UTM parameters are an age-old method of tracking web activity based on link clicks, and they are still very useful today. In fact, they can help compensate for tracking data that is now missing due to PETs (Privacy Enhancing Technologies). They work by adding information at the end of a URL. For example:
The UTM parameters are what show after the question mark.
When UTM parameters are added to a URL, they pass along information about where the click came from.
A number of UTM parameters are commonly used, but the most important ones are: source, medium, and campaign.
Source – That’s the place where the click occurred.
Medium – That’s the general category of the source, such as email, organic, or cpc (cost-per-click). In the example above, “ocpm” is the medium, which is Meta Ads’ “optimized-cost-per thousand impressions.”
Campaign – This is for the name of the campaign that drove the traffic, such as an ad campaign or email campaign.
Note: The “UTM” stands for “Urchin Tracking Module.” Urchin was a web tracking platform that was bought by Google and renamed Google Analytics in 2005.
UTM parameters can be added to the destination URLs in your Meta ads to pass along data. However, an analytics tool is required to analyze the data, such as Google Analytics.
Why is this valuable?
Besides getting general tracking numbers (such as knowing how many website visitors you had last week), the greatest value of web analytics comes from segmentation. UTM parameters allow you to see data metrics based on segments of traffic. For example, if your primary traffic “source” is Google, which “medium” led to more conversions: organic or CPC traffic? Or, which had a higher conversion rate – Instagram ad traffic or Twitter ad traffic? By seeing this data, you can make more informed judgments about what to prioritize next.
Standard UTM parameters vs. dynamic parameters
You can manually add UTM parameters to destination URLs by inputting the relevant details (e.g., source=facebook), or you can utilize dynamic parameters. With dynamic parameters, the relevant details (such as source, medium, etc.) are pulled automatically. Meta Ads supports several dynamic parameters. For example, you can put the following in place of the source parameter to have the source pulled automatically when someone clicks on the link:
Here is a list of dynamic parameters supported by Meta Ads:
But again, it requires an analytics tool that allows these segmentations to be used, such as Google Analytics. There needs to be compatibility between the parameters used and the parameters supported by the analytics tool. Here are the parameters that are compatible with Google Analytics 4 at this time:
utm_campaign (campaign name)
utm_term (paid keyword)
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Tools for adding UTM parameters
Both Meta and Google offer standalone tools for adding UTM parameters to URLs.
Here are links for the standalone tools:
Meta also has a tool built into the ad creation panel.
Where to see the data from UTM Parameters?
In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), you can see metrics based on UTM parameters by going to Reports/ Acquisition/ Traffic Acquisition. There, you can choose to see segmentation based on the parameters that GA4 supports.
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