How to track UTM parameters in Google Analytics 4

Without a doubt, one of the most crucial aspects of successful marketing campaigns is the accurate implementation of UTM parameters. By correctly adding them to your ads, you can obtain detailed insights into the performance of your paid advertisements and effectively organize them within the proper channels in GA4. Consequently, this enables you to optimize your campaigns and enhance your return on ad spend (ROAS).

As a marketing analyst constantly optimizing campaigns (CPC, Display, Email, Affiliate) for clients, I frequently receive inquiries about how to see UTM parameters in Google Analytics 4. In this article, you will find comprehensive answers to all of these questions, so please continue reading.

What are UTM parameters?

UTM parameters are a small piece of information added to the end of the page URL to pass some critical marketing data into your analytics. Overall, UTM parameters are additional information added to URLs that help marketers track and analyze the performance of their marketing initiatives. By appending UTM parameters to the destination URLs of their campaigns, marketers can gain insights into the specific sources, mediums, campaigns, keywords, or ads that are driving traffic to their websites.

URL with UTM parameters
URL with UTM parameters

URL with UTM parameters

UTM parameters start after the “?” symbol in the URL, and the URL can include multiple UTM parameters. 

The most common UTMs are:

UTM parameterDefinitionGA4 support
utm_sourceReferrer, for example: google, newsletter4, billboardYES
utm_mediumMarketing medium, for example: cpc, banner, emailYES
utm_campaignProduct, slogan, promo code, for example: spring_saleYES
utm_contentUse 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_termPaid keyword associated with the adYES
utm_idUsed to identify a specific campaign or promotion.YES
utm_source_platformThe 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_tacticTargeting criteria applied to a campaign, for example: remarketing, prospectingNO
utm_creative_formatType of creative, for example: display, native, video, searchNO
UTM parameters supported by Google Analytics 4

What UTM parameters stand for?

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module, which Urchin Software Corporation developed. In 2005, Google acquired the company, and its Urchin web analytics software became the foundation for Google Analytics. The Urchin software utilized “Urchin Tracking Modules” or “UTMs” to monitor and analyze traffic generated by marketing campaigns and has remained so even after being developed into Google Analytics. UTM parameters are tags added to the end of a URL to track and analyze the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and traffic sources.

What UTM parameters used for?

UTM parameters provide additional information about the source, medium, campaign, and other details of the traffic coming to a website. 

By utilizing UTM parameters, marketers can precisely track the performance of their marketing efforts. They can analyze the data provided by UTM parameters in tools like Google Analytics to understand which sources, mediums, campaigns, keywords, or ads drive the most traffic and conversions. This information enables marketers to make data-driven decisions, optimize their marketing strategies, and allocate resources effectively to maximize their return on investment.

Overall, UTM parameters serve as a powerful tool for marketers to gain insights into the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, understand the impact of different traffic sources, mediums, campaigns, keywords, or ads, and make informed decisions to drive better results for their businesses.

How Does Google Analytics 4 Determine Where Website Traffic Comes From?

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) determines where website traffic comes from by looking at different pieces of information. Here’s a simplified explanation of how GA4 figures out the source of website traffic:

  • Referral Traffic: When someone clicks on a link on another website that leads to your website, GA4 knows that the traffic came from that website. For example, if someone clicks on a link to your website from a blog they were reading, GA4 will count it as referral traffic from that blog.
  • Organic Search Traffic: When someone searches for something on a search engine like Google and clicks on a search result that leads to your website, GA4 looks at the search engine’s information to see which search engine and keyword brought the visitor. This helps GA4 attribute the traffic to the search engine and search term.
  • Direct Traffic: If someone directly types your website URL into their browser or uses a bookmark to access your site, GA4 considers it direct traffic. For example, if someone types “www.yourwebsite.com” into their browser and visits your website, GA4 will count it as direct traffic. However, sometimes GA4 may categorize some traffic as direct when unsure where it originated.
  • Paid Search Traffic: If you run ads on platforms like Google Ads and someone clicks on your ad, GA4 can track that traffic. The ad platform adds unique information to the URL, which GA4 can read to attribute the traffic to the specific ad campaign, group, and keyword. For example, if someone clicks on your Google Ads ad for a summer sale and lands on your website, GA4 will count it as paid traffic from Google Ads.
  • Social Media Traffic: When someone clicks on a link shared on social media that leads to your website, GA4 looks at the information passed along with that click to see which social media platform the visitor came from. For example, if someone clicks on a link to your online store that you shared on your Facebook page, GA4 will count it as social media traffic from Facebook.
  • UTM Parameters: GA4 also looks at UTM parameters added to URLs. These tags provide explicit information about the source and medium of the traffic. For example, if you send out a newsletter with a link to a new product on your website and use UTM parameters in the link, GA4 will count it as email traffic from that specific newsletter.

By analysing all this information, GA4 can give you insights into the different channels and sources bringing traffic to your website. It helps you understand which channels drive the most website visitors.

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:

  1. Page URL
  2. Campaign ID (utm_id) (optional)
  3. Campaign source (utm_source)
  4. Campaign medium (utm_medium)
  5. Campaign name (utm_campaign)
  6. Campaign term (utm_term) (optional)
  7. 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.  

Campaign-url-builder-in-use
Built URL with UTMs in Campaign URL Builder

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 quickly 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. 

Build URL with UTM Parameters using Google Sheets Template
Build URL with UTM Parameters using Google Sheets Template

Example 1: How to use UTM parameters to track traffic from email signature

By using UTM parameters in your email signature, you can effectively track the traffic generated from it and gain insights into the effectiveness of your email signature as a marketing tool. Let’s say you have an email signature with a link to your website and want to track the traffic generated from that link using UTM parameters. Here’s how to go about it.

First, Determine the UTM parameters you want to use. Let’s say you want to track the source as “email,” the medium as “signature,” and the campaign as “spring_sale.”

Next, create a UTM-tagged URL. As mentioned above, you can do this using a URL builder tool or a Google Sheet. Using the example above, the URL will be – 

“https://www.valkulski-group.com/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=signature&utm_campaign=spring_sale”.

Now, add the UTM-tagged URL to your email signature by replacing the original URL in your email signature with the URL you created. So, instead of having a plain URL like “https://www.vakulski-group.com,” you will have the UTM-tagged URL – “https://www.valkulski-group.com/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=signature&utm_campaign=spring_sale”.

After sending emails with the UTM-tagged URL in your signature, you can monitor the traffic in Google Analytics. In this example, you will be able to track the number of clicks, the source as “email,” the medium as “signature,” and the campaign as “spring_sale.”

UTM parameters in your email signature can easily differentiate the traffic generated from your email signature from other sources. This allows you to measure the effectiveness of your email signature as a marketing tool and make data-driven decisions to optimize your campaigns.

Example 2: How to use UTM parameters to track from specific affiliate

To track traffic from a specific affiliate using UTM parameters, you need to create a tagged URL assigned for that affiliate. Here’s how you need to go about it.

First, Determine the UTM parameters you want to use. Let’s say you have an affiliate promoting your spring sales campaign. You might want to track the source as “affiliate_website”, the medium as “Affiliate”, and the campaign as “spring_sale.”

Next, create a UTM-tagged URL. You can do this using any of the two methods mentioned above: a URL builder tool or a Google sheet. Using the example above, the URL will be –   

“https://www.valkulski-group.com/?utm_source=affliate_website&utm_medium=affliate&utm_campaign=spring_sale”.

When you provide this UTM-tagged URL to the affiliate, they start promoting it through their channels. By monitoring the traffic in GA4, you can track the clicks and conversions generated explicitly by the affiliate.

Using UTM parameters in this manner enables you to measure the performance of different affiliates and determine which ones drive the most traffic and conversions. This information can help you optimize affiliate marketing strategies and allocate resources effectively.

Example 3: How to use UTM parameters to track email campaign traffic

You need to do the following to track traffic from an email campaign using UTM parameters.

First, Determine the UTM parameters you want to use. Let’s say you’re running an email campaign for a black_friday_sale. In this example, “email” is the source, “email” is the medium, “black_friday_sale” is the campaign, and “cta_button” is the content.

Next, create a UTM-tagged URL. You can do this using any of the two methods mentioned above: a URL builder tool or a Google sheet. Using the example above, the URL will be –   

“https://www.valkulski-group.com/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=black_friday_sale&utm_content=cta_button”.

Now, you can include this UTM-tagged URL in the call-to-action button of your email campaign. Users’ activity will be tracked with the UTM parameters when they click the button.

By monitoring the traffic in GA4, you can analyze the effectiveness of your email campaign. You can track the number of clicks, conversions, and other metrics specific to the UTM parameters. This data helps you measure the success of your email campaign and make informed decisions for future campaigns.

Where 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.

GA4 Traffic Acquisition Report
GA4 Traffic Acquisition Report

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. 

GA4 Traffic Acquisition Report with Second Dimension
GA4 Traffic Acquisition Report with Second Dimension

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:

  1. First user campaign
  2. First user campaign ID
  3. First user default channel grouping
  4. First user source/medium
  5. First user source
  6. First user medium
  7. First user manual term
  8. First user manual ad content
  9. 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. 

Find UTM parameters data in GA4 Explore
UTM parameters data in GA4 Explore

GA4 Explore allows you to use any dimensions and metric available in GA4 the way you prefer. Moreover, you can apply filters and create segments that makes it a competitive solution for Power BI or Tableau. 

How to build GA4 custom detail report to track certain campaigns using UTM

To build a custom detail report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) for tracking specific campaigns using UTM parameters, you need to customize your Traffic Acquisition report.

To achieve this:

  • Start by going to your Traffic Acquisition report.
  • Click on “Customize” and proceed to edit the dimensions.
  • For the dimensions, select “Session campaign” as the default and “Session source/medium” as the other primary dimension and remove every other dimension.
  • Add these dimensions to your report table and select the desired metrics. By doing so, you will be able to see the performance of your UTM URLs and use the source and medium used when creating the URL to identify them.
Specifying dimensions for the custom detail report in GA4
Specifying dimensions for the custom detail report in GA4

After applying the changes and saving the customized report, you can find it in your GA4 report library. To make it more accessible, you can move the report to the acquisition section of your reports. To do this, navigate to your GA4 library and locate the report. Then, click “Edit Collection” under the Life cycle option to open a new window. From there, please find the new report under the detail reports section and move it to the traffic acquisition section. Doing this will make the report conveniently located under the Reports Acquisition Section when you access your GA4 property.

Publishing a custom detail report in GA4 to track campaigns with UTM parameters
Publishing a custom detail report in GA4 to track campaigns with UTM parameters

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: 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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 the details; documentation can fix it. 
  3. 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 are GA4 UTM parameters not working?

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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

Troubleshooting UTM parameters setup with DebugView

You can utilize the Debug View feature to test your UTM-tagged URLs. With the Debug View, you can verify if the URL works in real time. Here’s how to go about it.

First, enable Debug View in GA4, then use (go to) the UTM-tagged URL you have created. Click on the event in Debug View to access more details. This action will display the specific event parameters and their values, enabling you to verify the accurate tracking of the event.

For example, the image below shows the testing of this URL – “https://www.vakulski-group.com/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=black_friday_sale&utm_content=cta_button”

Troubleshooting UTM parameters setup with DebugView
Troubleshooting UTM parameters setup with DebugView

Do you need help with GA4?

GA4 offers a range of features and capabilities that enable businesses to gain valuable insights into their website or app performance, as well as user behaviour. By utilizing GA4, you can effectively track and analyse data, allowing you to make data-driven decisions and optimize your online presence. At Vakulski-Group, we specialize in providing comprehensive assistance with GA4, ensuring that you can fully utilize this powerful analytics tool. Our services include GA4 implementation, customization, and data analysis. By partnering with us, you can leverage the full potential of GA4 and make informed decisions for your business. Contact us today to get started on maximizing the benefits of GA4!

Takeaways 

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

How to track UTM parameters in GA4?

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.

Where can I find UTM parameters in GA4?

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.

How to set up UTM parameters for GA4 correctly?

There are two ways: using the Campaign URL builder provided by Google (recommended) or the Google Sheets template.

6 Replies to “How to track UTM parameters in Google Analytics 4”

  1. We’ve been passing utm_content for some time to indicate what content the session was from, for example, which email in a series of emails in a campaign. In GA4 I am not finding any dimension called “Content” and I’m not finding the one you have listed, “First user content.” All I see with content out of the box appears to relate to on-page content grouping. Any tips on how we can recover the data we had been looking at for “content”? Thanks!

  2. Do you know if declining cookie tracking on the popup banner on a website would result in a loss of UTM Parameters and tracking?

    1. Hey Deborah,

      Thank you for the question.

      If someone declines the consent mode on your website, they won’t appear in Google Analytics 4 at all. So there won’t be any data about them.
      Additionally, if the consent feature is set up correctly, GA4 will automatically create some behavior data based on the machine learning algorithms.

      Best regards,
      Ihar

  3. I’ve been using UTM codes to track my campaigns for awhile now and just recently I haven’t been able to find the utm_content information in GA4. Have you noticed this?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *