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4 Critical UTM Management Dos and Don'ts

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

As ad platforms begin to phase out third-party cookies, “UTM” is the latest buzzword everyone has turned their focus to. But what is it, how does it work, and how do you get started? 

The AdRoll team recently hosted a discussion on everything you need to know about building a UTM strategy. If you’re a visual or auditory learner, you can check out the webinar here. Short on time? Read on for the most important highlights.

A Quick Refresher on UTMs

For those unfamiliar with UTMs, here’s a rundown of what they are and why they’re relevant:

  • UTM stands for “Urchin Tracking Module.” 

  • UTM parameters are text strings that are added to a URL to help analytics platforms track the link, which serves as a lifesaver as the industry pivots away from third-party cookies.

  • UTMs typically consist of two components:

    • The UTM parameter, of which there are five types:

      • Traffic source (e.g., “Twitter”)

      • Medium (e.g., “display”)

      • Campaign name (e.g., “influencer”)

      • Content (e.g., “dynamic” vs. “static”) — for differentiating the type of ad 

      • Keyword term — most relevant for paid search ads

    • The tracking variable, which is preceded by the “=” sign

AdRoll’s UTM link builder takes care of the work of creating new UTMs. 

AdRoll’s UTM link builder takes care of the work of creating new UTMs. 

Confused already? Don’t be: There are numerous UTM link builders — including AdRoll — that can handle it all. (Want to learn more about UTMs? Check out this guide.) 

Don’t: Use Spaces or Special Characters in Values

Though you’re allowed to use numbers, letters, hyphens, periods, underscores, and other symbols in UTM management, we always recommend taking a simpler approach. 

For example, spaces are rendered as “%” in the URL by default — this can make UTMs messy and create inconsistencies in your tracking. That said, we recommend avoiding spaces in general and replacing them with either underscores or dashes (but not both!).  

Also, UTMs are case-sensitive, so you’ll be better off by keeping everything lowercase. 

Do: Try to Prefix Paid UTMs as “paid-”

When you add the “paid” tag, you’ll quickly identify paid campaigns. It’s especially beneficial when you have traffic sources such as Facebook or Instagram that encompass both a paid and non-paid component. 

It can be tempting to tag everything once you’re knee-deep in the world of UTM management, but refrain from tagging internal links. For instance, if a user lands on your site from a social media campaign and then clicks on an internal link tagged with a UTM, the original link gets overridden. This can cause a host of issues, from skewed bounce rates to inflated session data. 

Long story short, don’t tag internal links — or risk facing the wrath of misleading data that cancels out the benefits UTMs offer. 

Do: Keep a Record of UTM Values 

Once you’ve established a consistent naming convention, create a record of all UTM values so everyone on your team stays on the same page. Without this convention or record, it’ll require much more work to see a campaign’s results. 

Tag! You’re It

With these UTM management dos and don’ts, you’re on your way to better data that’s user friendly and prioritizes privacy. 

Don’t forget to check out how AdRoll can power your UTM management efforts — not only do we offer an easy link builder, but our Cross-Channel Performance Dashboard also provides a holistic view of all your marketing efforts. Get started today

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