.

Create some guidelines and document them on your spreadsheet to help reduce future errors. I’d recommend always using lowercase and never allowing spaces. You can choose to replace spaces with hyphens (-) or underscores (_).

Establish a clear naming convention for UTM tags and keep it documented in an easy to share spreadsheet. That way, if anyone else is creating a UTM tag for your company, you can share your rules and keep your data clean and easy to review.

Where Do I View Data From My UTM Tags?

Great, you’ve added UTM tags to all of your marketing campaign links, but now what? Where do I find the data?

Your UTM tag data will be available in your Google Analytics account whether you have Universal Analytics or GA4. If you have both profiles set up, you’ll be able to view it in both.

Finding UTM Data in Universal Analytics

To view it in Universal Analytics, go to Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns.

You’ll be able to adjust the primary dimension to view by name, source, or medium. You can also add a secondary dimension with any of those fields or the optional (term or content) fields.

Finding UTM Data in GA4

In GA4 you can find it under Reports > Acquisition > Traffic acquisition.

You can change the first column dropdown to Session Campaign, Session Medium, or Session Source to view the UTM campaign, medium, and source parameters. If you’d like to view source and medium together you can change the first column back to the default grouping and add an additional column with Session Acquisition > Session source / medium.

Which types of marketing campaigns do you add UTM tags to? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Jennifer Rogina is the Co-Founder & Lead Marketer of ClearPath Online, a DIY SEO tool for entrepreneurs to grow their own website traffic. Jennifer has been a digital marketing specialist since 2008. In that time she has focused on search engine optimization, digital analytics, and conversion optimization.

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