- Stick with the values recommended by Google Analytics for source and medium UTM tags
- Keep the campaign UTM tag in the same format across all different advertising networks / channels. For the same campaign, use the same name across different network / channels.
- Assign ownership for UTM tagging to one single person to protect your Google Analytics data quality
- Don’t use UTM tags on internal links as they overwrite the origin of your user sessions and thus destroy your acquisition data.
- No room for mistakes as Google Analytics acquisition data is immutable. Your UTM parameter tracking will stay with you for live.
Why marketeers should read this
With great power comes great responsibility. You might not be aware of the fact that anyone with the power to create a link to your page (or even just browse it) has the power to impact the source / medium (Aquisition > Channel Attribution) data of your Google Analytics reports by adding UTM parameters to the end of the URL.
Marketeers use UTM parameters to attribute the source and type of user sessions on their websites. For example if a marketeer purchases some advertising on a news website, the marketeer will send not only the URL to his/her own website landing page (to which the ads should link) but he/she will prep the URL with Google Analytics UTM parameters. Like this, the marketeer will know how many users came from that news website.
Marketeers in charge of bigger websites will have many different active traffic sources at any given time. Google ads, bing ads, facebook organic content, facebook paid ads, email marketing, … and many more. For all these online marketing activity the marketeer will want to know how many user sessions they deliver for any given period of time, so he/she can determine the return on advertising investment on any single traffic source.
How you should track user sessions from Facebook in Google Analytics
Let’s take Facebook for example. For many professional marketeers, Facebook is more than just a traffic source, it’s at least three: 1) Users clicking on links in third-party posts on Facebook. These we can’t control and they will just show up as social traffic from Facebook. 2) Users that click on links on our own business posts on Facebook. Since we can control the content of such posts, we want to use UTM tags for those links 3) Users that click on our paid ads on Facebook. These we want to distinguish from the previous two traffic sources by using UTM tags.
Here are the most important utm parameters that Google Analytis recognizes.
utm_source: In Google Analytics, the source field of a user session is one of the most important pieces of information. Adding utm_source to a link will override the source that is determined by Google Analytics automagically. For example, a user that comes to your website from Facebook.com will create a user session in Google Analytics with the source
facebook.com As this value is used in other parts of Google Analytics we recommend to not alter this behaviour and only use the real domain from where traffic is coming from. So, for Facebook posts or paid ads, you would always use a link like
utm_medium: In Google Analytics, the medium field of a user session is the most important piece of information. Adding utm_medium to a link will override the medium that is determined by Google Analytics. Google Analytics automagically recognizes traffic mediums such as: organic, none (for direct traffic), referral, cpc, social. Medium is heavily relied on by Google Analytics to create the default channel grouping. Read more about recognized values here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/3297892 – We recommend to stick to these conventions under any circumstance.
utm_campaign: In Google Analytics, the campaign field of a user session is heavily relied upon by the Campaign tab which includes Google Ads. Google Ads Auto-tagging feature will use the campaign names in Google Ads to populate the campaign field in Google Analytics automagically. Beware: Google Analytics will update the campaign field even retroactively if the Google Ads campaign names are changed. We therefore recommend to create guidelines for campaign naming across all paid media networks, including Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and that news website you have booked ads with, too. This essentially means, that you define a global name for your campaigns, and that same campaign name is then used for all media, manually by setting the utm_campaign parameter or automatically via Google Ads campaign names. A good naming convention for campaigns is as follows:
or a bit more machine-readable (this is useful for bigger marketing teams and marketing activities with dozens of different campaigns for filtering and automation):
utm_content: In Google Analytics, the content field is reserved for further information about the ad or text around the link that was clicked upon. This field is normally not set by Google Analytics, so it’s left for you to fill with information for your ad campaigns.
Are there UTM parameters in internal links on your website?
Sometimes a marketeer would like to know whether users have clicked on a specific button, teaser or other element on their journey to a key page. It is best practise to add a query parameter such as
https://your-website.com/?journey=homepage-teasers to such elements. These query parameters are then registered by Google Analytics as part of the page path of the pages visited by users. A marketeer can then filter user sessions by such a query parameter and determine what share of users have reached a key page via such elements.
Mistakenly, sometimes, UTM tags are used for such objectives. This is wrong and UTM parameters should be removed urgently from internal links when found.
Why is this so bad? The scope of UTM tagging is to determine where user sessions on your website originate. UTM parameters on internal links will overwrite this information and it is forever lost. Campaign tracking will be wrong, as some of the user sessions that should belong to a campaign of yours will loose that attribution as the UTM source / medium tags will take precedence when the user clicks on an internal link using UTM tagging on your website.
Oops I did it all wrong. Can it be fixed?
Most Google Analytics data, including source, medium, campaign and content fields are immutable – this data cannot be deleted or changed in Google Analytics – for the rest of your life.
The only thing you can do is correct the wrong UTM parameters as quickly as possible to at least have correct acquisition data in Google Analytics in the future.
It’s best not to sway too much from the default Google Analytics way of classifying incoming user sessions with the source and medium dimensions.
When more than one person is involved in campaigning and online marketing activities, designate one person to have ownership of the UTM parameter setting process. This person should provide UTM parameters for any campaigning activities. Such central management of UTM tags make sure that Google Analytics doesn’t stop making sense without anyone noticing.