Why Should You Use UTM Parameters With Your PPC Campaigns?

By Geena Nazareth | Jul 6, 2016
More Articles by Geena


One of the great things about PPC advertising is that there is no need for “performance guesstimating.”  The performance metrics you want are available, but are you really collecting all of the data you need? Here, I will explore how you can use UTM parameters to gain a better understanding of what advertising efforts are driving your website traffic and conversions.

UTM Parameters - resized

What Are UTM Parameters?

UTM parameters are tags that you can add to the end of a URL for tracking purposes. When you add UTM parameters to a URL, you are essentially creating a new URL that provides Google Analytics with information about that particular traffic source.

The following are five different UTM parameters that can be used to tag your URL.

  • utm_source
    • Required
    • Identifies where your traffic is coming from
    • Example: utm_source=facebook
  • utm_medium
    • Required
    • Identifies where the link was used (CPC, email advertising, social, etc.)
    • Example: utm_medium=cpc
  • utm_campaign
    • Required
    • Identifies the name of your campaign/promotion
    • Example: utm_campaign=whitepaper+download+remarketing
  • utm_content
    • Optional
    • Provides descriptors for the specific ad that the link was used in
    • Example: utm_content=get+a+free+trial
  • utm_term
    • Optional
    • Identifies keywords that triggered your ad (not applicable to non-Search campaigns)
    • Example: utm_term=tax+software

Note: Manually created UTM parameters are not necessary if auto-tagging is enabled in your AdWords account.

How Do They Help?

The use of UTM parameters allows you to track the performance of your paid advertising campaigns at a granular level. You can compare performance between platforms (utm_source), within each platform you can compare performance between different campaigns (utm_campaign) and within a campaign you can compare ad performance (utm_content).

Using my previous examples (minus the utm_term parameter), the resulting tagged URL would look something like this:

www.example.com/examplepage?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=whitepaper+download+remarketing&utm_content=get+a+free+trial

This tagged URL would be used as the destination URL for the ad with the “Get a Free Trial” headline in the Facebook CPC campaign that is remarketing to users who downloaded your whitepaper. In Google Analytics, you would be able to view and compare performance metrics for everything from the source to the specific ad. In this instance, after analyzing the data you might:

  • Decide to allocate more resources to your Facebook PPC campaigns (utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc) because they are driving more traffic than your Facebook social posts (utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social) or converting better than your LinkedIn campaigns (utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=cpc)
  • Determine that you should test a different headline because the ads using “Get a Free Trial” (utm_content=get+a+free+trial) aren’t performing well

UTM parameters can help you determine the effectiveness of your advertising efforts so you can adjust your efforts and budget accordingly. By continually optimizing your advertising efforts and campaigns based on the additional data and knowledge acquired by the use of UTM parameters, you can, in turn, improve ROI.

Now you know what UTM parameters are and how they can be beneficial, but it is important to note that correct implementation of UTM parameters is essential. Incorrect implementation can result in inaccurate source attribution — important metrics such as revenue and conversions can be incorrectly attributed in Google Analytics.  As part of our PPC advertising services at Marketing Mojo, we handle UTM parameter creation and analysis in Google Analytics to ensure accurate performance tracking.

Questions?  Please comment below.

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