UTM Tagging Best Practices

What are UTMs anyway?

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module, but that’s totally irrelevant. You’ll hear people refer to UTMs by different names:

  • UTM tags
  • UTM parameters
  • UTM codes
  • Campaign tracking codes
  • Campaign tags

And probably a dozen other names.

UTM is an open standard–it’s not a HubSpot or Google thing. Lots of software, especially marketing analytics apps, rely on UTM parameters to discern information about a website visit.

What is the point of UTM tags?

At their core, UTM tags help us track website visits by campaign, by marketing channel, and by creative so that we can see which marketing efforts are working best.

Here’s what one looks like:


How do UTMs affect HubSpot?

The most obvious way is in the Sources Report. The HubSpot tracking code that you install on your site uses various rules to determine which Source each visit should be bucketed into.

One of the first things HubSpot will look for is whether there is a UTM tag present in the URL. Here’s a link to a handy flow chart I built to help you visualize how HubSpot determines which Source to group a visitor into:

HubSpot Sources Cheat Sheet

Other parts of HubSpot that are impacted by UTMs include:

  • HubSpot Sources Report
  • HubSpot Traffic Analytics
  • HubSpot Website & Landing Page Analytics
  • HubSpot Ads
  • HubSpot Campaigns
  • HubSpot Contact Records

Outside of HubSpot, the Google Analytics Channel, Campaigns, and Multi-Channel Funnel Reports are all impacted by UTMs.

What if I don’t use UTM tags at all?

Luckily, your Sources data will be mostly clean. HubSpot has other ways besides UTMs to determine the right Source for a visitor. But we’re not in this game to be mostly clean, right?

Some things that will NOT be mostly OK:

  • Paid search outside of AdWords will show up as organic
  • Paid social will show up as social (HubSpot Ads can help)
  • Display banners will show up as referral
  • Email (outside of HubSpot) will show up as direct
  • Campaign reporting will be tough

The Big Three

UTM Medium

Medium answers the question: “What channel are you using to promote your thing?”

This is the most crucial UTM parameter to get right, because it helps you determine how well each marketing channel is doing. Keep your UTMs broad. Think of them as big buckets: email, social, display, ppc.

At my company, we only allow five possible values for utm_medium: email, display, social, paidsocial, ppc

You might have the need for others: tv, radio, podcast, print, etc., but try to keep them high level. There are only so many marketing channels after all.

If you’re running Facebook ads, don’t make your UTM medium Facebook. Then you won’t be able to quickly answer the question: “How is paid social working across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn?” Instead, set the medium to paidsocial and the source to facebook.com and you get the best of both worlds.

UTM Source

Source answers the question “Where does the link live?”

This tag should tell us the domain name of the site where the link appears (e.g. linkedin.com, troyhunt.com, reddit.com).

One exception email: since emails don’t actually live on a site, you have to be a little resourceful. If you’re using HubSpot for your emails, you could set utm_source to hs_email for broadcast emails and hs_automation for workflow emails. These are the values HubSpot will automatically add to your URLs if you have email tracking turned on.

UTM Campaign

Campaign answers the question: “What are you promoting?”

Well-organized campaigns span across mediums and sources.

Try not to go too narrow with your campaign names. If you have a daily deals campaign, it’s better to have a broad daily-deals campaign than a new campaign for each day (e.g., daily-deals-2019-02-05).

The Little Two

UTM Content

Content answers the question: “What’s in the content where the link lives?”

This is a great place to describe your copy or your creative. If you’re running two variations of an ad, for instance, you’d want to describe each variation in utm_content so that you can evaluate the performance independently.

UTM Term

Term answers the question: “What was the paid search keyword?”

This tag helps us determine how our paid search terms are performing relative to one another. If you have auto-tagging turned on in Google Ads, then you don’t have to worry about this. I rarely find myself populating this field.

HubSpot Email Tracking

In HubSpot’s Email Tracking settings you can specify whether you want HubSpot to overwrite UTMs in URLs, add them if they don’t exist, or leave your URLs alone entirely.


UTM Fails

  • Using UTM tags in internal links
  • Confusing medium and source
  • Mixing case
  • Campaign names are too cryptic or fragmented
  • UTM tagging links to other people’s websites
  • Not defining & enforcing naming conventions

Helpful Resources