UTM Tagging Best Practices

UTM Tagging Best Practices

By Ryan Koonce

In my last post, I mentioned that you should UTM tag everything. Easier said than done. UTM tags are rigid and there’s no canonical way to fit all your traffic sources into the Source Medium and Campaign fields. Thankfully, I’ve already made most of the mistakes, so I can help you avoid making these same mistakes.

Find all the tags you’re already using

Setting up UTM tracking across all your platforms is more art than science. The first thing you should do is look at all the UTM tags you are already using. Most ad platforms and email campaign packages can auto-tag links with UTM tags. You’re probably getting more UTM tags than you realize, so start with an audit.

Decide out what you want to track

Next step is to think about what questions you’ll want to answer with hard data. I don’t linger on this too much, my question is always the same: ‘How can I be more efficient with marketing’.

Design your tags

Next we design the tags. The trick here is being able to rebuild the correct segments. Say you’re using both Facebook and adroll retargeting to advertise on Facebook. I don’t want to tag both as ‘Facebook’ or I won’t be able to compare my cost to acquire across both platforms.


Think of source as the levers you can pull. If it’s an ad, the source is the platform you are paying. If it’s a PR campaign, the source is the PR firm. Source is your top-level tracking so I use it for top-level thinking. What will you put time and money into? That’s your source.


Think of medium as “where is it displayed”. In the case of buying Facebook ads via Adroll, your source would be “Adroll” and your medium would be “Facebook”. I like to get granular with the source so I would probably ditiguish between “Facebook-feed” and “Facebook-sidebar” since price and engagement vary between those two. Some prefer to be more broad, but this really depends on preference and how flexible your analysis tools are.


Thing of campaign as “What separates these ads across the platforms”. This might be something like “fall-sale” or “content-marketing”. It’s a way of seeing a broad campaign that stretches across multiple platforms, and can be very powerful. For these I like to stay broad.


Content is also great for cross-platform tracking, but usually with a more narrow focus. It’s meant to explain to the content of the ad. My favorite use of the content tag is for a/b tests across ad platforms. I might create light and dark display ads across 3 platforms and tag them with content=light and content=dark. Now I can see how these ads perform per platforms and across all platforms.


Term is used to identify the keyword that lead someone to your page. Piping the keyword is useful because it allows you to compare keyword performance across ad platforms.

Conclusion – just tag it

Setting up manual UTM tagging is a serious up-front effort but the long term benefits are well worth it. Without UTM tracking, you simply won’t know what campaigns are performing and where you should apply your time and money.

Have any advice we missed? Let us know in the comments!