Are UTM Codes A Thing Of The Past?

With so many new tools and platforms available in the digital landscape today, we often wonder if some of the older tried and true practices are still effective. Implementing UTM codes is one of those in question. They are still helpful for our organization and until we learn of a better way, we’re going to keep on keeping on with our UTMs.

I’ll back up just a little.  UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module.  Urchin was a web analytics software corporation based in San Diego, CA that developed one of the first web statistics platforms.  To make a long story short, Google bought Urchin in 2005 and the rest is history.

UTM codes are extra pieces of information that can be added to the end of any URL that allows for additional tidbits of tracking.  There is a template that needs to be followed for the additional tidbits to come through your analytics platform and to effectively shed light on if and how they are working.

UTMs are important because as you are creating public-facing promotions for your site or business, you are likely using links back to your website in those promotions (newsletters, display ads, search campaigns, blog posts, etc.).  So how do you know which of your efforts are generating the most traffic back to your site if they all just have generic links back to it?  You don’t!  But if you add some extra information to the end of each of those links that identify which item each link is associated with, you can then watch the individual progress through tracking software like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics.

UTM codes basically require 3 pieces of information: a medium, a source, and a campaign name.

My website is  I’m writing a blog post each week, running a Facebook likes campaign, and placing display ads on a local newspaper’s website.  To be able to see how each of these different marketing channels is performing in my Google Analytics account, I’m going to add UTM codes to my URL for each tactic.  Here is what my completed URLs with UTMs will look like when I’m ready to attach them to each URL:




You can see that everything following the “?” after my website’s URL is part of the UTM code and contains information for a source, a medium, and a campaign name.

Now, you do not need to create all of this yourself or type it out all on your own.  There are free UTM code builders that are extremely helpful for this.  The Google Analytics Dev Tools Campaign URL Builder is what I always use.  It’s simple, it’s updated in real-time since it’s associated with Google and it also offers a “Copy URL” button as well as a “Shorten URL” option button.

Once you have successfully assigned each of these new URLs (with UTMs) to the coinciding marketing methods being used, you can watch through Google Analytics to see how traffic is flowing through via these methods.

In universal Google Analytics, using the Acquisition -> Campaigns -> All Campaigns report lists all recognizable campaigns collecting traffic within the date range you have selected.  Here is a snapshot of what that might look like.  Of course, this isn’t the only way to see this tracking information.


There is more information available to the right in this chart that addresses conversions if you have those set up in your Google Analytics account.

So, the answer to the original question is NO – UTM codes are not a thing of the past.  They can be just as helpful and informative as they’ve always been – maybe even more so today with so much going on in the digital ecosystem.

I hope that this introduction to UTM codes and how they can enhance your marketing efforts has been helpful.  If you have additional questions or would like to talk through UTMs for your upcoming marketing plan, please reach out to us at Trib Total Media – we’re always happy to help!