Best Practices for Keeping UTM Tags Organized

Jul 2020

We’ve all been there: you diligently tag all of your campaign URLs so that when you go to review your data in Google Analytics, you know precisely where every session and conversion came from. Only, when the time comes to assess the fruits of your labor, your UTM tags aren’t nearly as self-explanatory or descriptive as you thought they were. Marketers need to juggle a million things on a daily basis to keep all of their proverbial balls in the air, and organization is key. If you’re having trouble distinguishing your UTM tags from alphabet soup, there are a few simple practices that you can employ to make sure that everything is always as organized as you intend it to be, and that you always know where your traffic and conversions are coming from.

Understand When to Tag

When used correctly, UTM tags can help you track the quality of the traffic you drive to your website from outside sources and advertising efforts, but they aren’t necessary in every instance. Identify situations where UTM tags can actually be helpful and tag only what you need to. Email and social campaigns are ideal places to use UTM tags, as traffic from these mediums doesn’t always come with complete referrer information. However, you don’t need to tag internal links on your website (Google automatically tracks this information sufficiently) or links to outside websites that you don’t manage (you won’t be tracking performance on these sites, so there’s no need to tag these links).

Define Your Variables

For situations in which UTM tags are helpful and even necessary for understanding how your efforts are performing, Google’s Campaign URL builder is the easiest way to build your tags. It defines all of your campaign variables for you; all you have to do is plug in the appropriate data. Here are the five fields available to you. The first three (source, medium, and name) are required, while the last two are optional. 

Campaign Source: This variable tracks the exact source of traffic such as Facebook, Email, or a specific website or advertiser. 

Campaign Medium: This is a description of the broader marketing channel the traffic from your campaign is coming from. Google automatically groups traffic into four main labels: referral, organic, cpc for paid search, and (none) for direct traffic. Some additional mediums you might want to track are email, social, or banner (display).

Campaign Name: This variable describes what your campaign is. You might choose to name this field according to the specific sale you’re promoting, for example.

Campaign Term: This field’s primary purpose is to help you track keywords in a paid Google Ads campaign. For most other advertising campaigns, you will leave this field blank.

Campaign Content: Any additional differentiating information you need to include to help you identify different advertising efforts can go here. This field is useful when you are A/B testing ads, or when you need to differentiate ads that point to the same URL.

Don’t Mix and Match

Consistency is key. Try to stick to whatever naming conventions you establish, and don’t use the same descriptors in multiple variable fields. If you designate email as a medium, for example, don’t also use it as a source. You should also keep in mind that Google Analytics is sensitive to letter case, so it’s best to stick to lowercase lettering across the board to eliminate the possibility of human error. Whatever conventions you establish for your campaigns, make sure you document them and stick to them. It will make your data much easier to decipher in the long run.

Keep a Spreadsheet

The best way to ensure that you can always recognize the tags you’ve generated for campaigns is to record them as you create them. Google recommends keeping track of your UTM tags in a spreadsheet for maximum efficiency, and even provides a template to help you get started.


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