What are UTM tags?

Table of Contents

UTM tags, short for "Urchin tracking module" tags, are parameters that can be added to URLs to provide more accurate traffic information to analytics providers.

They were initially introduced by the predecessor to Google Analytics named "Urchin", hence the name. Since their introduction, near enough all analytics software provides support for breaking down traffic results by these tags.

As somebody who has only recently started learning more about SEO and improving my analysis of web traffic, I thought it might be useful for others to breakdown each of the "tags" and how they're intended to be used.

There are 5 main UTM tags available:

  • utm_source
  • utm_medium
  • utm_campaign
  • utm_content
  • utm_term

Let's take a look at each of them and how they're supposed to be used.

The utm_source tag is used to determine which site or origin provided the traffic. If you post a link on Twitter, you might set the tag to twitter and then use this to breakdown conversions inside of your analytics tool.

The purpose of the utm_medium tag is to distinguish between the generic type of marketing medium, e.g. social media, email, affiliates, etc.

This tag allows you to analyse traffic as a broader level – rather than looking at specific social media sites, you can instead see how much traffic originates from all social media sites.

The utm_campaign tag lets you give distinct names to each of your marketing pushes & campaigns, so that you can compare performance across multiple campaigns.

For example, you might run a marketing campaign and realise that email marketing is performing badly (using the utm_medium and utm_source tags). After making some changes to your marketing material, you want to re-market the same URLs and compare their performance.

If you give each campaign a different utm_campaign source, you can do the comparison and reporting quite easily inside of most mainstream analytics tools.

If you have multiple CTAs on a single page, you can use the utm_content tag to describe which CTA or link was used.

For example you have 2 "Buy" buttons on a page – one of them is green, one of them is black. If you add utm_content=green-buy and utm_content=black-buy, you can compare the conversion rates and traffic from each button and do some rudimentary A/B testing.

This one is normally optional. You'll only really want to use it when you run paid ads that rely on keyword terms.

When you run one of these paid keyword ads, you can place the keywords inside of the utm_term tag and compare the performance between different keywords to see how people are landing on your page.

It's pretty tedious manually adding UTM tags to URLs, especially when the URLs are longer and you lose track of where you were.

To help with this, I've built a little tool that is available on this website to help generate URLs with UTM tags! Head over to the UTM Tag Builder page and start building out UTM-tagged URLs.

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