Without a doubt, one of the most critical elements of successful marketing campaigns is correct UTM parameters. If you add them to ads successfully, you can get granular-level information about your paid ads’ performance and organise them in the proper channels in GA4. As a result, you can optimise your campaigns and improve ROAS.
As a marketing analyst working with clients on constant optimisation of their campaigns (CPC, Display, Email, Affiliate), I receive many questions on how to track UTM parameters successfully in Google Analytics 4. You will find answers to all of them below; continue reading.
What are UTM parameters?
UTM parameters is a small piece of information added to the end of the page URL to pass some critical marketing data into your analytics.
UTM parameters start after the “?” symbol in the URL, and the URL can include multiple UTM parameters.
The most common UTMs are:
|UTM parameter||Definition||GA4 support|
|utm_source||Referrer, for example: google, newsletter4, billboard||YES|
|utm_medium||Marketing medium, for example: cpc, banner, email||YES|
|utm_campaign||Product, slogan, promo code, for example: spring_sale||YES|
|utm_content||Use to differentiate creatives. For example, if you have two call-to-action links within the same email message, you can use utm_content and set different values for each so you can tell which version is more effective.||YES|
|utm_term||Paid keyword associated with the ad||YES|
|utm_id||Used to identify a specific campaign or promotion.||YES|
|utm_source_platform||The platform responsible for directing traffic to a given Analytics property (such as a buying platform that sets budgets and targeting criteria or a platform that manages organic traffic data). For example: Search Ads 360 or Display & Video 360.||YES|
|utm_marketing_tactic||Targeting criteria applied to a campaign, for example: remarketing, prospecting||NO|
|utm_creative_format||Type of creative, for example: display, native, video, search||NO|
What UTM parameters does GA4 support?
Although GA4 supports many of them, it doesn’t support all of them. For instance, when writing this article, “utm_marketing_tactic” and “utm_creative_format” are not supported by Google Analytics 4.
Unlike Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 4 requires sending at least one parameter to identify your campaign. It’s up to you which one you want to send.
It’s also worth mentioning that many people don’t use “utm_id”, but this parameter is essential if you want to upload your paid ads cost data (for instance, Facebook or Bing) into Google Analytics 4. If you don’t send it, GA4 won’t be able to merge internal data and external data.
How to set up UTM parameters for Google Analytics 4
After we discussed what UTM parameters stand for and which ones GA4 supports, it’s time to set up our first UTM parameters. There are two ways: using the Campaign URL builder provided by Google (recommended) or the Google Sheets template I prepared for you.
Using Google Campaign URL Builder
Google introduced the tool to help you set up UTM parameters for your ads. It’s called “Campaign URL builder” or, sometimes, people call it “GA4 UTM builder”. The main reason is that it changed when Google built GA4, and now it includes “utm_id” which wasn’t there before.
Again, it would be best to use “utm_id” for, at least, ads you want to import cost data in GA4. You can miss this parameter if you are not interested in seeing cost data along with GA4 data.
The tool asks you to specify the following variables to get the final URL with the UTMs:
- Page URL
- Campaign ID (utm_id) (optional)
- Campaign source (utm_source)
- Campaign medium (utm_medium)
- Campaign name (utm_campaign)
- Campaign term (utm_term) (optional)
- Campaign_content (utm_content) (optional)
After you write them, you will get the final URL you can use on Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Bing Ads and other ad platforms. You can also shorten your links.
Using Google Sheets Template
The second way to set up UTM parameters is by using a custom-built template in Google Sheets.
The extra benefit of using this template is that it stores all historical information about your UTM ads, campaigns and promotions. As a result, you can easily find specific UTM parameters responsible for the old campaign mentioned in your analytics annotations.
For instance, if you have 20-50 regular emails sent on user behaviour triggers, you must have the complete documentation of these email campaigns with UTM parameters. After that, you can faster onboard new employees and share this documentation with the external agency or consultant.
Attention, please! You don’t need to spend time creating it; copy my template below and start using it today.
How to find UTM parameters in Google Analytics 4?
When you finish all UTM preparations on the ads side, and every ad will have UTM parameters added to the final landing page URL, you will need to analyse the performance of these campaigns. As a result, you will open GA4 and start to search for UTM parameters information. Therefore, let me tell you where you can find this data in GA4.
GA4 offers two ways to see UTM parameters data: a) using default reports available in GA4 or b) using GA4 Explore.
The first solution is to monitor the performance of your campaigns using User Acquisition or Traffic Acquisition reports available by default in Google Analytics 4. You can add a second dimension to the report to get more granular information.
The second solution allows you to build reports and visualise your data how you need. It allows you to select the necessary dimensions and metrics.
For instance, some of them are:
- First user campaign
- First user campaign ID
- First user default channel grouping
- First user source/medium
- First user source
- First user medium
- First user manual term
- First user manual ad content
- First user source platform
and many more, including dimensions for sessions.
You can also include such metrics as sessions, total users, active users, new users, transactions, revenue, etc.
GA4 Explore allows you to use any dimensions and metric available in GA4 the way how you prefer. Moreover, you can apply filters and create segments that makes it a competitive solution for Power BI or Tableau.
Enhance your UTM parameters with these best practices
After you implement UTM parameters and use them to analyse campaigns’ performance, you can start to feel that you can organise and structure them better to get even better results and faster insights, and it’s right. Here are a few recommendations or best practices you can implement from your first day:
- Google Analytics 4 uses default channel grouping to merge traffic sources into readable buckets. Some businesses need a custom solution, and GA4 allows you to combine sources in the groups you set up; consider using custom channel grouping. For instance, you can acquire organic backlinks for free and paid, GA4 won’t detect it automatically, but you use custom channel grouping to combine sources according to this business case.
- Keep historical data of all campaigns you run in one document (Google Sheets template, for instance) to return to this document when you need it. After a year, you won’t be able to remember all details; documentation can fix it.
- Standardise your UTM parameters conventions, and consider lowercasing all of them. If you use “google” as a source for campaigns, use this across all your campaigns. If you start to use “google” for 50% and “Google” for the rest, it will create additional prevention for you in GA4.
Although these practices can look basic, over time, they can surprise you with their output. You will be able to grow your business to a lucrative level and make decisions faster and with better accuracy.
Why does the GA4 property not show UTM parameters?
Sometimes I receive clients’ inquiries where GA4 doesn’t measure UTM parameters or detect the acquisition source correctly. Although multiple reasons can influence it, most can be fixed after properly troubleshooting your website. The most frequent situations I encounter are:
- Your website or page can reload after a user visits it. Therefore, the GA4 tag can’t detect UTM parameters. You should speak with your developers to remove a redirect in this case.
- You send some data into GA4 via Google Tag Manager, and some of the data is sent via API or Measurement Protocol. This way, some events can start the session, but there are no “session_start” and “page view” events. Therefore, GA4 won’t be able to detect the right session acquisition source and landing page as well. One of the solutions here is to send events when a user is on the website with user_id or send additional parameters with the product events.
- If you use GA4 via Segment.io and send data via cloud mode, your GA4 property can not receive attribution data. In this case, you should provide this data via event properties manually.
It’s worth mentioning again that there might be other reasons why Google Analytics 4 doesn’t track UTM parameters correctly. I recommend you use DebugView to troubleshoot them. If you still can’t fix it, you can contact me.
UTM parameters are crucial information added to the end of the landing page URL for your ads campaigns to measure their performance.
Although there are multiple parameters, GA4 allows you to track 6 parameters by default: “utm_id”, “utm_campaign”, “utm_source”, “utm_medium”, “utm_source_platform”, “utm_term” and “utm_content”.
If you want to import non-google paid ads cost data into GA4, you should use “utm_id”; otherwise Google Analytics won’t be able to merge internal and external data sources.
In order to find information about campaigns, you can use GA4 explore or the default GA4 report (User and Traffic Acquisition).
If you have any other questions about UTM parameters or how to track them in GA4, don’t hesitate to comment below.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to track UTM parameters successfully in GA4, you should at least provide utm_source, utm_medium and utm_campaign. Besides that, if you want to import ads cost data in GA4, you should also use utm_id (campaign id) parameter.
GA4 offers two ways to see UTM parameters data: a) using default reports available in GA4 (Reports -> Traffic or User Acquisition reports) or b) using GA4 Explore.
There are two ways: using the Campaign URL builder provided by Google (recommended) or the Google Sheets template.