6 May

Top 5 Best Practices for UTM Parameters

UTM Parameters help marketers understand where traffic comes from and helps answer questions like:

Which medium & source performed the best?

Which campaigns were successful and what can we do better on campaigns that did not perform as well?

How many conversions did we get from last week's newsletter?

These are valuable questions and finding the answer is not always easy. It's even more difficult if your team has yet to adopt UTM Parameters naming standards. While there is no official W3C or Google UTM standard, it's still important to define naming standards that work for your organization.

Full Disclosure: CampaignTail is a Campaign Builder

1. Force All UTM Parameters to Lowercase

Google Analytics is case sensitive, so 'Social' and 'social' will report differently.

UTM Parameters Force Lowercase

2. Standardize your medium and sources

When building campaign URLs your team should select source and medium values from drop-down lists instead of freely typing the values in. This prevents misspellings and prevents one team member from using the source/medium of 'twitter/sm' and another from using the source/medium of 'Twitter/Social' or 'twitter.com/social' (c'mon man!!!)

Yes, this is all too common. Let's face it, no one likes writing regex statements to piece these together.

UTM Parameters Medium and Sources

3. Use a Campaign Builder Tool

The most common URL builder is Google's URL Builder. There are other URL Builders that offer more features (blog coming soon..."Top 5 URL Builders"). CampaignTail allows teams to build, shorten, and view analytics for campaign URLs. The URL builder helps maintain consistent standards across your team. Each URL is automatically shortened. Google Analytics is integrated, so you can easily see how many users/sessions were attributed to each campaign link. Better yet, you can see how many were attributed to your goals.

UTM Parameters Analytics

4. Use Hyphens to Separate Words Instead of Underscores or Spaces

Google actually recommends using hyphens instead of underscores. So if your UTM campaign name is 'new product launch' consider using 'new-product-launch'. Again, consistency and maintaining good data quality will go a long ways when doing detailed analysis.

Campaign Name - UTM Parameters

5. Use a Date Stamp (YYYYMMDD) in the UTM Content to Represent The Launch Date of the Campaign

Including a date stamp will provide the launch date for each campaign. This is valuable to see when viewing the data in Google Analytics. This prevents you from going back to your spreadsheet to find out when you sent the newsletter or posted on Facebook. This also helps prevent duplicate campaign codes.

Campaign Content - UTM Parameters

Additional Notes

I've seen a lot of excel spreadsheet templates that help marketers build UTM campaign URLs. If you are a team of one, maybe a spreadsheet is your best option, but if you are on a larger team, the excel document quickly becomes a garbled mess. Also, there are other issues with spreadsheets like when multiple users need to edit the document at the same time. Make sure your document is backed-up either on a shared network drive or in the cloud. You don't want to lose all that hard work.

If you have other best practices that you or your company want to share, please provide your comments below.

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Brad Booth is a Digital Analytics Implementation Professional. He works with the implementation and analysis of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. He is also certified with Ensighten Tag Manager. Before focusing on analytics, he was a web developer. Things you didn't know about Brad: he lives in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. He played football in college and semi-pro. He enjoys working out and eating/cooking healthy.

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