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Understanding UTM Codes

One of the easiest ways to track traffic to your website is through UTM codes.

A UTM, or Urchin Tracking Module, code is text that is added at the end of a URL that you can then analyze through Google Analytics.

Once you understand how to set them up, they are a great way to determine how well your ads, messages, newsletters, or social media posts are performing.

1. Explaining the pieces

There are several elements in a UTM code:

Campaign Source

This tells Google where the traffic came from - a specific place. Examples would be a social media platform, a blog, a newsletter, or another website where your content appears.

Campaign Medium

The campaign medium tells Google how the traffic got there or the channel that was clicked on; an organic social post, a paid social ad, email, cpc etc.

Campaign Name

Here's where you can start to put more specific identifiers on your link. We use things like....well, the name of the campaign. Sometimes this is a larger campaign (Christmas concerts) or sometimes it's a more specific name (Messiah) if we have multiple pieces of content pushing back to the website.

Campaign Term

This is most often used in search ads for keywords and phrases.

Campaign Content

With this piece, you can identify exactly which piece of content generated the click. For example, if you have two or three Meta ads driving to the same URL, or two issues of your newsletter promoting a page on your site, you can be specific about which ad or issue. We like using basic identifiers - the date of the newsletter, what element in the newsletter (header image or button) and sometimes, the format or colour of an ad (yellow background or video).

A lot of this will be up to your own naming conventions, but it's important to make them easily understood by another person. (This is our "abducted by aliens" practice....if you disappeared tomorrow, could someone else easily figure out what's going on?)

Pro tip: Set up a spreadsheet to list important UTM codes to help you keep track.

2. Putting it together.

One important thing - consistency in your naming is important. UTM codes are case sensitive so make sure you use the same format for all your codes. We use lowercase as our default and use an underscore "_" instead of spaces.





A link in your weekly newsletter




Nov_12_ header_image

Ad on another website





Social post





Here's the generated UTM code:



It gets added to the end of the URL, following a "?": utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=book&utm_content=testimonial2

3. Tools & Tips

There are lots of sites out there that will help you build your UTM codes. We really like Google Analytics' Demo & Tools Campaign URL Builder.

You may already have access to a great UTM code generator. Some social scheduling programs (Hootsuite, SkedSocial, Buffer etc.) will do this for you automatically.

When you input your information in the fields, a code is generated that you can then copy and paste:


This code is great when you can hide the long link. A good example is if you're sending the tracking code to a third party to link back to your site.

However, it looks TERRIBLE if you can see the entire link. Your audience sees a long line of gibberish and may not be inclined to click the link.

To clean things up, you should generate a shortened URL. If you have a free account you can connect it to the Campaign URL Builder and it will generate the shorter URL for you.

That's a much better-looking link, right?

If you are building ads in Meta Ads Manager, you can generate UTM parameters right inside the ad.

Now that you know how to label the traffic coming to your site, you need to understand how to find and interpret the results in Google Analytics.

We'll cover that in an upcoming blog!


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