A UTM, or Urchin Tracking Module (a term no one has used much since 2005), is a set of parameters added to the end of a web link. You would do so in order to add helpful, universally accepted information to a link without having to change the link itself. Through the use of URL parameters you can add information that is specific to a visitor, type of visitor, or perhaps source of that visitor without having to affect the page the visitor goes to. Code on the visitor’s destionation page can pickup these UTM parameters (the parts of the UTM) and dynamically make changes to the page or simply record information about that user’s visit.
Technically you could include utm_whateverYouWant but there are some standard UTMs that will be expected by most systems, most importantly (for most people) Google Analytics. The ones typically considered to be mandatory are:
There are other popular UTM parameters. These include:
Yes, usually. A UTM will accept both uppercase and lowercase letters and these letters will likely be seen as different values in your analytics application. This means that:
will be seen as being two different traffic sources in Google Analytics, Adobe Omniture, Mixpanel, or whatever your analytics suite might be. The use of uppercase letters isn’t popular, but it won’t break the link and the destination page won’t change if you use different cases except if you have on-site behavior that is based on a specific UTM. For instance you might trigger a Google Tag Manager (GTM) tag based on the presence of a specific UTM parameter. This trigger might very well be case sensitive.
UTM is helpful because it’s something that’s within your control. You are usually creating the link within an advertising campaign or a social network post, which is when you input the link, containing the UTM parameters. The user clicks this and that is the destination page — there is nothing the current site or HTTP protocol will do to change that.
The source site (the referrer) might add a 301 link between its site and your site, but this will go to the same end page… the one with your UTMs. The source site might also remove HTTP referer using a strict referer policy, so you can’t rely on that as a source of information, but you can rely on UTM in this case.
One interesting limitation is that the user may have a browser plugin that detects marketing UTMs (as in non-essential link parameters) and simply remove them in an effort to improve privacy, reduce tracking, increase performance or for any number of other reasons. This is beyond your control as the link creator and will require different techniques if you want to understand the performance of those marketing campaigns.
No, not at all. You can put the UTMs in order any order you’d like. So long as there is a “&” between them then everything will work as intended.
No, you can use any UTMs you’d like. Some people will consider certain UTMs to be mandatory, but in fact none of them are and you can add and remove them as you’d like. It’s simply the case that some analytics system will have pre-made filtering for certain UTM values (technically they are treated as an analytics dimension) so they are expected, but nothing will fail without them — you’d just be missing that data.
No, UTM links should not affect SEO. These links are popular enough that Google, Bing, and other search engines understand that links with UTM parameters on them are not used with the intention of differentiating the content of one page from another.
You should also confirm this assumption with search engines and other crawlers by making your canonical link be independent of your UTM’ed link. For example:
Most content management systems will inherently use this logic, but you’ll have to be more careful with custom applications.
No, you should not use UTMs on links to within the current site. This is because Google Analytics will trigger a new user session if it sees UTMs links with a different utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_content, utm_id, or utm_term. If you have no UTM and add one, it’ll also create a new session for that user.
This would mean your session count (but not unique visitors) would seem much higher than it actually is.
Bing, Google, and similar systems use Auto-tagging which can work in place of a UTM, but it’s not the same thing. An auto-tagged link will add a parameter like “/?gclid=123hash456” which can be used to pass information from, say, Google Ads to Google Analytics or Facebook Ads to Facebook’s analytics.
Auto-tagging used a unique click value not a set of human-readable parameters. The auto-tag comes across as a parameter (like gclid, msclid, or fbclid) but can be augmented with manual parameters which are a much closer equivalent to a UTM and can even be UTMs. Though when a UTM is present it will often be designed to override a dynamically created UTM, specifically when setting is selected in Google Ads and similar tools.