7 Things to Know Before Building Your UTM Codes

How do you know your advertising campaigns are driving new leads and sales? How do you know which ones performed best? These are important questions, but finding answers isn’t always easy. Many marketers use UTM codes to evaluate campaign performance. But despite UTM’s popularity, we still get questions on how to set up UTM codes properly and ways to streamline the data collected. If you are new to UTM codes or you just want to simplify your campaign tracking, this blog post is for you. Find out what UTM codes are and how to get the most out of using them. Then, check out our list of seven best practices and our custom UTM builder to make creating error-free UTM codes a snap.


What is a UTM code? A UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) code, sometimes referred to as a “campaign link tag,” is a simple piece of code attached to a URL to track its marketing performance. How does it work? UTM codes allow you to identify several campaign elements within your link, including the source of the ad, ad medium (i.e., type of ad) and the campaign name. When a user clicks the link, Google Analytics tracks the data to help you see which campaigns or factors are performing best. However, it is important to know that UTM codes do not track post-impression data. (See more on this below.) Why should you bother using UTM codes? You can use UTM codes to track campaigns rather than creating custom landing pages for each campaign or vanity URL. This will save you tons of time in setting up and launching your campaigns.

Setting Up Your UTM Codes

Before you jump into building your own UTM codes, check out these seven tips to avoid headaches and error down the road.

  1. Plan Your Campaign: Decide how you want to organize campaign data before creating UTM codes since you can’t adjust the data once it’s in Google Analytics. Consider questions like
    • What is the URL you are going to convert?
    • Who would you like to put as the traffic source?
    • What types of media and ad sizes are you using?
  2. Identify Your Source, Medium and Campaign: Use creative click-through URL(s) when building your UTM codes. To ensure traffic sources are properly identified, list the party responsible for the traffic in the source parameter and something unique about the campaign in the campaign parameter. For example, you might list your source as “bing” and identify the campaign as your “holiday sale” promotion. The medium parameter is crucial for traffic categorization and attribution within Google Analytics, so be sure to only use Google’s predefined keywords for that (note: keywords are case-sensitive). Also, if you are using the Google Analytics 360 Suite, traffic from DoubleClick Bid Manager (DCM) is organized without the use of UTM codes.
    • Source: bing
    • Medium: display
    • Campaign: holiday sale
  3. Add Additional Parameters, if Necessary: The more granular you get, the harder it will be to see the big picture of how your campaign is performing. Include additional parameters, such as content (example: ad size) and campaign term (example: paid keywords), only if you need the extra granularity.
    • Campaign Term: luxury watches
    • Campaign Content: 300×600
  4. Use a Custom UTM Builder: To prevent errors, use an online UTM builder or manually check that the “?” is at the end of the original URL and the “&” is in between each parameter.
    • https://www.website.com?utm_source=bing&utm_ medium=display&utm_content=300×600&utm_ campaign=holiday%20sale&utm_term=luxury%20watches
  5. Bucket Your UTM Codes: Instead of breaking out every individual creative, consider creating UTM codes around a shared trait to reduce the total number of UTM codes required. For example, if you have three different 300×250 size ads (promoA, promoB, promoC) and three different creative versions for each ad (one green, one red, one blue) and all are pointing to the same destination, build UTM codes using a shared trait, such as:
    • 300×250, promo_,  or [color]
  6. Check Your UTM for PII: Do not include any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in your UTM codes, such as your name or address
    • https://www.website.com?utm_source=bing&utm_ medium=display&utm_content=300×600&utm_ campaign=Andy%20Wright&utm_term=luxury%20watches
  7. Allow Manual Tagging, If Applicable: If you want custom UTM codes to take precedence over auto-tagging, you must change your preferences within the property settings of Google Analytics. But if you linked your Google AdWords account to Google Analytics and enabled auto-tagging, then you do not need UTMs for your AdWords creative. To change your settings, select the checkbox for:
    • Allow manual tagging (UTM values) to override auto-tagging (GCLID values) for AdWords and DoubleClick Search integration.


Remember, UTM codes don’t track post-impression data like some of your other media platforms. This means your Google Analytics data might not match perfectly back to other reports you may be looking at. So knowing how to interpret the data generated from UTM codes is important. For example, a media-buying platform will usually count two types of conversions: conversions that happened immediately following an ad click (post-click) and conversions that happened later on after only viewing an ad (post-impression). Google Analytics tracks the former (post-click), which means your conversions may look inconsistent between the two platforms due to differences in tracking and counting methodology. You may also see discrepancies in clicks due to page-load timings – if a user backs out of page before all separate media, serving and analytics platforms have the opportunity to count the click, it may result in the first-served platforms counting the clicks and the last-served platforms missing out. Cookie blockers, setup mistakes, last-click attribution methodologies, and other errors can also impact how different systems interpret whether or not an action took place. You need to understand what each platform can and can’t track to justify any gaps between reports. We’re here to help you make sense of all the data and maximize your insights to improve your marketing strategy. Let us help break it down so you can move from a state of analysis paralysis to a position of modern marketing bliss.

Elevate Your Customer Experience With This 6-Step Action Plan

You have your demographic and behavioral data, the right targeting tools, your omnichannel digital media strategy and eye-catching creative. But in eMarketer’s Customer Experience 2018 report, researchers discovered one thing you may be missing to truly personalize your digital marketing campaigns and elevate your customer experience: customer intent. Our COO Jay Friedman, one of the industry experts featured in the report, said: “Creating the content at scale is not the problem. The problem is, what are we creating? Who’s going to think about the psychology behind how the image or the copy will move someone?” Who? Not many. eMarketer found only 11% of senior marketers in North America said they currently use intent analysis in their audience segmentation strategy: But beyond knowing search history and past purchases, you need to know your customers and prospects psychological motivations and emotional triggers behind why they want to buy (or not) from you – only then can you anticipate their needs and be right there with them at every touch point along their buying journey. Though discovering customer intent can be elusive, follow this 6-step action plan, and with some old-fashioned legwork and organizational housekeeping, you’ll learn what makes your customers tick and how to craft messaging for them that will truly resonate:

  1. Get some field experience: Depending on your industry, spend more time at your brick-and-mortar stores or auto dealerships. Being around consumers, observing both their spoken and non-spoken behaviors, during the buying process is a good way to learn how to improve and tie together your digital and offline marketing efforts.
  2.  Increase consumer communication: Talk to a variety of customers, non-customers and prospects face-to-face, over the phone and through surveys on a regular basis to learn about their interests and priorities, their wants and fears, their pressures and obstacles, their dreams and aspirations. Consider even embedding surveys in the buying process to get instant feedback at every stage of the buying journey. If these sound like tough tasks, consider offering people an incentive in exchange for their feedback and time. These methods will give you a more well-rounded view of your audience and teach you how to position your product or service as the cure they need.
  3. Build customer relationships: Offer customer-service channels so you can dialogue with and make meaningful connections with your customers. And listen closely to what they have to say on social media. What’s your community talking about? What’s important to them? What are the trends and themes? Take note of it all, and even how they speak. Doing this will give you a well of ideas on what to address in your content marketing and what wording to use to make your audience feel you’re talking directly to them.
  4. Get back to the basics: Have a clear plan to reach and engage your customers and make customer service a priority by responding and resolving issues quickly. Create an effective, professional website, with an equally nice desktop and mobile experience, which positions you as an expert in your field. Let your audience take the lead and guide your business decisions. These business basics sound simple but can go a long way in making happy customers who are enthusiastic about opening up to you.
  5. Put your business in order: Are your systems and software fragmented? Are your corporate departments and outside partners always on the same page?  If not, you could encounter this scenario: “You’ve got separate creative and media agencies, and that right there is a total killer,” said our COO Jay Friedman. “How you set up a campaign, just from an operational media standpoint, is going to vary dramatically based on the creative.” To align campaign media and creative, or successfully meet any other goal you’re striving for, ensure your customer data is accessible and all in one place, not siloed and scattered across your organization.
  6. Gather more data: Lastly, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in effect, third-party data may become more restricted and expensive. As a result, gathering your own first-party data and acting on it are even more important now. If you offer your customers and prospects the right messaging, incentives and experiences they want to see and need, they’ll likely continually offer more insights to enrich your business.

Now go forth – it’s time to work the plan. But know along the way, we’re here for you and happy to help you learn more about and smartly target your audience.

For Every Generation of Dads, a Father’s Day Video Tribute

As a third-generation family-owned company, Goodway knows the importance of championing family values. For us, this means never letting our employees miss an important moment. Because we know for every big meeting, there’s a little league game. And for every deadline hiding in the shadows, there’s also a monster in the closet that needs to be tamed. #GoodwayDads are there for it all, supporting their families every step of the way. From our company’s founding father to every dad at Goodway today, they are leaving the next generation big shoes to fill. For all of our hardworking #GoodwayDads, here’s a Father’s Day video tribute to say thank you — Celebrate the fathers, grandfathers and other men in your life who have never missed a moment. Use #GoodwayDads to show them some love and share our heartwarming Father’s Day video today. Also, don’t forget about your mom and all she has done! Check out our Mother’s Day video here. *This post was originally published on 6/12/17 but has been revised and updated for accuracy.