Understanding UTM Tracking Codes

Track, Identify, Measure, Optimise


A UTM tracking code is a snippet of code that is appended to a URL in order to accurately attribute actions or views to a specific campaign in your Analytics. This helps you to identify and measure the success of a campaign regardless of the traffic source.

Those who don’t utilise UTM codes will find it difficult to measure the success of a campaign and will only be able to track which website your clicks and conversions are coming from.

But for most that’s just not enough. With the complicated advertising ecosystem Marketers typically have multiple ads from multiple sources on one website, whether they’re direct, programmatic or simply on creative rotation.

UTM codes assist you in identifying the source of your clicks and conversions, they also help you to identify the specific ads or links that are responsible for the response.

If properly utilised, UTM codes will help you make an informed decision around what creatives, websites, publishers and platforms provide the highest response and invest accordingly. UTM codes should also so help you increase your campaign response and in some cases double or triple your clicks and conversions without any additional spend.


Top Reasons to use UTM tracking codes
Using UTM codes in your campaigns and links should help you answer some basic questions about your web traffic:

  • Where is the traffic coming from?
  • How is it getting to me?
  • Why is it coming to me?

In essence, UTM tracking codes help you understand where your traffic is coming from.


Components of a UTM tracking code

A UTM code works by using three (or four) elements to help identify traffic:

  • Source
  • Medium
  • Content (optional)
  • Campaign


What are UTM codes?

UTM (Urchin Traffic Monitor) codes are small snippets of code added to a URL that help you to attribute actions or views to a specific campaign or creative and measure the success.

These unique codes allow your analytics to distinguish between campaigns, formats or creative and accurately attribute clicks and conversions.

They also help to identify campaign response on a campaign, creative or link basis allowing real-time analysis.


Example UTM code:


In the URL above you can see the “utm_” snippets? That’s where we’ve essentially labelled the traffic that comes from this link.


Why UTM tracking is important?

Identify and Measure

A campaigns results are much more valuable if they can be identified, measured and understood. If you are unable to identify which campaign or links are getting the highest response (e.g. clicks, conversions and sales), then you won’t know where to spend your budget and can’t make an informed decision.

Keep in mind that not all sites pass referral information and without a UTM code it can be difficult to measure the success of a campaign and website traffic can be miss-identified.

A good example is let’s say you are running a direct network campaign that can deliver to a group of sites with multiple creative sets on rotation, you review your analytics and can see higher response than usual – but you aren’t sure which sites and creative are performing the best due to some sites passing no referral data and being unable to distinguish between creative.

What if two of those sites and one creative set makes up a majority of the response, it would make sense to cut dead weight right?

Without UTM tracking code you would be unable to determine which sites and creatives are performing well and which to drop in the future.

Utilising a UTM code on each creative set and site would allow you to see which specific campaign or creative received the most clicks and conversions, thus allowing you to make an informed decision and optimise future campaigns towards performance and return on investment.



Accuracy and Attribute

Using UTM tracking codes allows you to accurately attribute a visitor to a campaign and website. It’s worth keeping in mind that even when using UTM codes, clicks on a publisher’s website don’t always equate to a referral in Google Analytics.

UTM tracking codes are typically very reliable and should provide accurate information to help you to make informed decisions. UTM codes aren’t miracle workers and Google Analytics still only allows you to measure interactions on part of the user funnel.




The chances are if you are doing an impressions-based campaign then you are looking for response, UTM codes make measuring this response easy. Once your campaign is live, measure the response in line with your objectives, react, optimise and review your campaign. Using UTM codes should allow you to accurately calculate your return on investment and cost per unique visitor helping you make informed decision.

Optimise and ensure you only pay for impressions that get you clicks, and clicks that get you conversions.

Some publishers also offer Audience Pixels that allow you to measure view-through and click-through conversions for users who have previously viewed an ad within the number of days, this should also be taken into account when calculation your ROI.


It’s quite simple really just add a unique UTM code to every campaign, creative or link, then you can easily identify which is doing the best.