The acronym UTM, commonly paired with the word “parameter”, is a data tracking term associated with the process of manually tagging campaign data within Google Analytics. UTM tracking is common practice among marketers and despite heavily reliance on the feature on to understand campaign performance, very few users know what the three letter acronym means and its historical link to the creation of Google Analytics . The following history lesson reveals the words behind the letters, as well as touches on the the acronyms roots in the evolution of web analytics.
So what does it mean?
UTM stands for “Urchin Tracking Module” and is a web traffic monitoring system that was released with the fourth version of the Urchin analytics platform.
What is Urchin?
Urchin is an analytics platform that was developed by San Diego-based web consultancy company, Web Depot. The platform launched in 1998 and over time became one of the most prominent analytics programs of the early millennium. One feature that brought such Urchin high acclaim in the analytics world was the ability to track and understand AdWords traffic. This feature was not only a hit for enterprise businesses, but also Google, who saw the feature as a key element to its long term advertising growth. Google eventually purchased the company in 2005 and used the platform as a springboard into the web analytics business with the introduction of Google Analytics (GA).
Is Urchin still around?
Since Google’s purchase, the platform and its core features have been deprecated and replaced with newer versions of Google Analytics (Asynchronous & Universal). These newer versions have basically turned Urchins influence over web analytics into nothing more than history, but one piece of the platform, utm tracking, has remained in place throughout all of GA’s updates, providing a small glimpse into the early days of web analytics tracking.
Support page for the original UTM documentation: https://support.google.com/urchin/answer/28307?hl=en
Google blogpost marking the end of Urchin Software: http://analytics.blogspot.com/2012/01/end-of-era-for-urchin-software.html
My blogpost on solutions to common UTM tracking issues: