New UTM parameters in Google Analytics 4

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” John Wanamaker made a good statement back then, but he didn’t have the insights in his marketing activities and his investments weren’t measurable.

Margita Medić 2 years ago
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Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” A famous quote is always a good way to start an article, and this one seemed like the appropriate one. 

John Wanamaker made a good statement back then, but he didn’t have the insights in his marketing activities and his investments weren’t measurable. If he maybe had UTMs (or Internet) back in those days, he would definitely be much closer to the answer. 

Jokes aside, even today with all the technologies, there is still no magic formula for optimal advertising investment and marketing performance. 

One of the main keys to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing activities on different channels is by using UTM codes. Right? 

UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes are snippets of text added to the end of a URL to help you track where website traffic comes from if users click a link to this URL.

The concept of UTM codes stayed the same from its beginnings – you add them to the end of the URL and voilà – you can easily track where website traffic comes from, and how well your campaigns perform on different channels. 

Here is an example of how your URL should look like:

Once you have the data, it’s easier to decide where to invest the budget, and how to optimize your campaigns.

On the other hand, since switching to Google Analytics 4 is a viral topic now, I wanted to introduce something that would really help you to understand your users and traffic better. Maybe even encourage you to start switching to GA4 as soon as possible. 🙂

Google ofcourse managed to jump in just on time and since we have improvements in GA4 in many fields, UTMs are not an exception – as 3 new parameters are going to be available.

Ok, time to talk business, but let’s first remind ourselves with standard UTMs (that are available both in UA and GA4):







And finally, their majesties, new UTM parameters in GA4:

utm_source_plaftorm – parameter used to send the name of the platform responsible for directing traffic to your website, e.g. Google Ads, Search Ads 360.

utm_creative_format** – parameter is similar to the good old utm_content parameter and should be used to differentiate the type of creative, e.g, display, native, video, etc.

utm_marketing_tactic** – parameter can be used to send the targeting applied to a campaign, e.g. remarketing, prospecting or to pass informations about your smart bidding tactics

**utm_marketing_tactic and utm_creative_format are still not available in GA4.

So how would your URL look like with new parameters? Here is an example:

Nice to know:

In GA4, source/medium dimension is available only for the Attribution Report and is event-scoped. It shows what brings the user to a new session within which a Conversion occurs.

When reporting ecommerce, you need to use first user source/medium or session source/medium.

One more thing you should be aware of, that is very important when talking about GA4, is that the data is collected and analyzed on three different scopes followed by new dimensions. 

Here we will stick just to the dimensions related to UTMs, but you should definitely explore all of them too. 🙂

New dimensions with UTM parameters

    user-scoped dimensions

    shows you where your new users are coming from. In GA4 they always include the prefix “first user”, e.g. first user source/medium. The value assigned to each user-scoped dimension remains the same as users return to your website or app.

    event-scoped dimensions

    help to better attribute credit for a conversion event that was triggered by the user. The difference is that they don’t include a prefix (as in source or medium). Also, it is good to remember that source and medium for non-conversions events in reports are always “(not set)”.

    session dimension

with this dimension you can see both new and returning users and where they came from when they started new sessions. They include the prefix “session”, e.g.  session medium dimension. Nice touch – you can pair them with different metrics, e.g. event count (specific event), and then see the number of new sessions that came from that specific event. Important things with sessions is that new values are assigned to session-scoped dimensions each time users return to your website or app.

Basically, the prefixes “first” and “session” are a pretty big deal, since we didn’t have them in Universal Analytics, and they can really help us to see the bigger picture and get to know our users better. 

Let me show you how by giving you an example. Let’s pick first user source:

You are wondering how your campaign performs and while analyzing it, you are looking at the source dimension in Universal Analytics. Hmm, it seems that it didn’t bring as many users to the site as you expected. Ok, you decided to take a look in GA4 and use the first user source dimension. 

So you look at the first user source and see that your campaign actually did bring users to the site, because prefix “first” shows what was the first source that brought your user to the site, while the Universal Analytics shows opposite because of last non direct click attribution. 

This situation shows that with first user dimension we can identify the campaigns which brought quality traffic but don’t seem profitable at the first look in Universal Analytics.

Later on, you are looking at the User acquisition report in GA4, and you pair a metric like engaged sessions (a session that lasted longer than 10 seconds, or had a conversion event, or had two or more screen or page views) with the first user source. 

If the First user source dimension has a dimension value of “paid search,” for example, it means that these are users who landed on your website or app for the first time through a paid search (e.g. Google).

In this table you can see how many new users came to your site for the first time through paid search and how many of them made an engaged session.

The paid search dimension value shows you the number of engaged sessions on your website or app made from paid search by new users. For example, if you see 3,098 in the Engaged sessions column and paid search row (above in the table), then 3,098 engaged sessions were made by new users who came by paid search.

What else can we do with those dimensions?

Maybe you want to know how many new users who arrived by organic search triggered a specific event? New dimensions and UTMs have you covered! You can change event count (all events) to event count (begin_checkout). Then you can see the number of new users, who came by an organic search and made it to the checkout process, precisely in the number of triggered begin_checkout events.

The same dimension of different scopes alongside new UTMs in GA4 are going to be an opportunity for all of those who want to understand the complete customer journey, especially across different channels/devices.

Although two of the new UTM parameters are still not available in GA4 (and we don’t know when they are going to be) there are plenty of them left to start playing with. So, when the others become available, you will already be ahead of the game. 

Don’t worry about finding out when and where they are going to be available. Just stay tuned and we will take care of letting you know. 

To conclude, marketers can benefit a lot from this. With better insights about users and traffic they could definitely target them better and bring their customer’s satisfaction and campaign performance to its best. Also, they probably won’t mind the profit that will come with it. 😉


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