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The question:

Pros and cons of tracking referral trafic with "utm" tags

asks for pros and cons but is quite old at this point and doesn't have any Cons in the answer. Hopefully we can address the cons / drawbacks here without it being closed as a duplicate. Specifically I'm thinking of two things:

  1. Some people use plug-in to automatically change or remove UTM codes just to "screw" with people.
  2. Everyone has their own way of doing things with UTM and analytics and such, if they track at all. (I work in a B2B environment, and many of these guys have real old websites they hardly maintain or bother with.)

So, what are the drawbacks to include UTM information on outbound links? We have a Dealer Locator and have started putting up Dealer Testimonials. I'm thinking it might be beneficial to include a UTM letting the dealer know the click-through came from us, if they check. But I'm not sure what risk there is since I certainly don't want to upset any of our dealers.

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I added a drawback answer to the other question, but it doesn't address your concerns, so I'm leaving this open. –  Stephen Ostermiller Jun 30 at 18:49

2 Answers 2

You should not include UTM codes for outbound links. Stephen already pointed out the main issue in that you don't know how they tag their campaigns and therefore without working directly with them it's impossible to provide them good tags (even if you can guess how they're doing it now they may change it).

Also you don't have to include UTM codes for them to know the referral is coming from you. That will already be in the Source information in Google Analytics for any clicks that came from your site. Stephen mentioned this but the traffic wouldn't show up as Organic traffic. Instead it would just be normal Referral traffic and could be found under the All Referrals section under Acquisition.

If you'd like to know on your side how many people are actually clicking on these links you could use GA Event Tracking to track the click events on these links. For information on how to do this check out this Google Support answer. https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1136920?hl=en

So basically don't do this. You should only include UTM codes for links to a website if that website has both asked you to do so and told you what codes they want you to use.

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I can think of several reasons why I might be unhappy to have the links to my website from yours include utm parameters that you have chosen for me:

  • You don't know how I set up my other campaigns. Your choices for campaign name and source are unlikely to match what I use in other places. It will add noise to my Google Analytics campaign report
  • I would expect that organic referrals would appear in the referrals section of Google Analytics. When you add campaign tracking, they appear under campaigns instead. I wouldn't expect any non-paid traffic to appear there.
  • Googlebot may not be able to assign link juice from your site to mine properly because the links are not in their canonical form.
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