UTM parameters are bits of information added at the end of a URL that can help you understand the visitors on your site. Of course, when you place them at the end of an unshortened link, they make the link even longer. For example:
By using analytics tools like Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, Mixpanel, and others, you'll be able to say: "These visitors clicked on a link in our email newsletter scheduled for April, 2021 that mentioned our 50%-off sale." And then you can go on to see how many of these visitors made a purchase through newsletters vs. other sources, like ads.
Using this information with Bitly's analytics, you can get a full view of site visitor interactions, from link clicks in Bitly to visitor conversions like purchases or registrations in your website analytics.
When using UTMs with Bitly, add them to your long URL before you shorten it.
Let's take a look at what each parameter can tell us about site traffic.
The six standard UTM parameters
With the right values, each UTM field helps you answer a specific question about your site's visitors. You'll want your UTMs to be consistent, so using common values for source and medium is best practice. It's also important to know that UTMs are case sensitive, so it's best that all values are in lowercase.
The source, medium, and campaign values are required when using UTM parameters. The others are optional and give you more detail in your reporting.
utm_source: Where is the traffic coming from? This is the specific place where people are seeing your link. Are you sharing it in a banner ad, your email signature, a social media post?
Some examples of common source values:
- A social post on Facebook, utm_source=facebook
- An ad on Facebook would also use utm_source=facebook
- An email newsletter, utm_source=newsletter
- Your email signature, utm_source=email-signature
utm_medium: How is the link served up to people? Think of this as the delivery method or communication channel for the link. It is the most general value in your UTMs.
Some examples of common medium values:
- A post on any social platform, like Facebook or Twitter, utm_medium=social
- A link in a cost-per-click ad, utm_medium=cpc
- An email newsletter, utm_medium=email
- A link in an email signature, because it also appears in emails you're sending, is also utm_medium=email
- A banner ad through Google Ads, utm_medium=paidsearch
utm_campaign: What's the "topic" you're driving people to? This describes what you're promoting and is more specific than source and medium. It might be a product you're selling, a blog post topic that will attract people to your site, an event you're promoting... the possibilities are endless.
If you have campaign values that you might repeat, it's a good idea to include a date to help you report results.
When promoting an "50%-off sale" in April, 2021, someone could use utm_campaign=50percent-apr21 for all of the previous examples, including:
- Social posts
- Email newsletters
This is because all the links are promoting the same thing, they're just doing it through the different channels, which are described in the source and medium parameters.
utm_term: Which keywords were used to attract these visitors? This is mainly used to track search keywords that you pay for in Google Ads campaigns. You can also use to identify other information, like the CTA on the link.
utm_content: What else do we need to know about this link? This parameter narrows down information about your link, so it's used in many different ways. The most common is for testing two different versions of an ad, or A/B testing, but others include identifying the type of link (like an image vs. a button),where the link is placed (top of an ad vs. bottom), or specific content in a partner's post.
To test how your UTMs will appear at the end of your link, try Google's Campaign URL Builder. Experimenting with the URL Builder can help you define a consistent UTM strategy without creating a bunch of links. The UTM strategy is vital to organizing your links and saving you from lots of frustration when you analyze your data.
Reminders for using UTMs
- Source, medium, and campaign are required for using UTMs. The other values help you get more specific about the traffic, but they are optional.
- Because UTM parameters are case sensitive, it is best practice is to use lowercase letters for all your UTM values.
- When using UTMs with Bitly, add them to your long URL before you shorten it.
Bitly's Campaign feature
The Campaigns feature in Bitly is available on our Enterprise plans. With it, you can organize your links and automatically add medium and campaign parameters to your links. The UTM source will automatically be "bitly" when using this feature.
For more about the Campaign feature, read What are Campaigns and why should I use them?
What we've covered here are just the basics. You can find many other online articles with advice and strategies for utilizing UTMs and tracking the success of your online efforts.