This blog is part three in our series on campaigns in action.

Little things can impact your data in big ways. UTM parameters are no exception.

For some background that you probably don’t need, UTM means “Urchin Tracking Module.” This references the Urchin Software Corporation, which was acquired by Google in 2005. The name seems to imply that UTM parameters are proprietary to one analytics platform, but they can be used by just about any analytics tool.

UTM parameters, like all parameters, are simple strings of text added to a URL that tell analytics tools more information about that link. When you create a link with UTM parameters, you define a set of criteria that makes it easy to track the visits from that particular link on your website.

Sounds pretty simple, right? You’d be surprised.

Even small mistakes can have big consequences on the accuracy of your campaign results.

I’ve taken the liberty of laying out some of the major do’s and don’ts of working with UTM parameters to keep your analytics tracking on target.

Do’s of UTM Parameters

Establish a consistent naming convention and stick to it

The point of creating UTM parameters is to track the activity of users who clicked links to your site as part of one of your campaigns. If you have a consistent naming convention, it becomes a lot easier to group results and to measure campaigns as a whole, rather than link by link. Pay special attention to characters like spaces, dashes, and underscores when you’re creating your naming conventions – we’ll go deeper into what they affect in the “don’ts” section.

Create a consistent list of sources and mediums that your team uses

Using consistent parameters to create campaign URLs matters just as much as using a consistent naming convention. Imagine looking at your results and having to track down links for the same campaign, but some have the medium listed as “social” and some have it as “social-media.” It might seem like a small change, but that tiny difference means manually sifting through your UTM links to figure out which should be included in reporting or not. No fun.

Get a tool that keeps you accountable

If you don’t have a great analytics and campaign tool to help you build, manage, and analyze your campaigns, I suggest you stop immediately and find one. There are too many resources out there for you to spend hours drowning in numbers and searching in the dark for the meaning behind them. When it comes to UTM parameters, the most valuable thing you can have is a UTM/link builder that guides you through the process and doesn’t let you mess up. Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t always have to remember to use underscores and not dashes? A good tool can help you and your teams stay consistent.

Don’ts of UTM Parameters

Stay away from spaces

Space is cool – unless it’s messing up your parameter format and making it harder to track links in your campaign. When there are spaces between words in parameters, they become percentage signs in the URL by default. At the end of the day, it complicates tracking and leads to inconsistency in your campaign results. It’s better to just avoid spaces altogether.
Say goodbye to capital letters

UTM parameters are case sensitive. So, while it may seem like no big deal if someone accidentally capitalizes a letter, your analytics tool tracks it as a completely separate parameter. That means instead of filtering out all the results you’re looking to include in your reports, you may leave data behind simply due to it being sorted somewhere you didn’t intend.

Choose between dashes and underscores and stay consistent

Dashes and underscores cause the same issues as capital letters. If one year, you track a social media campaign and name it “us_socialmedia_2018” and the next year it’s named “us-socialmedia-2019", it makes historical comparisons that much more difficult.

Don’t link to redirected pages

This is a big one. Some redirects strip URLs of their parameters. That means all your hard work building UTM parameters could be for nothing if you’re linking to a page that’s been redirected. If you’re not looking to lose a bunch of your data anytime soon, double check that your parameters and redirects stay far apart from one another.

Keep internal links parameter-free

For internal links—meaning links on your site that send users to other parts of your site—never use UTM parameters. This can potentially have a negative effect on your metrics, as it typically starts a new visit or session and wreaks havoc on your visit, bounce rate, and campaign data. Only use UTM parameters on links to other sites or digital properties.

While UTM parameters may not seem like an important step in measuring the success of your campaigns, it’s massively important to get them right. While there’s no such thing as perfect data, you can save yourself time and energy by putting the right tools in place, creating a solid process, and staying consistent.

To learn more about UTM parameters and the new Siteimprove Campaigns feature, register for our upcoming webinar, Campaigns in Action: Learn to Measure, Analyze, and Evaluate.