What are Google UTM tracking tags and when should you use them?

UTM tracking tags are little snippets of text that you can add to the end of a URL in order to help you track where the traffic to your website is coming from and see this information in Google Analytics. If you’re publishing links to your site in email newsletters, for example, then it’s useful to be able to separate out all the traffic from that particular campaign in your Google Analytics

Here’s an example of how that might look. The first part is the standard URL of the page. Everything that’s in red is the UTM tracking tags that have been added to the URL to provide more information to Google Analytics.


The UTM tags don’t change how the URL works at all from the user’s perspective. If someone clicks on that link they will go through to our home page in exactly the same way as they would if they just clicked on a standard, non-tagged version of the link. The only difference is that now Google Analytics has more information about where someone came from if they click on the tagged version of the link.

What information is included in UTM tags?

  • Source – the source is the place from which your traffic came. In the example above we’re sending out an email newsletter, so the source of our traffic is the newsletter. If you’re posting a link on your social media channels then the source might be Facebook or Twitter. If you’re linking to your site from another website then the source might be the name of that website.
  • Medium – this tracks the broader medium through which your traffic has come. Examples of mediums might be social media, referral links or email. In this example our newsletter is sent out via email so the medium is email.
  • Campaign – this enables you to track and group together all the traffic that comes to your website as part of one specific campaign. In this example the campaign tag is specific to this email – it’s a january 2023 newsletter and we use the campaign tag to separate out traffic from this email from traffic from any other emails we might do. However, you could use the campaign tag to track a collection of links that are all part of the same campaign but across different mediums. For example, imagine that we ran a January 20% off promotion and we pushed it out via email but also in our social media posts and through links on partner websites. All those links could include the same campaign tag enabling us then to see all of the traffic that came from that campaign.

In addition to the example shown above, there are two other parameters that you can also add to your links – term and content.

  • Term – If you were running a Google Adwords pay per click campaign then you could use the ‘term’ parameter to keep track of the specific keywords that you were bidding against for a particular ad.
  • Content – A content tag is useful if you have the same link appearing in different places on a page or in an email and you want to track which version of the link someone has clicked on.

How should you use UTM tracking tags?

UTM tags enable you to be as general or specific as you like and there’s a huge amount of flexibility to use them in whichever way makes most sense for you. That said, it is definitely worth giving some thought to how you use them and establishing a protocol that you try and stick to, particularly if multiple people in your organisation are setting up tags. It’s useful to have as much uniformity as possible when you come to look at your data in Google Analytics.

Remember that UTM tags are case sensitive, so if you tag your email traffic with the medium ’email’ and someone else in your organisation tags email traffic with the medium ‘Email’ then that’s going to appear as two separate categories in your Google Analytics reports. Much better to use lower case throughout as that’s the format that Google prefers.

Try and make your UTM campaign names as intuitive as possible. Imagine that someone else is look at them. Would they make sense to that person? You don’t want to have to refer to a list of campaign tags every time you look at your Google Analytics to work out which tag refers to which campaign. Set up a style for your campaign tags that includes all the information you need.

How to build UTM tagged links

There’s nothing to stop you writing these tags ‘long hand’ but it’s generally easier to use some kind of a UTM tracking builder. We tend to use this one – simply enter the tags you want to use into the form and it generates the link you need to use automatically. You then copy and paste that link to wherever you need it. Google Analytics developer tools also provides a URL builder and contains more advice about how to use each of the different categories.

Do I have to use UTM tagged links?

Of course you don’t have to use UTM tagged links. It only really makes sense if you’re using Google Analytics to track the effectiveness of your digital marketing (which of course you should be – more advice on why that is in this blog post!) You may also use UTM tags for some kind of links – to track your email campaigns for instance – but not bother to use them to differentiate between your social posts.

It’s particularly useful to tag any links in your emails with UTM tracking tags. That’s because if you don’t then Google does not know that the traffic came from an email. You can only see email traffic as a separate category in Google Analytics if you have tagged your email links with the medium ’email’.

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