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The 10 Best Ways to Use UTM Codes For Conversion Tracking

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The 10 Best Ways to Use UTM Codes For Conversion Tracking

If you’re not using UTM codes to track your marketing efforts already, this article will blow your mind. If you already are, kudos to you, but you should still keep reading for ten ways you can use them to track conversions.

First, a quick summary: UTM codes are variables recognized by Google Analytics that you can use to track your marketing campaigns. They are appended to the end of URLs and look something like this:

UTM Example

How to Set up UTM Codes

When setting up UTM tracking, here are the variables you’ll want to include. Note the four asterisked items are required.

The URL* itself: Required. I know this one may be obvious, but it is the most important piece so you want to be sure you don’t forget it.

Examples: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/

Campaign Source* (utm_source): Required. This identifies where the user clicked the URL, be it from your email newsletter, a search engine like Google, or another source like Facebook.

Examples: utm_source=SEJ-newsletter or utm_source=google

Campaign Medium* (utm_medium): Required. This matches the medium you see in Google Analytics, such as email, social, or cpc.

Examples: utm_medium=cpc or utm_medium=social

Campaign Term (utm_term): This is optional, and is most useful for paid search purposes to identify the term or keyword you’re running ads on.

Examples: utm_term=beachside+resort or utm_term=seo+conference

Campaign Content (utm_content): This is optional, and is most useful for A/B testing. For instance, you may be testing two versions of an email against one another, and in one you place the link in a button and in the other you use a text link.

Examples: utm_content=buttonlink or utm_content=textlink

Campaign Name* (utm_campaign): Required. This is your unique identifier for the campaign. You may use different mediums, terms, or content for an individual campaign, but your campaign name will be the same for all of these, allowing you to see which channels performed best.

Examples: utm_campaign=2016-fall-newsletter or utm_campaign=anniversary-sale

How do you put these all together? Well, you could do it manually by appending each one to the end of your URL with ampersands between them, or you could use Google’s official URL builder tool. You can also easily recreate your own personal URL builder in Google Sheets. This way you can reuse your variables for consistency, instead of having to remember them each time you pull up the Google tool. Here’s one we use at my work:

UTM Builder

Preparing Your UTM Codes for Conversion Tracking

As long as you use UTM parameters, you can see which channels or link placements perform best from a traffic perspective by reviewing Acquisitions > Campaigns in Google Analytics. To take it one step further and see how they impact conversions, you need to first set up goals in Google Analytics. Fortunately, that’s easy enough to do:

1. Sign into Google Analytics, click on the Admin tab, and navigate to your site. Click on Goals.

Set Up A Goal in Google Analytics

2. From there, click on the red “+NEW GOAL” button. It’s hard to miss.

Google Analytics New Goal

3. Then walk through the wizard and set up your goal, depending on the specific conversion type you’re interested in.

Google Analytics Goal Setup


That’s it! Now you know how to use UTM parameters to see which channels drive the most traffic, and which ones convert best. Read on for ten clever use cases for UTM tags.

10 Ways to Use UTM Codes to Track Conversions

1. Banners

Do you use banners or other images to promote your product? Of course you do!

Say you have a blog post promoting your new product launch, and you want to link your header image to the product, as well as include a banner later on in the blog once you’ve described the product a bit. Append UTM tags to both of these URLs (being sure to change the utm_content parameter) to see which performs better. The URLs might look something like this:

  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=2016-product-launch&utm_content=header-image
  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=next-visit-discount&utm_content=mid-post-banner

2. Newsletters

Use the same utm_source=newsletter but change your campaign names to determine how much conversions your newsletters are driving as a whole, and which ones individually performed best.

You can also use the utm_content parameters to test whether people are more likely to click on headlines vs. “read more” buttons vs. images for your articles. In this case, your URLs might look something like this if you ran an adorably pet-focused blog:

Puppy Blog:

  • http://www.yoursite.com/blog-about-puppies/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=monthly-newsletter-092016&utm_content=headlinelink
  • http://www.yoursite.com/blog-about-puppies/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=monthly-newsletter-092016&utm_content=buttonlink
  • http://www.yoursite.com/blog-about-puppies/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=monthly-newsletter-092016&utm_content=imagelink

Kitten Blog:

  • http://www.yoursite.com/blog-about-kittens/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=monthly-newsletter-092016&utm_content=headlinelink
  • http://www.yoursite.com/blog-about-kittens/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=monthly-newsletter-092016&utm_content=buttonlink
  • http://www.yoursite.com/blog-about-kittens/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=monthly-newsletter-092016&utm_content=imagelink
  • 3. Social Media Shares and Profiles

Which of your social channels have the most engaged readership? That question can be answered with UTM codes. Add UTM codes to the URLs you share as well as the URLs you list in your profile.

This can be useful for Instagram, which doesn’t allow clickable URLs in posts but does allow you to list one in your profile. Because we added UTM codes to our HostGator Instagram account, we were able to track when we made our first sale through the platform.

  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=branded-social&utm_content=postlink
  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=branded-social&utm_content=profilelink

4. E-Books

Track how your different URL placements in your e-books perform by adding UTM codes. You can adjust the utm_content tag to distinguish between contextual links or CTAs.

  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=ebook&utm_medium=ebook&utm_campaign=Marketing-Tips-Ebook&utm_content=CTA
  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=ebook&utm_medium=ebook&utm_campaign=Marketing-Tips-Ebook&utm_content=textlink

5. A/B Testing

A/B testing is what UTM tags was made for! Test different placements using utm_content tag or test out whether your product launch announcement performs better via a social or email share using the utm_source tag.

Continuing the hypothetical e-book example from above, perhaps you want to test a dedicated landing page against a sign-up form on your home page. The URLs for such a scenario might look like this:

  • http://www.yoursite.com/ebook-landing-page/?utm_source=yoursite.com&utm_medium=promo&utm_campaign=Marketing-Tips-Ebook
  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=yoursite.com&utm_medium=promo&utm_campaign=Marketing-Tips-Ebook

6. Promotions and Contests

Are you running a contest? Add UTM parameters to determine which of your marketing channels drove the highest number of entries:

  • Your newsletter: http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Free-iPad-Contest
  • Your Facebook page: http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=Free-iPad-Contest
  • Your blog post: http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=blog&utm_campaign=Free-iPad-Contest

7. Email Signatures

You know that annoying coworker who insists on adding their own twist to the corporate email signature? Reveal the error of their ways with a snapshot from Google Analytics showing the traffic your UTM-tagged URL drove.

You can even see if people are more likely to click on the URL or the company logo by hyperlinking them with URLs like this:

  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=employee-signature&utm_content=textlink
  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=employee-signature&utm_content=logolink

8. QR Codes

If you use QR codes in your marketing, link those to a URL tagged with UTM parameters to determine which QR code placements worked best.

For example, if you have a restaurant and you place a QR code on your menu and in your direct mail postcards to unlock a special discount for the person’s next visit. You can compare which placement performs better using UTM codes like this:

  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=postcard&utm_medium=promo&utm_campaign=next-visit-discount&utm_content=QR
  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=menu&utm_medium=promo&utm_campaign=next-visit-discount&utm_content=QR

9. Printed Advertisements

Just because the URL is printed on paper, doesn’t mean you can’t use UTM parameters. I’m not suggesting, of course, that you list out that atrociously long URL in your next magazine ad. Rather, you can create a short vanity domain like www.yoursite.com/fun or use a URL shortener, and then redirect that to your URL with all of the UTM parameters attached.

You might test different magazine placements to see which tends to have more of your target customers or you might test different formats:

  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=magazine&utm_medium=Magazine-A&utm_campaign=fall-2016-product-line&utm_content=full-page-ad
  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=magazine&utm_medium=Magazine-A&utm_campaign=fall-2016-product-line&utm_content=half-page-ad
  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=magazine&utm_medium=Magazine-B&utm_campaign=fall-2016-product-line&utm_content=full-page-ad
  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=magazine&utm_medium=Magazine-B&utm_campaign=fall-2016-product-line&utm_content=half-page-ad

10. Mobile Apps

If you have a mobile app, this is another place to add in UTM parameters to your links. The traffic and conversion may even lead you to reconsider different link placements within the app.

You can also use UTM parameters to track which channels drive the most opens for your app. You know how when you click on a listing from Safari for Yelp, and you get a notification asking if you wish to open the Yelp app? Adding UTM parameters to these deep links will allow you to determine whether places on your website, your social media accounts, or elsewhere trigger the most opens for your mobile app.


As you can see, UTM parameters are extremely versatile. You can make them as simple or as complicated as you want, depending on how many things you are tracking or testing against each other. Start experimenting today and see what you discover!

Featured Image: geralt/Pixabay.com

Screenshots by Amelia Willson. Taken September 2016.


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Amelia Willson

Owner at AWCopywriting

Amelia Willson is a freelance writer, content marketer and SEO strategist who helps businesses succeed online. A graduate of Wellesley ... [Read full bio]

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