UTM Parameters: What They Are, How They Work, and How to Use Them

January 10, 2014

Welcome to the second post of our blog series, Win at Retargeting!
Today we’re going to discuss how to use UTM parameters with your ads to track click activity in analytics software like Google Analytics. So in order for this article to be worthwhile to you, you’ll need to first setup Analytics or other similar service.

What the heck is a UTM Parameter?

Before we dive into why you should use UTM Parameters with your ads, let me first give you a brief introduction to UTM Parameters. UTM actually stands for Urchin Tracking Module. The name comes from Urchin, a product Google acquired in 2004.  Today it’s best known as a tracking format Google uses to track your URLS alongside your ads. Have you ever been to a website and noticed something in the URL that looks like this?
That bit after the question mark is a UTM Parameter. When a user clicks on an ad with a UTM parameter attached, they land on a page with the UTM parameters added to the URL.  Google Analytics and other tracking programs see those added parameters and store them for later reference.

What do all these UTM parameters do?

There are multiple parameters you can use with an ad:
utm_source – This is where the traffic is coming from. For a Facebook campaign you might want to use something like utm_source=facebook
utm_medium – A way to describe the ad, perhaps by size or type; utm_medium=fb_sidebar
utm_campaign – Labeled as Name in SharpSpring Ads, an identifier for your campaign; utm_campaign=fb_retargeting
These two parameters are optional, but can also be included:
utm_term – This is typically used in paid search campaigns to determine a specific keyword that you were using the ad for. This parameter isn’t necessarily beneficial for retargeting but you can use this if you wish.
utm_content – Great for A/B testing and identifying the ad; utm_content=10percentoff

Adding UTM Parameters to Your Ads in SharpSpring Ads

When creating an ad, look for the button labeled Add UTM Parameters:

Click the green button and you’ll get to this screen. Add your UTM parameters here:

Add your parameters and click Finish. When you submit the ad, the UTM Parameters will be included in the click URL. You can then track these specific keywords in Google Analytics.

Best Practices for Designing UTM Parameters

There’s no wrong way to design your UTM Parameters, but here are a couple things to keep in mind:

  • Create a standardized naming convention. This will help tracking and organization.
  • Be specific with your parameters, but not so granular that you won’t know which ad is which.
  • Keep all of your parameters in lowercase letters.
  • Be unique and don’t repeat the same keyword again and again. This can make reports very difficult to read.

Finding UTM Parameters in Google Analytics

Once you receive some clicks from your ads, you can track them in Google Analytics:
In the left hand side menu, look for Acquisition. Click that, then click Campaigns.

In the table that appears, look for the Campaign column:

These are all keywords being pulled from the utm_campaign parameter so you can track by campaign type. But we can go into even further detail! Look for the box just above the campaign column labeled Secondary Acquisition. Click that, then click Acquisition, then Medium.

Now you’ve got a second column displaying the parameter of utm_medium!

Now you’re able to see which campaign the ads were running in and the medium the ad was run through. This is a great way to get granular with your ad stats in Google Analytics.
That’s all we’ve got for you today! Look for the next installment in our Win at Retargeting series soon.

As always, you can reach us at ads@sharpspring.com!

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Brian Starewicz

Brian Starewicz

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