How to Track your UTM Tags

Written by Sarah on 18th April 2017

You’ve just launched your new business and you’ve put your everything into marketing and driving traffic to your site. You head to Google Analytics to see which tactics performed the best and jump into the Acquisition Source  / Medium report only to see that 40% of your conversions came from the direct channel.

Though Google Analytics is clever enough on its own to track where most of your users have come from, sometimes this information is lost.

That’s where UTM tags come in. In this post, we’ll look at what UTM tags are, how to create them, and most importantly, how to keep track of them.

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What are UTM tags?

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. It harks back to the original company Google acquired, Urchin Software Company, who provided the foundations for Google Analytics.

Essentially these tags give Google Analytics more information on where the user came from and what they were looking at before reaching your site.

You’ve probably seen URLs with UTM tags before, they look just like this:

You can use UTM codes in any link. And really you should be using them every time you share a link on social media, in emails or in forums (it’s up for debate as to whether you should use them in link building exercises).

Using them in this manner it will help you to reduce the amount of direct traffic and be clearer on where visitors are coming from.

How to create UTM codes

Adding UTM codes to your links is straightforward once you know how.

They’re broken down into 5 parameters. Each parameter represents a different piece of information that you’re tracking:

  • Source
  • Medium
  • Campaign
  • Term
  • Content

If you’re familiar with Google Analytics then Source and Medium should be pretty self-explanatory to you – it’s basically the origin of your traffic and the type of traffic respectively. The campaign is typically used for PPC tracking but can be applied to anything, it’s basically a name to identify what link or set of links the traffic came from.

These first three parameters are essential and must be included in any UTM tag.

The following two, Term and Content, are optional and typically used for tracking paid advertising.

The structure is as follows:

First pop a ? after the URL you want to track. Then add your first parameter by adding ‘utm_[insert-parameter-here]’ then it’s an ‘&’ followed by your next parameter.

Pretty simple right? Or to make it even simpler you could use Google’s URL builder or Effin’ Amazing’s UTM Builder Chrome plugin.

Whichever way you make your UTM tags, a key thing to remember is to keep each of your parameters consistent. Even a change in the case can make Google see facebook and Facebook as different sources.

So how can you ensure consistency?

How to Track UTM tags

Once you know how to create UTM tags, it’s easy enough to just write one whenever you need it.

However, this can quickly lead you to have several different UTM tags for the same campaign – making tracking difficult.

There’s a very simple way to track this though and you don’t need any expensive tools to do so. In fact you probably already use it.

It’s Google Sheets.

Using Google Sheets you can create a tool that has a double whammy effect of building your URL and keeping a record of it.

In fact, I’ve created a Google Sheet right here that you can use. Just select File > Make a Copy to make it your own.

However, if you’d prefer to build your own, all you need is the Concatenate formula.

You’ll need 6 columns:

Link Location – So this isn’t confusing I’ve named this Link Location but it’s essentially the Campaign you’ll be using it for

Link – The link you want to track




Full Link – The final result

Enter each bit of information into the relevant column and the in the Full link column enter the following formula:

=CONCATENATE(B2,”?utm_source=“,(substitute(C2, ” “, “%20″)),”&utm_medium=“,(substitute(D2, ” “, “%20″)),”&utm_campaign=“,(substitute(E2, ” “, “%20”)))

Essentially this formula pieces together each of your data points and combines them to make your URL with UTM tag attached.

Not only does this make it super easy to make new UTM tags, but you’re killing two birds with one stone by being able to keep track of every tag you’re using for consistency.

If you’re running a campaign promoting your new image sharing feature, you might have multiple UTMs with the campaign tag of IMAGE-SHARING-PROMO but then different sources and mediums.

Creating UTM tags might look difficult, but with a bit of spreadsheet magic, it’s a simple yet effective tool to make sure you’re tracking the right data.

Get your copy of the spreadsheet