Urchin tracking module (UTM)
Urchin tracking module (UTM)
An urchin tracking module (UTM) is a marketing analytics tool used to measure the performance of marketing campaigns. UTM parameters are the key pieces of data that enable the analysis and are added at the end of a URL.

What is a UTM?

The urchin tracking module (UTM) is a commonly used marketing measurement technique that collects the performance data of marketing campaigns on the web. A UTM consists of UTM parameters (a.k.a. UTM codes or UTM tags), which carry information on specific measurement components like the traffic source or content type. This module is used conjointly with a web analytics tool that inspects the UTM parameters to generate an analysis report outlining the performance. 

UTM was originally developed by Urchin, a web analytics software that intended to design a tool to track the behavior of unique website visitors. In 2005, Google acquired this module and used it as the foundation for Google Analytics, which has now become the industry standard for web analytics. 

How to use UTM parameters

There are five standard UTM parameters used to extract the necessary information. 

  • utm_source: This parameter indicates the source of the traffic, meaning where the users came from. Google (search engines) or Instagram/Twitter (social media platforms) are examples of sources. (ex. utm_source=instagram) 
  • utm_medium: This parameter indicates how the users got to the traffic, and it describes the broader category or tool they are using. Paid searches from Google or post ads from Instagram can be mediums. (ex. utm_medium=post-ad) Hence, in the case that a user came from Instagram and used it to access the traffic, the source would be ‘Instagram’ and the medium is ‘social’. 
  • utm_campaign: This parameter identifies the specific campaign the URL is linked to. (ex. utm_campaign=black-friday-sales)
  • utm_term: This parameter identifies the specific search term or keyword that led the user to the campaign. (ex. utm_term=cute-tops)
  • utm_content: This parameter is used to differentiate between versions of ads and indicate the specific element within the campaign that was accessed (ex. utm_content=post-ad-2) 

All of the above parameters combined form a complete UTM query string which would resemble the following:  


*Note: A question mark “?” is always added at the end of the URL and before the UTM parameters to indicate the separation, and an ampersand “&” is used to connect the different parameters. 

Benefits of using UTM in marketing 

Accurate performance tracking

UTM parameters maintain high accuracy and efficiency with tracking sources and extracting different pieces of data within seconds. When a user clicks on a URL with UTM codes, the individual parameters are immediately captured by web analytics tools. The data is then tied to the respective campaign and URL, which provides a comprehensive view of a marketing campaign’s performance. 

Campaign attribution & effectiveness

UTMs enable marketers to attribute the success of their marketing campaigns to specific channels or sources. Based on the identified parameters, they can determine which channels or ads led conversions and accurately provide attribution to ad partners. Furthermore, the standardized UTM parameters make it easy for marketers to compare results and define what worked best in each category. Using this data, they can mix and match parameters and test different variations to find the most optimal set of parameters for maximizing traffic. 

UTM & Airbridge 

Originally, UTMs were only used for web analytics tracking as the parameters operated in relation to URLs. However, mobile app technologies have expanded significantly over the past couple of years and have enabled users to reach external platforms within the app, including external links and webpage sources. Due to the frequent overlap between apps and web pages, several mobile analytics services have integrated UTM parameters into their tool to provide a full measurement of user activity. Mobile measurement partners (MMPs) like Airbridge supports UTM parameters, so mobile marketers can conveniently perform cross-app and web measurements on a centralized platform.

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