Introduction

UTM tags are an easy way to put information about a link directly into the link itself. This way you can tell more about the link than just where they came from. UTM tags let you categorize and organize both your marketing efforts and the actual traffic that they produce. UTM tags stands for Urchin Tracking Module, which was the first version of Google Analytics. Nowadays, that platform is unrecognizable and everyone calls them simply ‘UTM' or 'UTM tags'

For example, suppose you are running a shoe store online and it’s your job to bring traffic in to buy shoes. You might run paid ad campaigns that show up when people search for shoes on google, bing, etc. You also might run social campaigns to build up your audience on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, etc. You might get features in “Shoe Monthly” magazine and get tons of media coverage from sites like show-lovers.com, shoe-shoe-shoe.com, etc.

All of these sources of traffic need to be tagged with UTM tags in order to quickly identify the traffic as part of your campaigns. For example, a social post might have a link like this one (notice the UTM tags!):
https://www.shoe-store.com/landingPage?utm_medium=social&utm_source=instagram&utm_campaign=SummerShoeBlast&utm_content=8-10-16

When users follow this link, it will be very easy to see where they came from: a social posting on Instagram in the SummerShoeBlast campaign, with link named 8-10-16.

The next section will talk more about how to best organize your traffic.

UTM is for Organizing Traffic

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UTM tags not only tell you where the traffic came from, but also helps you organize your marketing efforts. UTM tags have several levels of organization:

  • utm_medium: This is the highest level of organization and is often used to delineate between the various types of traffic. Common mediums include: Paid, Email, Organic, Referral and Direct.
  • utm_source: Within a medium, the source defines where the traffic came from. For example, within the Paid medium, sources include the paid network you’re running on: Google AdWords, Facebook, Outbrain, etc. For free referral traffic, this is usually the site that sent you the traffic.
  • utm_campaign: This defines an individual campaign with a specific source, mostly used for Paid and Email traffic where the marketer is intentionally building the links to drive traffic.
  • utm_content: This is the lowest level of categorization and can be used to specify individual links that drove traffic. These can be specific ads, specific links inside an email or even specific posts on social media.

There is no single standard for UTM tags. Lots of folks use them in slightly different ways, but always to identify and organize their traffic. For example, some people mix paid social and non-paid/organic social. As you get more experienced with tagging, you’ll develop your own preferences for how you want to organize your traffic.

UTM tags have become the de-facto standard for understanding activity on the web. Attribution.io calculates the source of the best performing traffic and uses your existing UTM tags to organize the results and keep everything simple. Once you have your UTM mediums connected to the mediums on Attribution.io, everything else will be learned by the platform as it finds links with new tags.

Best Practices

There are so many best practices that it will be hard to list them all, so here are a few that we’ve found helpful:

  • Be thorough: traffic without UTM tags can be hard to identify and can be left out of critical analytics. Be sure to use them for every link that you can control. Don’t forget about: social posts, email links (marketing and transaction mails!), search and display ads (of course) and 3rd party co-promotions.
  • Be consistent: The beauty of UTM tags is how they combine the activity into simple groups. If you constantly change how you organize the traffic then it will be very hard to make sense of the activity and the groups will become incredibly confusing. Be careful that your tags are set before you publish materials because in many sources it can be impossible to undo mistakes (e.g. links in an email blast can't be changed after sending).
  • Be aware: UTM tags make it easy to sort, order and analyze your traffic. If you’ve put all this work to make them clean and tagged nicely, don’t forget to look at your metrics and see what’s working!

Tools

Keeping track of all these URL parameters can be a pain and typos are common. Here's a few tools to help keep things straight.

What Now?

Interested in using your UTM tags to get amazing insight? Read on to see how it powers attribution modeling in the attribution modeling introduction..