UTM Parameters: A Glossary of Terms

Ah, UTM parameters, the mighty URL code structure that provides the basis for performance marketing tracking.

If you’re new to performance marketing or marketing in general, you may have heard “UTM” thrown around as one of the many acronyms in the marketing dialect. If you’ve been there and didn’t know how to ask a roomful of more analytics-minded folks to explain what UTMs are and why they’re important, this post is for you.

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What is a UTM Parameter?

Let’s start with the term itself. A UTM parameter is a small piece of code attached to the end of a URL used to track clicks and the performance of marketing activity. When someone clicks a link with a UTM parameter, that information is recorded in analytics platforms like Google Analytics or stored in a CRM for more detailed tracking. Because you can’t go back and add UTM parameters retroactively to track actions, it’s best to nail it from the start.

Here’s an example of a URL without UTMs:


And here’s an example of a URL with UTMs:


There are two parts of the UTM code, which consists of everything after the “?”

  • UTM Parameter: Starts with utm_ and can track 5 standard parameters.

  • Tracking Variable: The information that comes after the red = signs in the example above. It’s a unique variable used to identify what is being tracked. 


UTM parameter definitions

Within the UTM code, there are five main parameters: source, medium, campaign, content, and term. Let’s look at how those break down.

UTM Source

This parameter tracks where the traffic came from. Which social network, search engine, or specific source drove the traffic to your site?


In the above example, the traffic source was Google.


UTM Medium

This parameter tracks how the user got there. Which channel type (e.g., organic social, paid social, email) drove the traffic to your site?


In this example, it’s CPC (paid search).


UTM Campaign

This parameter tracks specific campaigns. JDM best practice is to use the campaign ID instead of campaign name because the campaign id never changes even if you decide to update the campaign name. Some companies prefer to use the name, which might be something like “Search_Product_Campaign”.



UTM Content

This parameter comes in handy if you have multiple links pointing to a URL. This will allow you to see the specific content that drove the click and activity.



UTM Term

This parameter is specifically used for paid search ads and allows you to see which exact keyword the website visitor came from. 



Why do UTM Parameters Matter?

UTM codes give marketers a ton of granular information about what’s performing (and what’s not). The information helps marketers where to invest more time and resources – both of which are precious commodities in a competitive marketplace. 

If you ever have questions about marketing tracking or attribution strategies, we’re here to help.

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