Understanding UTM Tags: The Ultimate Guide to Efficient Tracking

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UTM tags are essential elements in the analysis of advertising campaigns. Without them, you can’t find out which ad sent a visitor to your site, can’t associate sessions with ad costs, and can’t build business intelligence.

UTM tags (a.k.a UTM codes or UTM parameters) help you measure the impact of each particular traffic source or marketing channel and see which advertising campaigns bring you less revenue. If you want to quickly respond to any change in the website traffic and reallocate your advertising budget, UTM tags are a must-have.

This article tells you what UTM tags are, why they’re used, and how they combine data from different sources. We also examine what errors to avoid when creating UTM tags and how to simplify work with dynamic parameters.

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What are UTM Tags, and why are they needed?

To understand how to add UTM tags correctly, you should first know what they are and what they are made of.

UTM tags are small snippets of code you append to the end of your URL. Each tag consists of two parts — a UTM parameter and its value.

For example,


In this example, utm_source/utm_medium/utm_campaign are the UTM parameters, and Google/CPC/welcome are their values. These particular values can be described as follows:

  • Google is the advertising system, a source that has brought a user to your website;

  • CPC is the type of traffic medium (cost per click);

  • welcome is the name of the advertising campaign.

UTM parameters are used to sort data in a web analytics system. Your traffic will be shown as direct/none if you don't use the UTM tags. They also help group values or variables sent to the system. UTM parameters are invariable and static. Each parameter and value are separated by an equal sign (=), and multiple "parameter=value" pairs are separated by an ampersand.

The acronym UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. A bit of history: In 2005, Google bought Urchin Software because of its analytical system Urchin on Demand. This system subsequently formed the basis of Google Analytics. Following the release of Google Analytics, UTM tags have become a standard marketers use to track transitions across various advertising campaigns, including offline.

If you use Google Analytics 4, find a detailed Guide to UTM parameters for marketing campaigns in Google Analytics 4 here.

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Types of UTM parameters

UTM Parameters can be divided into required and optional.

UTM parameterExplanationExample
Required parameters (you should always add them to your URL)
utm_sourceIdentifies the website where the traffic is coming from, e.g. an advertising system:
Bing Ads
Google Ads
utm_mediumIdentifies the type of marketing medium. For example:
email campaign
utm_medium= cpc
utm_medium= cpm
utm_campaignIdentifies a specific advertising campaign. For example:
Kids toys
Kids strollersе
Optional parameters (you can use them when necessary)
utm_termIdentifies the keywords that were paid for in paid keyword campaignsutm_term=running+shoes
utm_contentHelps to differentiate links or ads that point to the same URL from the same source, medium, and campaignutm_content=text

If you are using Google Analytics 4, there is one more required UTM parameter specifically for measuring Non-Google Campaign ROAS in the Acquisition report - and it's called utm_id.

How to use UTM Tags

Let's say to advertise this article on Google Ads. Take the URL of the paper article and add the appropriate tags. Get a working link


Next, we need to add this link to the advertisement. When a user clicks on a link from an ad, Google Analytics will receive information about the visit and the traffic source. In our example, this is Google/CPC.

You need to create different UTM tags for each source. For example, if you published a post on Instagram, then the link leading to your website from that post would look like this:


UTM tags allow you to merge user session information with ad spend data to evaluate the channel's ROI. Google Analytics has a Cost Analysis report that lets you compare session data, spend and revenue data, and ROAS across different advertising channels. However, this report automatically collects statistics about Google Ads only. Marketers have to upload data from other sources manually.

However, this problem can be solved with the help of OWOX BI. The service will help you automate cost data import from Facebook, Bing, Criteo, and other sources into Google Analytics 4

You can analyze advertising campaigns, measure ROAS, CPO, or CPL in a familiar interface, and effectively relocate the budget.

Measuring Cross-platform CPL, CPA and ROAS on a daily basis, with no-code data collection in GA4

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UTM Tags and their Role in Business Intelligence

Why is proper UTM tagging essential for business intelligence? To answer this question, you need to understand how business intelligence works. In this article, we discuss the method OWOX BI uses.

In short, business intelligence combines data from different sources: your site or mobile application, advertising sources, email and call tracking services, and CRM/ERP systems. All this data is uploaded to a single repository (in our case, Google BigQuery) and combined using some keys. You can then use this information in reports and analyze it in different segments.

How data is combined with OWOX BI:

How data is combined with OWOX BI

Benefits of Business Intelligence

  • Analyze data in a single system
  • Accurately evaluate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns
  • See the user path from the first visit to purchase
  • Make decisions based on data, not intuition

Challenges and Features of Data Consolidation

In theory, everything sounds simple enough, but in practice, you can face the following problems when setting up business intelligence:

  • Facebook and other ad platforms don’t give advertising statistics regarding UTM tags. We’ll explain why this is a problem a little later.

  • You can combine user session data with advertising cost data only using UTM tags. There’s no other way.

  • You can't identify a campaign or ad if there are no UTM tags or they aren’t set correctly. This means you won’t be able to accurately attribute costs to a session, meaning you can’t find out the cost of each session. Knowing the cost of each session is the basis for building business intelligence.

Questions UTM Tags can Answer

There are quite a lot of questions UTM tags can answer, including:

  • Which ad was responsible for the transition?

  • What region is the user from?

  • Which sites showed the ad from which the transition occurred? (This mainly concerns contextual advertising.)

  • On which type of devices is the conversion rate better?

  • What gender or age are the users who generate the most income?

Yes, you can answer some of these questions in other ways, but you can also use UTM tags. You can collect this data thanks to dynamic parameters.

Dynamic URL Parameters and Their Use in Advertising Services

Many advertising systems provide dynamic URL parameters, including Google Ads or Bing Ads. Adding dynamic URL parameters to your UTM tags enables the advertising system to insert the information you need into the URLs dynamically.

Marketers use dynamic parameters to transmit meaningful information that characterizes the user and the conditions in which the ad is displayed. These parameters are specified as UTM tag values in curly braces {}. Dynamic settings are established when you set up a campaign. When the ad is displayed, the advertising service places the parameter value in the braces.

Dynamic parameters can be used in several ways. For example, they help identify the websites or referrers which bring in the most traffic or the keywords that triggered those ads which were clicked on. You can also see what sites the ad was clicked on, what type of ad placement was used, etc.

Examples of Facebook dynamic parameters:

  • ad_id={{ad. id}} is the ID of the ad

  • adset_id={{adset. id}} is the ID of the ad set

  • campaign_id={{campaign. id}} is the id of the advertising campaign

  • ad_name={{ad. name}} is the name of the ad

  • adset_name={{adset. name}} is the name of the ad set

  • campaign_name={{campaign. name}} is the name of the advertising campaign

Look closely at some URL parameters in Google Ads and Bing Ads. You can see the complete list of parameters in your advertising system’s help center.

ValueTrack parameters in Google Ads:

Google Ads dynamic parameterExplanationExample
networkSite type: search or contextg — Google search page
s — search partners
d — Google Display Network
placementAddress of the site where a user clicked on an ad, Display Network-onlyhttps://blog.example.com/
adpositionPosition of an ad3t2 (3 — page, t — position at the top (top), 2 — place) or none (Display Network)
creativeUnique numeric ad ID (to see the ID in Google Ads, add the corresponding column in the tab)16541940833
matchtypeKeyword match typee — exact match
p — phrase
b — broad
keywordThe keyword that is matched to the search query (for Search Network) or the content (for Display Network)toys for kids
deviceDevice typem — mobile phone, t — tablet
c — computer, laptop
targetPlacement category (only for placement targeting)Cooking
ifsearch:searchImpression on search pageSearch
ifcontent:contentImpression in Display NetworkContent
adtypeAd block type (only for campaigns targeting products)pla — product listing ads
pe — product extensions ads
devicemodelBrand and model of the device. Only available on Display Network campaignsApple+iPhone
ifmobile:string_textThe custom text you add after the colon is shown if an ad is displayed on a mobile deviceMobile

URL parameters in Bing Ads:

Bing URL parameterExplanationExample
campaignThe name of the campaign that triggered the adSpringSale
adgroupThe name of the ad group that triggered the adDiscounts
matchtypeThe match type used to deliver an ad. Helps you determine the match types that get the most clickse — exact
p — phrase
b — broad or expanded
networkThe Ad network type on which the ad was servedo — owned/operated (Bing and AOL)
s — syndicated
deviceDevice typem — mobile device
t — tablet
c — desktop or laptop
adidThe unique numeric ID of the displayed ad (the Ad ID column is displayed in the table on the Campaigns page)1234567
querystringThe search query text entered by the user that has triggered the impressionapartment for rent

UTM Tags and Attribution Modeling

UTM Tags are pivotal in attribution modeling, shedding light on the customer journey across touchpoints. By integrating UTM tags in marketing efforts, businesses can accurately attribute conversions to specific channels, gauging their impact on the overall sales funnel. This granular data allows marketers to refine strategies, optimize resource allocation, and enhance campaign effectiveness. 

Understanding attribution through UTM tags empowers businesses to make informed decisions, maximize ROI, and craft more personalized customer experiences, driving success in the highly competitive digital landscape.

How OWOX BI works with UTM Tags

OWOX BI helps you automatically ETL marketing & sales data from advertising services to Google BigQuery, Google Analytics 4, Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio), or other tools, as well as collects cookieless real-time streaming of on-site analytics data to BigQuery.

Using OWOX BI, you get complete and high-quality data:

  • OWOX BI recognizes UTM tags in your ads to link session and cost data. No advertising service API gives tags with dynamic parameters in their final form. That is, instead of the parameter's value in the link, there’s only the parameter name. OWOX knows how to recognize these dynamic parameters. It can determine its value when it uploads cost data from an advertising service and encounters a link with dynamic parameters. This lets you view cost data in UTM tags in Google Analytics reports. 

  • When collecting advertising cost data, OWOX BI checks the UTM tags in your campaigns and reports for errors and discrepancies.

  • OWOX BI converts imported data to the correct format. For example, Google Analytics 4 uses this schema for storing data and uses parameters rather than UTM tags: ga: source instead of the utm_source tag. OWOX converts data into the format used by the service to which it sends it.

  • OWOX BI updates data uploaded to Google Analytics 4 if it has changed in the advertising service. For example, if an advertising service analyzes your traffic and determines that bots passed your ads, they will likely return money to your balance. OWOX BI tracks these things and keeps data in Google BigQuery & GA4 relevant.

  • OWOX BI can help you save your historical data from Google Analytics Universal if necessary.

  • In addition, OWOX BI can collect raw data about Google Ads campaigns in Google BigQuery using auto-tagging, getting that data from the gclid and yclid parameters. The fact is that UTM tags are not used in the link when displaying AutoLabel ads. This isn’t a problem if you only analyze advertising costs in Google Analytics. But if you try to upload cost data from the same Google Ads and combine it with session data, you have to attribute advertising costs not by tags but by gclid. OWOX knows how to do that.

How to Import Advertising Cost Data to GA4 with OWOX BI

  1. OWOX BI Pipelines collect the data from advertising platforms.

  2. OWOX BI gets UTM tags for each ad. In most cases, they are visible as links.

  3. OWOX BI extracts UTM tags from those links if they contain dynamic parameters.

  4. OWOX BI analyzes these tags for errors and replaces dynamic parameters with their values.

  5. All advertising data is blended into a single dataset with easy-to-use no-code data transformation templates.  

  6. After getting all UTM tag values and blending the data from multiple sources, OWOX BI forms a CSV file to upload to GA4 Accessible SFTP (managed by OWOX). In addition to tags, this file contains data on costs, screenings, clicks, and dates.

Errors in tagging that OWOX BI defines:

  • No obligatory UTM tags.

  • Unsupported dynamic parameters are used that are not available in the advertising service API. For example, an advertising service has a dynamic parameter that can be used to track the exact position of an ad in the search results. But in the API in the ad section, it’s impossible to get this data. In such cases, we recommend using Google Analytics user settings instead of dynamic settings.

  • Syntax errors in UTM tags.

Import Non-Google Advertising Cost Data to GA4 with OWOX BI

How to Collect Advertising Costs To Google BigQuery with OWOX BI

The next step in building comprehensive marketing analytics - that's when you'll need to collect all of the marketing, advertising, and sales data into the data warehouse, which would allow you to use more advanced reports, use more metrics (e.g., Google Analytics 4 will enable you to analyze the campaigns only at the Campaign level) and easier communicate marketing results with C-levels or a board. 

That's where you can get more comprehensive reports and collect the additional UTM tags. We manage over 200 metrics from Facebook Ads data to Google BigQuery.

Build detailed reports for in-depth analysis, create remarketing lists, effectively manage ad bids and rates, and train your machine learning models for more accurate predictions.

Top 30 handpicked Looker Studio Dashboards for Marketers

Collect Cookieless On-site Analytics Data

OWOX BI uses its cookieless tracker (similar to Google Analytics counter, but privacy-compliant and doesn't have the limitation) installed on the customer’s website. OWOX records data about user behavior in the form of events (or Hits) into Google BigQuery. This data is available without any delays. Tables with user sessions from tables with data on hits or events are formed daily.

Then OWOX BI Transformation helps you to Attribute AdCost to Sessions.

  1. OWOX BI gets the cost data with UTM tags from advertising platforms.

  2. OWOX BI blends the data from multiple platforms in the same structure and forms a table of omnichannel advertising costs. 

  3. Using tags from the session tables and tags from the cost tables, OWOX defines the cost for each session.

  4. As a result, in the session streaming table, all costs are allocated to user sessions (the attributedAdCost field)

This information helps you analyze data in different segments. The easiest thing is to calculate the cost per order (CPO) for each of your orders. Just take the attributedAdCost of the user who converted, sum up the costs if there were a few paid transitions, and get the cost of your order.

You can also group expenses and revenues by user, cohort, or landing page. This helps evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns aimed at returning or attracting new users and planning the budget for different categories, regions, etc.

Any analytics by your rules. No limitations. 

OWOX BI Streaming

Read more about what tasks can be solved by knowing the cost of a session in our article on how to assess the effectiveness of product categories, client segments, and landing pages.

How to Create UTM tags to Track your Ad Campaigns

The good news is you don’t always have to tag your campaigns manually. Some utm builders allow you to easily add the needed UTM parameters to your URLs. We use this URL Builder to help you generate a correct URL with UTM parameters. 

This takes two easy steps:

  1. Enter the full URL of a website or a page that users will follow;

  2. Select the parameters and values which will be used in the UTM tag. The default parameter list is included.

The URL is updated automatically as you add the parameters. This is very convenient if you need to create many similar URLs.

We have also created an infographic post to help you create UTM tags for tracking ad campaigns in Google Analytics.

infographic to help you create UTM tags

Mistakes in UTM tags

If you append correctly, UTM tags can provide valuable information about clicks on your ads. Nobody is immune to making mistakes, and the good news is we’ve prepared a compilation of the most common errors in UTM tagging. Get the checklist, and ensure you’re tagging your URLs correctly.

Key takeaways

UTM tagging is necessary for adequately collecting statistics and high-quality analysis. UTM parameters help you identify which campaigns generate revenue and which don’t. Just keep in mind that UTM tags should be added strictly by the rules to ensure that they are 100% effective.

  1. UTM tagging is an indispensable practice for analyzing the efficiency of advertising campaigns.

  2. Design campaigns and UTM tagging based on business logic and tasks you want to solve. Determine for yourself which data segments you need to analyze. For example, if you want to analyze brand and non-brand traffic, it’s desirable to have different campaigns in advertising sources for this purpose.

  3. Use the potential of dynamic parameters to the fullest— in Google Analytics's Cost Analysis report. For example, you can view costs by location, display networks of your contextual advertising, etc.



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  • How do I create UTM tags?

    UTM tags can be created using a UTM builder tool, which allows you to enter the relevant information and generates a tagged URL. Google Analytics also offers a URL builder that can also create UTM tags.
  • Why should I use UTM tags?

    UTM tags help track the effectiveness of different marketing campaigns and channels, allowing marketers to analyze and optimize their efforts.
  • What are UTM tags?

    UTM tags are parameters added to URLs for tracking and analyzing marketing campaigns. They consist of parameters like utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_term, and utm_content. These tags help identify the source, medium, campaign, keywords, and content associated with a specific URL, allowing for accurate campaign tracking and analysis.

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OWOX UTM Builder