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Common UTM Code Mistakes

By following a few simple guidelines, you can easily avoid these mistakes.

Posted On January 1, 2023


Let’s imagine Johnny created a tracking link that uses the proper formatting guidelines.

//yoursite.com/launch-promo/?utm_source=internal& utm_medium=email

&utm_content=suckers+ who+bought+ my+crappy+widget

What can we figure out from this link? Well, it looks like he was sending an email (see the Campaign Medium), via his marketing automation software (see the Campaign Source) to a list of people who...oh no...

1. Forgetting your UTM tags are public & people are going to see them

Your first idea might be for Johnny to put his link through a URL shortener to save him from embarrassment, but once the user clicks on his link, they’ll be redirected to the UTM link itself and the UTM tags will show up at the top of their browser.

To avoid this mistake, put any sensitive data behind a unique content tag that can be stored elsewhere. Having a place to store key information about your UTMs is really helpful (and that place shouldn't be the link itself).

2. Leaving out compulsory tags

Campaign Content and Campaign Term are the two optional UTM parameters. The other tags though, are compulsory and if you leave any of them out – the ones you did include will just be ignored.

It might seem obvious and easy to avoid, but when you’re in a rush and don’t have a good UTM management tool, it’s easy to forget a tag or try to take a shortcut by only including one. Your UTM data will be nearly useless if you do not include all 3. Ensure you have an easy system or tool to create UTM links.

3. Repeating yourself in a single tag

It’s easy to fall into the trap of being too detailed in your UTM links; after all, you want to be as accurate as possible in your tracking.

When creating your links, it’s important to keep all your information in their respective tags. Don’t be tempted to merge information together as if had to be in one tag (e.g. utm_source = internal+email+spring +promo+version+a).

If you don’t keep your information cleanly separated, it makes it difficult to compare and contrast your data.

For example: If you want to compare the effectiveness of the different places you promoted your launch (and your data is properly structured), you just click into your analytics and look at the ‘ebook+launch’ campaign. This would present you with each of your sources and the associated results. If your data is merged like the one above, you’ll need to build out a complex series of filters using regex expressions to clean up your data which is a real pain.

4. Tagging internal links

There is one place you should never use a UTM link: your own website.

It might be tempting to use a UTM Link to track clicks from your blog or an internal banner ad, but that would be a huge mistake. Every visitor to your website can only have one set of tags matched against their ‘session’ (visit to your site). If they click a link on your site that has UTM tags, they’ll override the original tags with the new ones, starting a new session and making it look like the person who originally came to your site just disappeared.

Fortunately, the default setup of Advanced Analytics tracks how users move around your site without any special setup or tagging – so there’s no reason to use UTM tags anyway.

If you want to highlight or track important on-site actions like seeing your "thankyou" page, adding something to their cart or watching your whole explainer video, you can use Event Tracking instead.

5. Long links

By the time you’ve added in all your UTM parameters, your link is getting pretty long. Luckily, your links don’t have to stay that long — you can use a link shortener that forwards to your tracking link. There’s loads of options for this but the most popular are Bitly or TinyURL.

Another option you have is to use a branded link shortener that uses your own domain. This helps build more trust with your audience by showing a branded link versus some other company. You can reap the benefits of a link shortener while still putting your brand first.

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