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Beginner’s Guide: URL Tracking

Beginner's Guide: URL Tracking

URL (link) tracking is the process of adding unique identifiers (UTM codes) to URL of your destination site. By attaching simple coding to custom URLs, you can track the success of a source, medium, and campaign name and track sales from the origination point (like a tweet, email or a brochure) down the funnel to their conversion page.

Once you begin adding UTMs codes or your links, you can visit your Google Analytics account and track activity under: Audience > Campaigns > All Campaigns.


In This Guide:
An Example of URL Tracking
Why Track URLS?
How and When To Track
Creating the URL
Additional Tips

An Example of URL Tracking:

Forbes-Link Tracking

Clicking on the shortened link ( the @ForbesTech tweet brings you to this URL:

A closer look at the components of the URL and the information it is tracking:

  • utm_campaign=ForbesTech
  • utm_source=TWITTER
  • utm_medium=social
  • utm_channel=Technology
  • LinkId=18620691

Why Track Your URLs?

There a number of reasons to track URLs. At a minimum:

  1. Tagging your PPC destination URLs allows you to successfully track PPC (versus SEO) within Google Analytics.
  2. URL tagging allows you to gain a deeper knowledge of the overall performance of your PPC campaign. Each of the PPC search engines provides conversion tracking, and deep stats for impressions, clicks, click-through rate, etc. However, none of these stats explain what happens “post-click.”
  3. When you have properly tagged your PPC destination URLs, you will be able to view stats like pageviews per visit, average time on site, % new visitors and bounce rate. These stats can help you to understand if your website and landing pages are resonating with your visitors and help you to make the right changes.
  4. If you are working with a 3rd party to cross-promote business, asking them to use a specific tracking URL will provide you with analytics regarding the success of the promotion.
  5. It’s free to do!

How and When to Use UTM Codes

UTM codes can be used in both physical and digital media campaigns. For example:

Physical media: i.e. brochure, letter, or postcard

  • Create an easy to remember URL. Have that URL redirect to a URL that includes a UTM code.
  • Another option, use a URL customizing tool like,, or tinyurl, to convert the long UTM-coded URL into a short and memorable one.

Digital media: i.e. tweet, PPC ad, email

  • Simply include a UTM code in the hyperlink from the media to your site (call to action).

Whether the originating source is physical or digital media, the UTM code enables Google Analytics to tell you where searchers came from as well as what campaign directed them to you.

Creating the URL

There are a number of ways to create UTM codes in order to track a URL. Many of the most common marketing automation platforms have the technology built in. If you do not have an automation platform, you can still take advantage or URL tracking using free resources.

It’s important to recognize that no technology is actually required. You can create a URL tracking code manually but that’s a bad idea since it is so easy to make an error. Besides, why manually create it when free tools are so accessible? Either way, it’s important to understand the underlying structure of a tracking URL.

Whether you use a URL Builder (see Additional Tips) or you manually create the URLs, it’s essential that the variables are used correctly. There are some required variables as well as optional ones.


  • Website URL (the destination link): Could be your home page if you’re just trying to drive traffic i.e. but for real insight and to drive conversions, it’s best to use a Landing Page. i.e.
  • Campaign Source (utm_source): Identify where the content or ad is being promoted (where the visitor would be coming from). This is not to be confused with “campaign medium” (listed below). For example, if it is an ad placed on another site, list the URL for that site. If it’s from your company newsletter, you might list the name of that newsletter. Examples: Twitter, BostonGlobe, newsletter4, etc.
  • Campaign Medium (utm_medium): This field stores the medium (vehicle for delivery) for the content being used. For example, banner ads being shown on a site would be listed here as “banner”. Other options include “email”, “ppc”, “direct mail”, etc.
  • Campaign Name (utm_campaign): Include the product, promo code, or slogan (avoid vague acronyms or abbreviations). If there isn’t an official name for the campaign, use the name or phrase you use internally to talk about it. For example, it might be seasonal (eg. “Goolish Deals”), or it might refer to the message of the ads (eg. “Two for One Promo”).


  • Campaign Term (utm_term): This field is used for ppc campaigns, and it should store the search term for a specific ad. Anything placed in this field will show up in your analytics Keywords reports.
  • Campaign Content (utm_content): Use this field to differentiate between two ads that share the same name, source and medium. For example, if you’re A/B testing two banner ads on for a Black Friday sales and want to see which is more effective.  Maybe one is the “black and white ad” and the other is the “neon ad”.

Additional Tips

  • Free URL Building Tools: Google and Facebook each offer a simple form to help you create tracking URLs. You can use either of them to create all your future tracking URLs but note that Facebook pre-fills Campaign Source as Facebook. If your source is something other than Facebook, just replace the word “Facebook” with your actual source (i.e. “Newsletter”).
  • In Google Analytics, free traffic should all be categorized as “direct”, “referral” or “organic” from a search engine. In the absence of campaign variables, these labels will be applied automatically. Make sure that no traffic you are paying or working for is attributed to these medium names.
  • Google Analytics is generous with its field limits, so there is no need to abbreviate your campaign information or to make it intentionally ambiguous. Spell it all out so that nobody needs a “secret decoder” to understand the reports. Additionally, it provides transparency.
  • Be consistent in how you name campaigns (including consistency in capitalization). If you input a campaign medium as “banner” and later input a medium as “banner-ad”, while you may consider them to be the same, Google will group them separately in your report.

If you weren’t already tracking URLs, this introduction should provide you with the basics in order to get started. Share your comments or feel free to contact us directly with questions. We’ll be sharing be sharing more advanced tips in your a future post.

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