To track the performance of your marketing campaigns, you’ll need to use UTM parameters. Simply add UTM tags to any campaign URL via a free UTM builder or a premium UTM tool. When someone clicks that tagged URL to go to your site, Google Analytics recognizes the tags, processes them, and converts them into usable data in the Acquisitions report.
Let’s explore the details of exactly how to append UTM tags to your links and where to find the reports in Google Analytics and GA4.
What Are UTM Tags?
UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. It was originally used by Urchin Software Corp. to track web traffic. Google bought Urchin in 2005 and the rest is history.
Although UTMs are generally associated with Google Analytics, many analytics and marketing tools have adopted them. This means when you use Google Analytics UTM parameters, you’re also feeding many other tools — such as your email provider — with data that they can collect and analyze. This in turn provides you with practical insights and data granularity for improving marketing campaigns.
There are five basic UTM parameters. Three of these, utm_source, utm_medium, and utm_campaign, are required. The other two, utm_term and utm_content, are optional. More advanced users can also customize UTM tags.
What Data Will UTMs Add to Google Analytics?
Links with added UTM parameters help Google Analytics (and all other analytics tools) collect detailed information about what drove traffic to your site. It also ensures that traffic sources are identified correctly in GA reports. For example, channels such as social, email, and display get misattributed as Referral or Other without UTMs. This will make your campaign reports incomplete or downright wrong. But when URLs have added UTMs that are properly set up, you get accurate campaign reports — which are exactly what you want when you’re making decisions that will drive your marketing strategy.
When URLs have UTMs, Google Analytics generates relevant and detailed campaign metrics such as:
- The specific source of the traffic (not just the website but which specific page)
- Which link on the page the user clicked
- How users got to your site (banner ad, social media, organic traffic)
But it doesn’t stop there. Once you have the above data, you can then connect it to other reports in GA to help you answer many of your marketing questions such as:
Where to Build UTMs & How to Build Them Well
You build UTM tags outside of Google Analytics. Simply choose which URLs you want to add campaign data for, add UTM tags to them, and use these modified URLs in your marketing campaigns.
There are three ways to do this for effective Google Analytics UTM tracking.
1. Build UTMs in a semi-automated spreadsheet
You don’t necessarily need fancy-schmancy tools to build UTM tags. You can modify URLs using a simple but powerful UTM spreadsheet that automates building the tagged URL and organizes your links.
The problem? Once the number of links you need to track increases, the possibility of errors and inconsistencies also grows. This will mess up your data. So from the onset, track all the UTMs you build to prepare for any future changes.
2. Use free tools
Free online UTM builders automatically generate UTM codes. Simply fill in the tool with your campaign information, and it automatically modifies the URL for you.
UTM builders accelerate the time it takes to build campaign URLs. However, this still leaves a gaping problem. That is, if you have a lot of URLs to track and you’re working with a big team, it’s easy to make clerical errors or be inconsistent with campaign names. A small mistake like using a capital letter instead of a lowercase one can skew the data that Google reports show you.
3. Use specialized tools like UTM.io’s premium version
You get more control when using premium UTM builder tools. If you’re running a big campaign or tracking a lot of URLs, a premium tool guarantees consistency. Even if a user is from a different team in the organization (sales, marketing, or product department), or even if they’re new, they’ll be using the same parameters as everyone else. No one messes up. Everybody works faster. Everything’s organized.
Build Consistent UTMs Across Teams
How to Build the Best UTM Tags
The way you build UTM tags will determine what you see in Google Analytics reports. To build the best UTM tags, follow these three rules:
- Start simple. Use parameters based on Google Analytics’ channel grouping.
- Set up a naming convention so everyone in the team uses the same tags and you end up with data that is reliable and usable. Consistency is key.
- Build clearly-labeled UTMs so that users still understand what they mean in five years.
For more details, read our complete guide to building the best possible UTMs.
Will Google Analytics Automatically Track URLs with UTMs on Them?
Out of the box, Google Analytics is already configured to automatically track URLs with UTM tags.
When you modify a URL by appending UTM parameters, GA sees the added tags, which then become fodder for determining granular data it would otherwise not have access to.
It will not only know the source of the traffic but also specific details about user behavior, for example, which link they clicked in an email.
How to Check That Google Is Tracking UTMs
After modifying a URL with UTM tags, you can easily verify if Google is tracking the UTM parameters or not:
- Copy the URL with the UTM parameters
- Paste the URL in a browser’s search bar
- Go to GA Reports>Real-time>Traffic Sources
If Google is tracking the UTMs properly, then you’ll see this reflected on that page.
Where to See UTM Data in Google Analytics and GA4
So you’ve added UTM tags to all campaign URLs. Wait for traffic to come in, then go to Google Analytics to analyze the reports and glean insights about traffic behavior.
Where to Find UTM Data in Universal Analytics
Reports based on UTMs are available under Acquisition reports. The data that you’ll see here will be taken straight from the UTM tags you use in the modified URLs.
Go to Reports on the left column of the Google Analytics dashboard.
Then click Acquisition>Campaigns>All campaigns
By default, this page will show you the names of the different marketing campaigns that you use in your UTMs.
From here, you can examine other data for the other UTM parameters.
You have the option to look at the reports using the Primary and Secondary Dimensions. Primary dimension is the main data you want to focus on. And then you can use Secondary dimension to drill further into that data.
For example, you can use Campaign as your Primary Dimension and analyze that data further by using Source/Medium as the Secondary Dimension. Doing this allows you to find nuanced data about traffic behavior.
Where to Find UTM Data in GA4
It’s not long before Universal Analytics stops working and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) becomes the norm.
And much like Google’s Universal Analytics, you can find the campaign reports in GA4’s Acquisition channel.
There are three places you can find this:
- Reports>Life Cycle>Acquisition>User acquisition: First user medium
- Reports>Life Cycle>Acquisition>User acquisition
- Reports>Life Cycle>Acquisition>Traffic acquisition
From here, you can drill down into more specific reports.
Let’s look at getting campaign data in the Traffic Acquisition reports.
Click Reports>Life Cycle>Acquisition>Traffic acquisition
In this report, you’ll see the Session default channel grouping.
Click Session default channel grouping to the left of the caret icon to get the data for the other UTM tags you used in your campaign URLs. You can choose from:
- Session medium
- Session source
- Session source platform
- Session campaign
To drill further and add another dimension, click the + icon. Then acquisition. This will allow you to see more specific data about your campaigns.
Without UTM tags, you’ll be running blind when launching marketing campaigns. But when you use them — and use them well — you’ll be privy to marketing data that can positively influence the direction of your marketing strategy.