Social Media in 2021: Why you should be using UTM parameters

Published on Thursday, February 4th, 2021 by jane

Lighthouse Communications > News + Views > Social Media in 2021: Why you should be using UTM parameters

UTM parameters aren’t new in marketing in the digital space, although many businesses still don’t use them when developing their digital – which is an opportunity missed.  

It’s almost impossible to fully optimise or comprehensively understand your marketing efforts without using UTMs. Why? Because they are what connects your social media, digital advertising, and even your eDMs, to your Google Analytics account. It’s the roadmap that will help you drive genuine marketing insights in 2021 and beyond.

What is a UTM parameter?  

UTM parameters are unique tags that you can nominate to the tail end of URLs to categorise your digital marketing efforts, and there are five in total to choose from. Once you’ve done it, when a visitor then clicks your URL, it allows Google Analytics to track certain information. Examples include: how many new or returning visitors are coming to your website; where they originated from; the time they spent on the website; and even where and at what point they exited your site.  

This is all beneficial information for marketers, especially these days with the path to purchase no longer being a linear journey, and marketing campaigns (especially integrated ones) containing several referral channels and ways to access your online presence. UTM parameters help you quantify all activity and decide which channels to concentrate on.    

What can UTM Parameters track?  

UTM parameters can track medium and source style information, but it’s the language and key terms that you use to describe each source where the magic comes together. Here are five examples of UTM parameters: 

Campaigns – Track campaign activity such as a 50% off promotion – utm_campaign=50%offsale

Referral sources  – Find out which channels are sending your website the most traffic, or even the most engaged traffic. This one is great for organic social media activity, such as shared blog posts on Facebook, or Instagram Stories – utm_source=instagram_story 

Mediums – This tracking tag identifies the medium that your tracked link is featured in. This is great for integrated campaigns as you can map all traffic that comes from your various channels eg: eDM, PPC, or Social Media – utm_medium=newsletter

Content – This type of UTM code is used to trace specific content that drives traffic to the same destination from a shared source and medium. This type of UTM is common in pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, though we also like to use them for organic social media activity to identify specific posts throughout a period – utm_content=post01022021  

A term  – This one is for PPC campaigns and it helps you track the keywords in your campaign. If you pay for a Google Ads campaign to rank a keyword such as ‘overseas holidays’, adding that term as a UTM code at the end of the link you submit to Google to run this ad will allow you to track this in Google Analytics – utm_term=overseas+holiday

How do I set up UTM parameters?  

The good news is that in Google Demos & Tools, there is a nifty UTM builder that is simple to use and drastically speeds up the process, especially when you need to create several at once. There is also a bitly integration option, allowing you to shorten the URL and keep your consumer-facing tracked links nice and neat.  

Where do I find UTM Parameters in Google Analytics?  

If you’ve already got Google Analytics embedded into your website, Google will automatically track your campaigns.  All you need to do is pop into your Google Analytics account to access your insights under Audience, then Sources, then Campaigns. Then click on each campaign to view the source and medium.  

Want to know more? Google has some great additional resources:   


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