Knowledge Hub


UTM Tracking Best Practices

UTM codes are an excellent way to track results across a range of campaigns and are a key tool in generating accurate reports, allowing for effective decisions to be made based on reliable data around the performance of your content and campaigns.

In this article we’ll explore everything you need to know about UTM codes, how to deploy them, and how to properly track them to generate useful campaign data.

utm code on laptop screen


What is a UTM Code?

A UTM code (Urchin Tracking Module) is a way of inserting tags into a link to track where this link was clicked. They allow us to track specific marketing or sales campaigns and differentiate between a link clicked within a marketing email or on a social media platform. UTMs are useful, because standard tracking softwares are not always accurate in terms of origin.

It is worth noting that UTM codes only apply to outbound marketing campaigns, for example email marketing, social media, paid ads etc and cannot be applied to direct or organic traffic (except for Google My Business which we’ll discuss further down).


Why Are UTMs So Important?

UTM codes allow you to keep track of how users are landing on your website and how successful, or otherwise, a campaign is in driving engaged traffic to your content. Without UTM codes traffic cannot be so specifically attributed and so it I not as easy to track the success of each element of your campaign content.

Without this information, controlling spend on paid campaigns, or understanding whether social posts are an effective way of engaging with users becomes very difficult and hard to plan and justify.

finger clicking shop now button with UTM tracking


Understanding UTM Parameters

UTM codes identify where traffic originates from in terms of interaction with your campaign, using parameters specified in the code. The data they deliver can then then be filtered by a specific parameter in Google Analytics, or other software, to easily analyse performance.

Each UTM code has a number of elements but there are 4 key parts to the code that you need to be aware of. Don’t worry, there are tools that generate the codes for you, you don’t need to be a coder to create them!

The four elements to consider are:

Medium (required)

Medium describes how users arrived at your content, whether it was through a paid advert, a social post, an email, etc. The list below uses specific language based on Google Analytics’ categorisation so you should avoid using your own words to describe a medium wherever possible:

  • cpc – paid traffic from platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads. CPC means Cost Per Click.
  • organic – non-paid traffic via a result from a search engine like Google or Bing. This will usually be automatically identified by Google Analytics. You might need to use this if you’re using Google My Business or Bing Places. It will help you track clicks from your business profile page or your posts.
  • social – non-paid traffic from social platforms like Facebook or YouTube where non-paid means you haven’t paid for people to click on your link.
  • paidsocial – paid traffic from social platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. It’s useful to differentiate it from CPC because the user engagement on these platforms is usually very different and therefore treating it as a separate medium allows for more accurate analysis. Please note this might not be automatically recognised by Google Analytics so you might need to create some rules to attribute it to the right channel.
  • email – traffic via links in your emails.
  • referral – non-paid traffic from any external website that isn’t a social media platform.
  • video – traffic via links in videos except from YouTube advertising, as this will be tracked separately within Google Ads.
  • document – traffic via links on offline documents such as PDFs or PowerPoint presentations.
  • Offline – traffic that isn’t coming from an online source i.e. leaflet, print ad in a store, etc.
  • (none) – traffic with no referring medium (i.e. direct traffic to your site).

If you use affiliate marketing, you should use whichever medium is most appropriate to the situation i.e. email, offline, referral, etc. The campaign attribute can be used to recognise affiliate traffic.

Source (required)

Source describes the place users have come from when clicking your content like a search engine or another website (e.g., Google, Facebook, etc). Sources cannot be listed as there are millions of them but when creating a source manually, you need to keep it consistent to ensure it will help analyse the data correctly.

Campaign Name (optional)

This describes the specific campaign you’re running such as a Google Ads campaign or a PR campaign. You can make up a name for it but, again, ensure that it is used consistently across different platforms to be able to analyse the data correctly.

Content (optional)

This describes the type of content you’re promoting such as a banner ad, a video or a blog. It can be useful to add this parameter to your link if you want to A/B test two different ads you’re running from the same campaign. Again, ensure you keep the naming consistent for accurate analysis.


Golden Rules of UTM parameters

  1. All parameters should be lower-case – Google Analytics is case sensitive and will separate the data between Facebook and facebook which makes accurate analysis very difficult.
  2. Avoid using spaces – spaces are not supported by browsers and are replaced by %20 in the URL bar which doesn’t look great. You can use a hyphen (-) or an underscore (_) if necessary.
  3. Avoid using special characters – these will also not be supported by browsers which can break the tracking leaving you with inaccurate data. Use letters from the English alphabet and numbers.
  4. Be consistent – using the same parameters means that you can analyse data more easily across long periods of time. Once a parameter has been chosen, don’t change it to avoid losing the ability to analyse your data efficiently.

UTM tracking - How to create a tracked link

We’ve got some useful steps to aid you in creating your own personalised tracked link, using time saving tools.

Online UTM Creation

Here’s a useful online tool to help with UTM creation. You can create your tracking code by filling out the following:

  • Website URL
  • Campaign ID
  • Campaign source
  • Campaign medium
  • Campaign name
  • Campaign term
  • Campaign content

Once this has been completed, your URL will be generated ready for tracking. You copy the URL and use it where you would normally add a standard URL link to your content etc.

Spreadsheet UTM Generation

Innovation Visual have provided a spreadsheet below, where we’ve created several tabs to aid in creating your very own links and tracking them for reference going forward.

UTM Creation and Tracking Spreadsheet Template

Choose the type of tracked link you are creating by selecting the appropriate tab in the spreadsheet. We have categorised them as follows:

  • CPC - Used for paid online campaigns, such as Google Ads and Bing. CPC stands for Cost Per Click. You can use this tab for paid adverts that you might be running on other platforms where you might pay for traffic too.
  • Social - Used for platforms including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. If you are creating a tracked link for a paid campaign on social, you still need to use this category.
  • Email - Used for emails sent automatically or to broad audiences such as newsletters and automatic workflows.
  • External Sites - Used for referral PR campaigns. For example, an article from an external website linking back to your site.
  • Offline - Used to keep track of users clicking on links within offline documents such as PDFs or PowerPoint presentations.
  • Video - Used to keep track of users clicking on links within videos hosted on platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo.
  • Organic - Used mainly for Google My Business posts as these don’t always get tracked properly.

Create Your Link

For identification purposes only. The title will not appear in the tracked link. Make sure it's easily findable for future reference.

Untracked link
Enter the link you wish to track (i.e.,

Source & Medium
These are very important and need to be accurate and consistent. Remember the golden rules of UTM parameters:

  1. Lower-case
  2. No spaces
  3. No special characters
  4. Be consistent

We’ve added data validation to avoid mistakes. Follow the examples on the spreadsheet or contact Innovation Visual if you need any help.

Campaign ID
Follow the same rules as source and medium but keep it unique to the specific campaign you are running. The Campaign ID will allow you to identify your specific campaign in Google Analytics and demonstrate its effectiveness. If your campaign is spanning multiple platforms and mediums, then you can replicate your campaign ID on multiple lines and tabs of the spreadsheet. For example, a campaign used across multiple platforms, with multiple sources and mediums might return tracked links like these:

Paid Social Campaign:

  • ?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=paidsocial&utm_campaign=spring-campaign

Google Paid Campaign:

  • ?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=spring-campaign

Email Newsletter Campaign:

  • ?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=spring-campaign

 This will allow you to track the success of your wider campaign across multiple platforms, whilst still being able to attribute specific goals and conversions to each individual platform. The smallest typo or change in any of these links might make it impossible to track the campaign as a whole and attribute success appropriately. It’s a good opportunity to create a naming convention across your business to ensure you can track campaigns accurately and consistently.

Tracked link
Automatically produces a tracked link for you, by combining the elements you have entered across the spreadsheet.

Shortened Links
You can use shortened links at this point (Bitly, TinyURL) and the tracked link will still work. This is particularly useful when the link is visible in plain text (for example in an email).

It’s worth being aware that users often like to be able to see where a link is going to take them before they click – as this provides greater confidence and trust. So, in situations where the user is not familiar with your site, using the full un-shortened link is advisable. However, you could also create a shortened link using GTM.

Maintaining the Spreadsheet

It is important to keep past tracked links on the spreadsheet. This will allow you or other members of your team to go back and refer to the sheet in the future. It keeps a record of all of your Campaign IDs as well as the source and medium you attributed them to.


Innovation Visual Is Here To Help

As experts in the digital marketing field, using tools like GA (Google Analytics) 4, we can offer a full review of tracking to ensure everything is accurate and help you achieve your business goals.

For more information or any queries you may have, contact us here or give us a call at 0333 772 0509 and discuss your tracking challenges.