Custom campaigns in Google Analytics – Complete Guide

In the context of Google Analytics, a custom campaign is your website URL which contains UTM parameters.

Through custom campaigns you can send detailed information about your marketing campaigns to Google Analytics.

For example, if you are running various ad campaigns on Facebook, you by default cannot evaluate the performance of each individual Facebook campaign in Google Analytics.

All you will see, by default in GA, is the traffic and sales from dozens of Facebook referrers.

In order to track the performance of each individual Facebook ad campaigns in Google Analytics, you would need to add various UTM parameters at the end of the destination URL of each Facebook ad:

Following is an example of Facebook ad URL which contains UTM parameters (highlighted in bold text):

https://www.abc.com/book-maths-and-stats/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=pdf-book-campaign&utm_content=ad1

These UTM parameters have the power to overwrite the original referrer and send that information to GA which cannot be sent otherwise.

But before we move forward with custom campaigns, you would first need to understand query string and ‘parameters’.

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Introduction to Query string

A query string is the part of the URL which comes after the ‘?’ character.

For example in the URL:

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715

The query string is:

ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715

Now consider another URL:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Here the query string is:

utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Another example:

https://www.abc.com?gclid=CLjTpNrg8NIC

Here the query string is:

gclid=CLjTpNrg8NIC

Another Example:

https://www.google-analytics.com/collect?v=1&tid=UA-123456-2&cid=36009a59-2a05-49e7-b826-2b884d0f935b&t=pageview&dp=%2Fhome

Here the query string is:

v=1&tid=UA-123456-2&cid=36009a59-2a05-49e7-b826-2b884d0f935b&t=pageview&dp=%2Fhome

Introduction to Parameters

The query string is made up of one or more parameters and each parameter is made up of ‘key=value’ pair.

For example in the URL:

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715

The query string is:

ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715

This query string is made up of following two parameters:

  • ThemeId=8904
  • iPathId=38715

The parameter ‘ThemeId=8904’ is made up of the key called ‘ThemeId’ and the value called ‘8904’

Similarly, the parameter ‘iPathId=38715’ is made up of the key called ‘iPathId’ and the value called ‘38715’

In a URL two or more parameters are separated via the ampersand sign ‘&’. For example:

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715

Variables in the context of URLs

URL Parameters are sometimes referred to as ‘variables’. So just like a parameter, a variable is also made up of ‘key=value’ pair.

For example in the URL:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

The query string is:

utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

This query string is made up of following five variables (or parameters):

  1. utm_source=bing
  2. utm_medium=ppc
  3. utm_term=car-insurance
  4. utm_content=text-ad
  5. utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Here,

The variable ‘utm_source=bing’ is made up of the key called ‘utm_source’ and the value called ‘bing’

Similarly, the variable ‘utm_medium=ppc’ is made up of the key called ‘utm_medium’ and the value called ‘ppc’

In a URL two or more variables are separated via the ampersand sign ‘&’. That’s why you see the ‘&’ after every variable in the URL below:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Another example,

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Here the query string is:

ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

This query string is made up of following seven variables:

  1. ThemeId=8904
  2. iPathId=38715
  3. utm_source=bing
  4. utm_medium=ppc
  5. utm_term=car-insurance
  6. utm_content=text-ad
  7. utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Another Example:

https://www.google-analytics.com/collect?v=1&tid=UA-123456-2&cid=36009a59-2a05-49e7-b826-2b884d0f935b&t=pageview&dp=%2Fhome

Here the URL is made up of following five variables:

  1. v=1
  2. tid=UA-123456-2
  3. cid=36009a59-2a05-49e7-b826-2b884d0f935b
  4. t=pageview
  5. dp=%2Fhome

Different types of URL Parameters

Not all URL parameters are the same.

#1 Dynamic URL Parameters – These parameters are dynamically added to your web page URL (by your web server) during runtime / page load so that the page render correctly.

If you remove one of these parameters then your web page may not display and/or function correctly.

URLs which contain dynamic parameters are called dynamic URLs.

A web page which has got dynamic URL is auto generated during run time.

That is why such web pages are also called ‘dynamic web pages’.

Following is an example of URL which contains dynamic parameters:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LT80TN4/ref=s9u_simh_gw_i3?ie=UTF8&fpl=fresh&pd_rd_i=B01LT80TN4&pd_rd_r=38GB3XMHBJ1RGP0EKPT0&pd_rd_w=0kCGp&pd_rd_wg=xY0dy&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=&pf_rd_r=VVTM3H164R64SW26WVTJ&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=1cf9d009-399c-49e1-901a-7b8786e59436&pf_rd_i=desktop

It is not usually hard to find URLs which contain dynamic parameters. They are usually abnormally long and contain characters like %, ?, &, + etc.

#2 Campaign Tracking Parameters – These parameters are used to pass additional information about a click via a URL.

Depending upon the platform being used there can be different types of campaign tracking parameters.

For example, the campaign tracking parameters recognized by Google fall into two categories:

  1. UTM parameters (commonly used for non-google adwords campaigns)
  2. GCLID parameters (commonly used for google adwords campaigns)

Introduction to UTM parameters

In the context of Google Analytics, a custom campaign is your website URL which contains UTM parameters.

There are five different types of UTM parameters:

  • utm_source=<value>
  • utm_medium=<value>
  • utm_campaign=<value>
  • utm_term=<value>
  • utm_content=<value>

Just like any parameter, each UTM parameter is made up of ‘key=value’ pair.

For example, if utm_source=facebook

Then ‘utm_source’ is the key and ‘facebook’ is the value.

Similarly, if utm_medium = paidSocial

Then ‘utm_medium’ is the key and ‘paidSocial’ is the value.

Note: UTM parameters are also called ‘Campaign tracking parameters’ or ‘Custom Campaign tracking parameters’.

‘Keys’ of UTM Parameters

Following are the five keys of UTM Parameters:

#1 utm_source – This key is used to send the information related to traffic source of a custom campaign to Google Analytics.

#2 utm_medium – This key is used to send the information related to traffic medium of a custom campaign to Google Analytics.

#3 utm_campaign – This key is used to send the information related to custom campaign name to Google Analytics.

#4 utm_term – This key is used to send the information related to campaign term (paid search keyword) to Google Analytics.

#5 utm_content – This key is used to send the information related to campaign content (ad version) to Google Analytics.

All of these keys have got special meaning for Google Analytics and are case sensitive.

So ‘utm_source’ is not the same as: Utm_source’ or ‘utm-source’,  ‘utm_Source’ or ‘UTM_SOURCE’ or ‘utmsource’.

You need to strictly follow the format/syntax of how each key is spelled/written.

So if you use ‘Utm_source’ instead of ‘utm_source’, Google Analytics won’t understand the key and your custom campaign tracking may not work.

Order of the ‘keys’ of UTM parameters

There is no particular order in which UTM parameters’ ‘keys’ should be used in a URL. You can use any order you like.

For example, following two URLs are same, as far as custom campaign tracking is concerned:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

https://www.abc.com/?utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc

‘Values’ of UTM Parameters

A value of a UTM parameter should depend upon the key being used.

utm_source’ key is used to send the information related to traffic source to Google Analytics.

So its value should be something which denotes traffic source (i.e. origin of the traffic).

This traffic source can be system defined or user defined.

System defined traffic sources

A System defined traffic source is the one which Google Analytics already recognize as the known source of traffic.

Following are examples of system defined traffic sources:

  • google
  • bing
  • yahoo
  • twitter.com
  • m.facebook.com
  • t.co etc

When you use a system defined traffic source as the value for your ‘utm_source’ key, Google may group the traffic from custom campaign with one of the system defined traffic source. For example:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Here the traffic source is ‘google’ and medium is ‘organic’.

So Google Analytics will include the traffic from this campaign in Google Organic Search:

All system defined traffic sources in GA are (by default) in lowercase and case sensitive.

So for Google Analytics, the traffic source ‘google’ is different from ‘Google’.

Once you change the case /spelling of a system defined traffic source, it becomes a user defined traffic source and is reported separately by GA.

For example:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=organic&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Here the traffic source is ‘Google’ (and not ‘google’) and medium is ‘organic’.

So Google Analytics will report the traffic from this custom campaign like the one below:

So if you are planning to use a system defined traffic source as the value of ‘utm_source’ key, then be very careful about how you spell the traffic source name and what case (lowercase, uppercase, camelcase) you use.

One small mistake and your system defined traffic source will be treated as user defined traffic source by GA.

User defined traffic sources

A user defined traffic source is the one which is defined by people like you and me and which is by default, not recognized by GA.

For example:

utm_source=facebook campaign&utm_medium=social

Here ‘facebook campaign’ is a user defined traffic source.

Here is how GA will report on this traffic source:

Note: You can use white spaces to separate two or more words in the values of UTM parameters. Just make sure that you use %20 instead of a single white space, while building the custom campaign.

For example:

https://www.abc.com/best-seo-contract-in-the-world/?utm_source=facebook%20campaign&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=seo%20contract

Generally the domain name which is expected to refer traffic to your website is used as the value for ‘utm_source’

So if you are expecting to get traffic from facebook (as you are running Facebook ads), you can use ‘facebook.com’ as the value of ‘utm_source’.

Example:

utm_source=facebook.com

Similarly, if you are expecting to get traffic from twitter (as you are running Twitter ads), you can use ‘twitter.com’ as the value of ‘utm_source’. Example:

utm_source=twitter.com

Technically speaking, you can use any number, text or combination of ‘number and text’ as the value for the ‘utm_source’ key:

System defined traffic medium

A System defined traffic medium is the one which Google Analytics already recognize as the known category of traffic (i.e. medium)

Following are examples of system defined traffic medium:

  • organic
  • none
  • social
  • Referral
  • cpc
  • ppc
  • banner
  • email etc

When you use a system defined traffic medium as the value for your ‘utm_medium’ key, Google may group the traffic from custom campaign with one of the system defined traffic medium. For example:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Here the traffic source is ‘google’ and medium is ‘organic’.

So Google Analytics will include the traffic from this custom campaign under Google Organic Search:

All system defined traffic medium in GA are (by default) in lowercase and case sensitive.

So for Google Analytics, the traffic medium ‘organic’ is different from ‘Organic’.

Once you change the case /spelling of a system defined traffic medium, it becomes a user defined traffic medium and is reported separately by GA.

For example:

https://www.optimizesmart.com/best-seo-contract-in-the-world/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=Organic&utm_campaign=seo%20contract

Here the traffic source is ‘google’ but the traffic medium is ‘Organic’ (and not ‘organic’).

So Google Analytics will report the traffic from this custom campaign like the one below:

So if you are planning to use a system defined traffic medium as the value of ‘utm_medium’ key, then be very careful about how you spell the traffic medium and what case (lowercase, uppercase, camelcase) you use.

One small mistake and your system defined traffic medium will be treated as user defined traffic medium by GA.

User defined traffic medium

A user defined traffic medium is the one which is defined by people like me and you and which is by default, not recognized by GA.

For example:

utm_source=facebook campaign&utm_medium=paidsocial

Here ‘paidsocial’ is a user defined traffic medium.

Here is how GA will report on this traffic medium:

Technically speaking, you can use any number, text or combination of ‘number and text’ as the value for the ‘utm_medium’ key:

Names of Custom Campaigns (utm_campaign)

You can send information related to custom campaign name to Google Analytics via the ‘utm_campaign’ key.

You can use any of the following as the value of ‘utm_campaign’ key:

  • any text
  • any number
  • combination of text and number
  • words separated by white spaces

For example:

utm_campaign=Book%20promo%20Sept2017

utm_campaign=Sept_Bumper_Sales2017

utm_campaign=Analytics-Training-Course

No matter what campaign name you select, make sure that you remain consistent with its spelling, format and case.

For GA, ‘BookPromo’ is a different campaign than ‘bookpromo’.

Similarly, for GA, ‘Sept_Bumper_Sales2017’ is a different custom campaign than ‘Sept-Bumper-Sales2017’ or ‘Sept%20Bumper%20Sales2017’

The best way to maintain consistency with the name, spelling, case and format of campaign names, is to maintain Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet of all the tagged URLs and always use lower case.

Note: When you use ‘Sept%20Bumper%20Sales2017’ as the value of ‘utm_campaign’ then GA display whitespaces between various words of the campaign name:

Use short and descriptive words as the name of your custom campaign.

If you are running a Facebook campaign, you can use the name of the Facebook campaign as the value for ‘utm_campaign’.

If you are running an email campaign, you can use the name of the latest promotion as the value for ‘utm_campaign’.

Similarly, if you are running a Twitter campaign, you can use the name of the Twitter campaign as the value for ‘utm_campaign’.

Campaign Term (utm_term)

The utm_term key is used to send the information related to campaign term (paid search keyword) to Google Analytics.

The value of this key is often the paid keyword you are bidding on.

For example if you are bidding on a keyword say ‘conversion optimization’, you can use the ‘utm_term’ key like the one below:

utm_term=conversion-optimization

The utm_term key if often used when you are manually tagging paid search campaigns.

However feel free to use this key, the way you want.

For example, you can use this key to identify the type of audience you are targeting:

utm_term=new_parents

However just remember that you should remain consistent with the spelling, format and case of the values of ‘utm_term’ key.

Campaign Content (utm_content)

The utm_content key is used to send the information related to campaign content (ad version) to Google Analytics.

For example if you have got two banner ads with same ad copy, call to action but different graphic, you can use ‘utm_content’ key and set different values for each, so you can later determine which ad version is more effective in terms of driving traffic and sales.

Banner Ad1: https://www.abc.com/book-maths-and-stats/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=pdf-book-campaign&utm_content=ad1

Banner Ad2: https://www.abc.com/book-maths-and-stats/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=pdf-book-campaign&utm_content=ad2

Note: The use of the campaign parameters: ‘utm_term’ and ‘utm_content’ in an ad URL is optional. However the use of campaign parameters: ‘utm_source’, ‘utm_medium’ and ‘utm_campaign’ is required.

Quick Recap of parameters

Following is an example of a URL:

https://www.abc.com/

Following is an example of a URL with dynamic parameters:

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715

Following is an example of a URL with campaign tracking parameters (also known as custom campaign):

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Following is an example of a URL with both dynamic parameters and campaign tracking parameters:

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Note (1): A URL which contains both dynamic and campaign tracking parameters is still considered as ‘custom campaign’. As long as the campaign tracking parameters have been added to the URL, the URL is a custom campaign.

Note (2): You can hide UTM parameters from a URL and can still use the UTM parameters in the background. The simplest way to do that, is to use a URL shorterner tool like bit.ly or use the ‘lookup table’ in Google Tag Manager.

Introduction to tagged URLs

A website URL which contains campaign tracking parameters is also called ‘tagged URL’.

Following is an example of a tagged URL:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Another example of tagged URL:

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

However the following URL is not a tagged URL as it does not contain campaign tracking parameters:

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715

Introduction to Un-tagged URLs

A URL which does not contain campaign tracking parameters is called ‘untagged URL’.

Following is an example of an un-tagged URL:

https://www.abc.com/

Another example of un-tagged URL:

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715

Introduction to Auto-tagged URLs

A URL which contains ‘GCLID’ parameter is called auto-tagged URL.

GCLID stands for ‘Google Click ID’. It is a unique ID used by Google Analytics to track and display Adwords clicks in your reports.

The ‘GCLID’ parameters are automatically added to the end of the destination URLs of your Google Adwords ads by Google (provided auto-tagging feature is turned on).

Following is an example of an auto-tagged URL:

https://www.abc.com?gclid=CLjTpNrg8NIC

Another example of auto-tagged URL:

https://www.abc.com?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715&gclid=CLjTpNrg8NIC

Google strongly recommend that you use auto-tagging.

Note: Technically speaking, GCLID parameter is not a campaign tracking parameter though it is used to track the performance of Adwords campaigns.

Manually-tagged URLs

We used the word ‘manually tagged’, only in the context of ‘auto-tagging’.

Tagging a URL means, adding tracking parameters to it.

You can do this tagging manually or automatically.

When you are not using the auto-tagging feature of Google Adwords to tag a URL, you are manually tagging the URL.

A manually tagged URL is the one which contains campaign tracking parameters but not GCLID parameter.

Following is an example of manually tagged URL:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Another example of manually tagged URL:

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

However the following URLs are not manually tagged URLs:

https://www.abc.com/fold1?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715

https://www.abc.com?gclid=CLjTpNrg8NIC

https://www.abc.com?ThemeId=8904&iPathId=38715&gclid=CLjTpNrg8NIC

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb&gclid=CLjTpNrg8NIC

Note: Adding campaign tracking parameters via URL builders is also referred to as manual tagging.

Introduction to URL Builders

URL builders are tools through which you can automatically append campaign tracking parameters to the end of the your website URLs.

Following are examples of URL builder tools:

When you use a URL builder tool to tag a URL, you just need to enter the ‘values’ of your campaign tracking parameters.

The ‘keys’ are automatically added by the URL builder:

You are less likely to make a mistake while tagging URLs, if you use a URL builder tool.

This is the advantage of using a URL builder.

Note: If you use Adwords auto-tagging then you don’t need to use URL builder tools. The auto-tagging feature will automatically add GCLID parameter to the end of the your ad URLs.

Personally identifiable information (PII) and campaign tracking parameters

Following are examples of personally identifiable information (or PII):

  • Names
  • Email address
  • Ip address
  • Phone number
  • House address etc

Google Analytics terms of service, prohibits sending PII to Google Analytics server via campaign tracking parameters.

For example, following use of campaign tracking parameters is against the Google Analytics terms of service and could result in account suspension:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=1844ESky-HarborCirS-Phoenix-AZ85034-USA&utm_term=[email protected]&utm_content=82.23.186.447&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

The URL above is used to send house address, email address and ip address of a user to Google Analytics server and thus violates GA terms of service.

Campaign tracking variables

In the context of Google Analytics, a campaign tracking variable (also known as custom campaign tracking variable or UTM parameter or tag) is a ‘key=value’ pair, where key is one of the following:

  1. utm_source
  2. utm_medium
  3. utm_campaign
  4. utm_term
  5. utm_content

Following is an example of a campaign tracking variable:

utm_source = “facebook”

Here,

utm_source is the ‘key’ of the campaign tracking variable.

facebook is the ‘value’ of the campaign tracking variable.

Campaign tracking variables store following information about a custom campaign:

  1. Campaign source
  2. Campaign medium
  3. Campaign name
  4. Campaign term
  5. Campaign content (ad version)

Since campaign tracking variables are also known as ‘tags’, ‘tagging a URL’ means adding campaign tracking variable(s) to it.

Following is an example of a URL which contains campaign tracking variables:

https://www.abc.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=car-insurance&utm_content=text-ad&utm_campaign=car-insurance-promo-feb

Introduction to Internal and External links

An internal link is a URL which when clicked, takes a user from one web page to another web page and both the source and destination web pages are hosted on the same website/primary domain.

For example a link from product category page (hosted on your website) to a product detail page (also hosted on your website) is an internal link. 

Similarly, a link from one of the web pages of your sub-domain (say blog.abc.com) to a page hosted on your primary domain (abc.com) is an internal link.

On the contrary, an external link is a URL which when clicked, takes a user from one web page to another web page and both the source and destination web pages are hosted on different websites/primary domains.

For example a link from a Facebook ad to a product detail page hosted on your website is an external link.

Avoid tagging internal links

Each Google Analytics session can be attributed to only one traffic source (whether system-defined or user-defined) at a time.

So if the value of traffic source changes in the middle of an existing Google Analytics session, it causes the current GA session to end and a new session to start.

Similarly, any change in the value of the following keys, triggers a new Google Analytics session:

  1. utm_source
  2. utm_medium
  3. utm_campaign
  4. utm_term
  5. utm_content
  6. gclid.

Because of this reason, when you tag an internal link, it could trigger new GA sessions and thus inflate your session data.

In short, use UTM parameters to tag only external links.

Links that don’t need tagging

If you are using the auto-tagging feature of Google Adwords then you don’t need to tag the ad URLs of adwords ads.

Any traffic source/medium which Google Analytics can automatically detect and report on, does not need to be tagged.

For example GA can automatically detect all well known search engines.

So you don’t need to tag links from search engines.

Tag an external link only when you want to send some extra information to GA.

For example, when a user visit your website from Facebook, GA automatically detect the Facebook referrer and tie the user’s activities with the referrer.

So you don’t need to tag Facebook links for that purpose.

However if you want to know, exactly which Facebook campaign sent traffic to your website then tag the facebook links.

Note: It is not required that the UTM parameters should remain appended to a link, until the end of a Google Analytics session. They just need to be present when a landing page loads for the first time in a web browser.

Testing UTM parameters

Enter your tagged URL in your web browser address bar and then press enter:

If all the parameters remain intact then most likely your UTM parameters are working correctly.

The other thing that you should do, is to check the ‘Real Time’ > Traffic Sources’ report for custom campaign data:

Where to find Custom Campaign data in Google Analytics?

In order to find the custom campaign data, navigate to Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns report:

UTM parameters not working and how to fix them.

In following cases your UTM parameters won’t work:

#1 Somes websites do not allow arbitrary URL parameters and serve an error page when a UTM parameter is added to a URL. Ask your developer to allow UTM parameters in the URLs.

#2 URL redirects (301, 302, HTTP to HTTPs redirects or redirect from desktop to mobile website) can cause UTM parameter to be dropped from the landing page URLs.

When UTM parameters are dropped, the campaign tracking doesn’t work and campaign data is not sent to Google Analytics. Ask your developer to send UTM parameters along with redirects. If that is not possible then tag the destination ad URLs (where a user eventually lands after a redirect).

#3 Sometimes GA can’t read the values of UTM parameters even when you can see the campaign tracking parameters in the browser address bar. This can happen when:

#3.1 Google Analytics Tracking code on the landing page is not valid.

#3.2 GA tracking code is valid but not fired for some reason.

#3.3 GA tracking code is embedded in an IFRAME and the IFRAME is not a parent frame. If GA tracking code is embedded in an child frame then it can’t read the campaign tracking values as a child frame can’t read the address URL of a parent frame. So make sure GA tracking code is always embedded in parent frame.

#3.4 Your web server is altering or truncating the UTM parameters.

#3.5 Your view filters do not allow custom campaign data.

Learn about the Google Analytics Usage Trends Tool

The Google Analytics usage trend is a new tool which is used to visualise trends in your Google Analytics data and to perform trend analysis.


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Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of OptimizeSmart.com

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

  • Over eleven years' experience in SEO, PPC and web analytics
  • Google Analytics certified
  • Google AdWords certified
  • Nominated for Digital Analytics Association Award for Excellence
  • Bachelors degree in Internet Science
  • Founder of OptimizeSmart.com and EventEducation.com

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