When and How to Use UTM Tags | The Do’s & Don’ts

If you want to use UTM tags but you’ve only gotten as far as bookmarking Google’s Campaign URL Builder tool, then this blog is for you. Here’s some basic do’s and don’ts to help you get started:

DO Use UTM Tags to Track Custom Campaigns

If you’re only using UTM tags to track paid campaigns you’re missing out on a lot of useful data and insights. Just about all off-site efforts should be treated like separate campaigns. 

Shared links on social media, links included in email blasts, all links pointing back to your website from Google My Business – all should be tagged in order to better track their individual results within Google Analytics.

DON'T Use Them For Internal Links

Not all links should be tagged though. Do not, I repeat, do not add UTM tags to internal links. 

If you do, a click on the link will trigger a new session in Google Analytics, which will undoubtedly muck up your site’s metrics by creating redundancies, distort the attribution source, and falsely inflate your numbers.

DO Use Mediums That Google Analytics Recognizes

While “URL” and “Source” are the only required fields in Google’s Campaign URL Builder, we highly recommend that you include the “Medium” as well. There’s a handful of mediums that Google Analytics already recognizes and it’s in your best interest to adhere to the predefined variables such as “organic”, “cpc”, “email”, “referral”, and “social”. (Important to note: The medium name is case sensitive too.) 

If you opt to go rogue, traffic may end up separated out from its natural habitat. For example, if you label the medium for a link contained in an email as “eBlast” instead of “email,” that traffic will no longer appear in the email bucket making it that much more difficult to inspect traffic at a higher level. If you have a lot of traffic showing up in (Other), this is probably why.

DON'T Give Campaigns Vague and Generic Names

Campaign” is another optional field we recommend filling in. The more information you include in the UTM tag the deeper you can dive into the available metrics. By including the “Campaign” name you’ll be able to better differentiate what is and what is not working, assuming you’ve labeled it correctly. 

For instance, if your email blasts include links, wouldn’t you want to know which email blast people are coming from? Knowing traffic came from email alone doesn’t really tell you much. Likewise calling the “Campaign” something vague like “Newsletter” isn’t all that helpful in the long run either. Instead, use the “Campaign” field to describe the product, service, or promotion being offered (i.e. “newsletter_fall_preview” or “newsletter_black_friday”). 

Additionally, we’re big advocates of the “Campaign Content” field too. You can use this field to further differentiate between links from the same campaign. To see this data in Google Analytics, look for the “Ad Content” dimension.

DO Use the Built-In Minify Feature in Google’s Campaign URL Builder

Sharing the generated campaign URL in a hyperlink is easy, after all it doesn’t matter how long the link is. But when you’re displaying the URL, the link can look unruly with the UTM tag tacked on the end, which is where the “Convert URL to Short Link” option comes in handy. 

Take advantage of this built-in feature when sharing links in YouTube video descriptions, Tweets, PDFs, visual presentations, and the like.

DON'T Forget to Use UTM Tags

This may seem like an obvious tip, but it bears repeating. In order for UTM tags to work, you need to actually use them. Without UTM tags, the results from your various off-site efforts will remain vague among the rest of your site’s data in Google Analytics. Properly track your campaigns by remembering to use UTM tags on all off-site links pointing back to your website. If you do that you’ll be on the receiving end of more granular data and helpful insights.     

To learn more about best practices and the implementation and tracking of UTM tags, download the free PCG Research Report: Google UTM Guide for Automotive Digital Marketing Professionals


Jamie Paton

Jamie Paton is the SEO Director at PCG Digital by day and a TV connoisseur by night. As an experienced digital marketing nerd with a knack for search engine optimization and content creation, she channels her powers for good by developing strategies, poking around Google Analytics and Search Console, and by writing blogs like this one for PCG.

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