Five Common UTM Tracking Parameter Mistakes

five common utm code mistakes
560 315 Pete Furseth

So, you just discovered UTM tracking parameters and want to use them immediately. Wait a minute though. First, check out our previous post on the Best Practices for UTM Parameters and how to implement them. Second, if you’re ready for the next level, make sure you’re doing everything right. Avoid these five simple mistakes everyone makes (including industry leaders).

1. Doubling Up Your UTM Codes

UTM codes can be addicting. The more the merrier, right? Ignore that initial reaction to add a UTM code to every link you’ve got. There are some rules. Do not add UTM codes to internal links on your website. The entire purpose of UTM parameters is to identify where web traffic is coming from. If you add a parameter to an internal link, you’ll lose all of the external data your UTM codes were initially tracking, ruining your data.

A customer reached a blog post from an email campaign you started last week. Your UTM codes have identified that web traffic as sourced from a newsletter. If you have new UTM codes on an internal link, such as your home page, that the same customer clicks on, they will then be identified as being sourced from a blog post.

All your useful data, gone.


2. Inconsistent Parameters

Consistency is everything. You most likely have multiple people writing content and working on your marketing outreach. It’s imperative that every individual working on a campaign has the same understanding of the standard parameters you use. If one person defines a Twitter post’s parameters as utm_source=social but another one uses utm_source=twitter, your data immediately becomes muddled. The same thing happens for utm_source=twitter and utm_source=Twitter.

Capitalization matters!

Define your parameters at the get-go to be as consistent as possible.

3. Unrecognizable Campaigns

Be Specific

On the same note, after you’ve defined your core parameters, make sure that your utm_campaign is specific across all campaigns. Anyone should be able to look at this parameter and be able to identify exactly which campaign it refers to.  If you send out a weekly newsletter, make sure it is easy to understand which email a person came from, week 1 or week 2. Utm_campaign=email2054 doesn’t tell you anything about the campaign in question, and you definitely won’t be able to recognize it in a few months, let alone a few weeks. Sometimes it helps to include a key subject or the purpose of the campaign itself, such as utm_campaign=storeopeningwinter2017.

Stay Concise

At the same time, balance the specificity with conciseness. The more words you add to a parameter, the more confusing it gets. In the future, utm_campaign=wklynws171114email2054storeopening won’t be nearly as understandable as you think it is the minute you write it. Additionally, if you want to go back and compare campaigns for this hypothetical store opening, you might have a hard time doing so. The campaign is so specific that it will eliminate other campaigns that were alerting recipients to the same information. Make a template for your campaigns that can be applied across the board, content+date+targetrecipients, the list goes on.

Also, it may seem obvious, but your campaign parameter should stay the same if it is publicized through different sources.

4. Consider URL Shortener

No one likes long and drawn-out URLs. They’re messy and unappealing to look at. More than that though, they give away your UTM parameters to the world and may deter customers from clicking the link for follow through. Also, you might not want people to know how you’re coding and organizing your data. Using a link shortener like saves you from embarrassment. It also saves you the much-needed character space in your Twitter posts.

5. UTM Term Keywords

The utm_term parameter only functions with paid search keywords. There is no need to add it in just because you feel like it. You don’t have to use all five parameters for each campaign. In fact, if you’re trying to use all five every time, you might be skewing your data. When you use utm_term inaccurately, you’re making it harder to understand and dig deep into your results. The only time utm_term is necessary and useful is when you’re running a paid ad campaign through Google. Google AdWords does a good job of making these known to you.

Let the Code do the Work

It’s not the end of the world if you’ve made one of these mistakes. Everyone makes them. But, letting them run rampant across your UTM codes can cause you serious issues down the road. Hopefully, you’ve found some ways to improve your UTM codes. We’ve adapted a tracker, so you can easily track your UTM parameters over time. Here at ORM Technologies, we make understanding sales and marketing analytics easy. If you have any questions or would like to know how we can enhance your campaign tracking and analysis, please let us know at