Welcoming the New Generation of Google UTM Parameters and Tracking Potential

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For the last 15 years, Google has provided the world of advertising with a set of 5 UTM parameters that has allowed marketers to better analyze their paid ad campaign performance, and how their audience is behaving online. However, the same advertising world has recently seen an enormous influx of technology that opens new doors to monitoring paid campaigns beyond what ‘source’, ‘medium’, ‘campaign’, ‘term’, and ‘content’ can accomplish. And as we’ve seen new privacy laws and tracking limitations pop up throughout the industry, the new Google UTM parameters represent more than an evolution: they’re a necessary tool to helping marketers navigate a new technological norm.

New Google Utm Parameters Graphic

What exactly are Google UTM parameters?

Urchin Tracking Module, more widely known as UTM, are the parameters added to a URL chain that enable online traffic tracking. A major benefit in this day and age is that UTM’s aren’t affected by third-party cookies or pixels, which makes for a reliable workaround to the fall of third-party cookies that had marketers across the world scrambling. Additional benefits to the use of UTMs include the ability to help marketers track the value of their advertising campaigns and measure up against ROAS as well as their ability to provide detailed information about traffic sources, audience online behaviors, and conversions.

Google UTM parameters have traditionally included 5 components: source, medium, campaign, term, and content. After a 15-year hiatus, Google has introduced three additional Google UTM parameters to the list to help marketers better understand their online traffic and digital campaign performance. The UTM parameter list now includes source platform, creative format, and marketing tactic. These additional parameters allow for further tracking that can help deepen a marketing team’s knowledge of campaign success and efficiency.

How the new Google UTM parameters affect campaign tracking abilities.

With the additional UTM parameters Google now offers, marketers can take a deeper dive into how their ad platforms, creative formats, and marketing tactics are performing. The result? Better insights and elevated strategy for all cross-channel campaigns.

‘Source_platform’ benefits:

The ‘source_platform’ parameter may be similar to the original ‘source’ parameter but allows for expansion on the marketer’s end. Understanding which source (social, display, video) is performing best is an obvious benefit for understanding how to move forward with an ad campaign, but allowing marketers to understand which platforms in each of those sources is performing well is just as important. Understanding individual platform performance enables optimizations to be made at a granular level.

‘Creative_format’ benefits:

The ‘creative_format’ parameter leaves room for marketers to get creative on how they identify their creatives for reporting. Enabling the use of creative format allows marketers to call out exactly what the creative is, whether it be a video, photo, carousel image set, slideshow, or audio file. Marketers can use this UTM parameter to identify which formats best resonate with their audience.

‘Marketing_tactic’ benefits:

The ‘marketing_tactic’ parameter allows marketers to identify which bucket of the marketing funnel the ad data belongs to. Being able to filter the data by tactic allows marketers to better understand how the audience is behaving at each phase of the marketing funnel, allowing for stage-by-stage optimizations or adjustments.

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Why marketers love Google UTM parameters

Discover The New Google Utm Parameters

29 million sites and counting utilize Google Analytics as a tool to track performance metrics. Of those sites, you can imagine the number of marketing and advertising professionals who utilize UTM parameters in Google Analytics to better understand how their campaigns are performing–campaigns that are more than likely running through at least two of the most popular ad platforms: Facebook and Google Ads.

With a combined 54% market share between these two platforms, and with increases in tracking restrictions and regulations, it continues to be vital for marketers and advertisers to continue putting high importance on the use of UTMs in their Facebook and Google Ads campaigns to better track and identify how their campaigns are performing (think ability to note on high and low performers in relation to the KPIs established and the bottom line) and how their audience navigates the digital landscape.

UTMs also serve as a way for marketers to have consistency and unification across all campaigns. Parameters can be applied to URLs that live across platforms and sources, allowing marketers to compare performance universally. UTMs also serve as a way to keep naming conventions consistent: since the structure and components of a UTM thread don’t change, the only piece that changes is the predetermined text or data you are including in each of those components.

Leveraging the Google UTM parameters and a data unification platform to drive a successful ad campaign.

Leveraging UTM parameters correctly, whether new or original, is the key to digital marketing success. Without following a set of guidelines, UTMs can get out of hand fast. Below are the guidelines marketers can use to ensure they are getting the most of their UTM parameters.

  • Be consistent with your UTM naming conventions. Nothing gets campaign tracking out of hand quicker than inconsistent naming conventions. Employ a set of guides or rules for your team to follow when naming UTMs for ad campaigns.
  • Be aware of your UTM formatting. UTM parameters are case sensitive, so if you capitalize F in Facebook once but leave it lowercase at another time, you’ll have a hard time finding all of your data as they will be split out into two different data sets. We recommend keeping everything lowercase to avoid this easy mixup.
  • Include UTM parameters with all of your URLs for all of your campaigns. This allows you to keep track of everything you are putting advertising dollars behind. Without it, you run the risk of inaccurately reporting on ROAS. To keep everything organized, we recommend creating a document listing each parameter with its respective creative name or file and the URL to which it should attach to. This allows you to keep track of the UTM’s being used when it comes time to report but also for making sure your UTMs are following the guidelines above and mistakes are avoided.

Important: Google’s new UTM parameters aren’t the only big change in the industry. Google is prioritizing machine learning as they lean further into Performance Max. Also, marketers need to stay ahead of Facebook’s iOS 14.5 update to ensure their data quality doesn’t suffer.

Why Google’s new UTM parameters should have marketers considering a data unification tool.

When used correctly and consistently, marketers can reap the benefits from the tracking abilities that UTM parameters hold. But what comes after UTMs are set and campaigns have started running? How does granular ad data become actional, unified data that marketers can interpret?

The addition of these new UTM parameters gives marketers a chance to further expand on their ability to understand exactly what is going on in their paid ad campaigns and how their prospective users are behaving, which is of prodigious benefit in an industry that continues to see an increase in audience complexities. On the flip side, these additional UTM parameters also provide marketers with even more data to sift through (complex data at that). So how does a marketer navigate this new expansion of data capabilities without getting lost in it? They streamline their data organization process.

Because every savvy marketer knows that data is only as useful as its accuracy and accessibility, software applications like Joinr, which combine cross-channel metrics into a succinct data set that can be used to interpret performance and visualize results, have become a necessary tool for marketers to understand paid campaign performance.

Savvy marketers use data unification tools to track ad data

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