What is a UTM (urchin tracking module)?

Glossary What is a UTM (urchin tracking module)?

UTM definition

An urchin tracking module (UTM) is a snippet of code added to a URL for the purpose of tracking online marketing performance and better understanding audience behavior. These custom URLs, known as UTM codes, provide marketers with detailed information on how a specific campaign, content piece, or channel is performing.

The phrase UTM originates from the now-discontinued web analytics software Urchin, which initially designed UTMs to monitor the behavior of unique website visitors. Urchin was acquired by Google in 2005 and was foundational to Google Analytics (now Google Analytics 4).

UTM parameters explained

UTM parameters detail the criteria a UTM code can track. We’ve provided an example UTM code here and have included the definition and UTM parameters example for each below.

Example UTM code


Note that everything after the question mark (?) is part of the UTM and that each of the UTM parameters is added onto the UTM by the ampersand sign (&).

The five main UTM parameters are:

  1. Source: Shows where the traffic is coming from, such as social media platforms, search engines, or other sources like a paid ad or newsletter.
    Example: utm_source=LinkedIn

  2. Medium: Reveals the channel type that’s driving the traffic, like organic social, email, paid social, pay-per-click (PPC), etc.

    Example: utm_source=paid_social

  3. Campaign: Tracks a specific campaign’s performance. Note in GA4, this parameter is expressed as “utm_id=[campaign]” and is required for GA 4 data importing.

    Example: utm_campaign=Cyber_5

  4. Content: Tracks the different content a user can interact with within the same campaign. The content parameter is particularly useful for landing pages or emails that contain multiple CTAs so marketers can see which one performs the best. It’s expressed as “utm_content=[content]”.

    Example: utm_content=video_ad

  5. Term: Identifies the keyword that’s driving traffic and is most often used to see which PPC campaign keywords are performing well to optimize a bidding strategy. The term parameters is expressed as “utm_term=[term].”

    Example: utm_term=cyber_five

The first three UTM parameters listed above are required in Google Analytics 4, with the last two being optional.

What are UTM parameters?

GA4 UTM parameters

Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the latest iteration of Google Analytics, combines both app and web data in the same property and offers more robust UTM tracking capabilities than Universal Analytics.

Marketers can get data for eight GA4 UTM parameters to help them analyze different traffic sources and marketing campaigns. In addition to the five UTM parameters mentioned above, there are three additional optional UTM parameters in GA4.

Optional UTM parameters only in GA4:

  1. Source platform: This parameter identifies the platform responsible for directing traffic to a given Google Analytics property, typically used by platforms for media ad-buying or those that manage organic traffic data.

    Example: utm_source_platform=search-ads-360

  2. Creative format*: This parameter distinguishes between creative type, such as native, video, search, display, etc, as well as creatives.

    Example: utm_creative_format=native_holiday2024.

  3. Marketing tactic*: This parameter reveals the targeting criteria that have been applied to a campaign, such as prospecting, retargeting, bid strategies, etc.

    Example: utm_marketing_tactic=remarketing_90days.

Currently, the values of the parameters “utm-creative-format” and “utm_marketing_tactic” are not reported in GA4 properties but are listed in the Google Support.

Adjust and UTMs

As a cross-device measurement and analytics platform, Adjust works with marketers to set up their UTM parameters to categorize attribution data appropriately. For example, the campaign structure parameters on Adjust link URLs offer valuable insights into where your mobile users come from.

Adjust link URLs support up to four levels of data, including network, campaign, ad group, and creative. Learn more about this in our Help Center article on Adjust links, and for information on tracking success with pre-installed apps on Android, check out our Network guides. Additionally, you can review our documentation on the parameters for Google Play Install Referrer API.

If you’d like to see how Adjust can streamline all your marketing analytics into a single platform and provide you with powerful insights across your marketing efforts, request your demo now.

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