Google Analytics UTM Tracking Explained

Conversion Rate Optimisation
Digital Marketing
Paid Media
Performance Marketing

Google Analytics UTM Tracking Explained

A key component to a marketer’s arsenal is the ability to measure the success if their campaigns and marketing activities and optimise accordingly. Tools such as Google Analytics provide important insight to traffic driving activities, but by default might not give you the level of detail required to prove exactly what is and isn’t working.

This is where UTM tags come into play. These are tags added to the end of your URLs that allow analytics tools to more accurately identify and attribute visits to the correct campaigns, channels or ad executions.

Without the use of UTM tags, your campaign traffic might look like this in Google Analytics.

You might notice a big percentage of direct visits or an influx in referral traffic from websites that you are running campaign activity on. These are Google’s attempts at attributing these visits, but they don’t give us much information at all.

By ensuring that we tag all traffic being driven to the website, the above view could change to something more along these lines:

This view clearly shows a distinction between the different types of traffic we might be driving from the same platform, while also cleaning up the direct traffic to provide more clarity.

So how do you go about creating a UTM tag? The Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder is great tool for quickly and easily creating tagged links, but let’s take a look at what parameters a UTM tag consists of.

A UTM tag is a series of query parameters that are added to the end of a URL, and consists of 3 required parameters, and two optional in case more information is required.


The utm_medium parameter is used to identify the marketing channel driving traffic to the website – essentially the type of traffic the user originated from.

Some common examples include social, cpc, sms, email, banner etc.


The utm_source is used to determined the where in relation to traffic, and would include the website or platform that the traffic is being driven from.

Examples of this could include facebook, twitter,, google, summer-newsletter etc.


The utm_campaign parameter tracks which specific campaign or promotion the traffic forms part of. This is used to add a level of detail to the traffic being driven to your website.

These parameters might look like the following examples: q2campaign2019, launch-campaign, jun2020 etc.


The utm_content parameter is an optional field that can be used to add additional context to the link, such as ad type, banner size etc. This could be used to further segment the traffic when you’re running multiple ad formats on the same platform.

Examples could include carousel-ad, 350×200, cta-sidebar etc.


The utm_keyword is another optional parameter, mostly used to identify specific ads, executions or keywords. Again, we’ll make use of these to provide more context to the traffic.

Some examples of these might be ad-execution-1, email-variant1, keyword-name etc.

Now that you know how to construct a UTM tag, here are some best practice tips to ensure you get the most out of your tagging efforts:

  1. Use consistent naming conventions
    Using the same naming conventions for different links ensures that Google Analytics automatically groups these together. Try and use easy to understand names, so that anyone looking at the data knows what it means.
  2. Always use lowercase
    Google Analytics doesn’t distinguish between upper and lower case by default, displaying them as different items. Consistently using lower case ensures that these are grouped.
  3. Avoid using spaces
    The use of spaces in any of your parameters will result in encoded URLs, which isn’t great when you need to analyse the data. As an example, “carousel ad” would be captured as “carousel%20ad” in Google Analytics.
  4. Don’t leave recommended parameters empty
    Always include at least a medium, source and campaign in any of your UTM tags.
  5. Make use of URL shorteners
    URL shorteners will include any UTM tags that form part of your URL, and provide a way of cleaning up lengthy tagged URLs.