Harnessing the Power of UTM Parameters with Bitly

Setting up UTM parameters can get tricky, especially when using it for multiple sources and on multiple mediums. When you’re not technical and decide to delegate this task out, it wastes time, money, and resources.

Bitly believes that all marketers should be empowered to understand and better engage their audience, regardless of their technical prowess. That’s why you can use the Bitly platform to understand viewership and referral source by hacking UTM parameters.

What are UTM parameters?

UTM parameters are tags that you add to a URL to track the performance of unique links.

Why use UTM parameters?

UTM parameters have a variety of use cases:

Advertisement effectiveness:

It is common for marketers to test their ad placement. For example, is it more effective to place a banner ad versus an ad that runs alongside your website?

Recognizing social media platforms:

Applying UTM parameters on specific URLs, which can then be directed to specific social media platforms, is quite common. You can then make strategic social media decisions to weigh one platform over another.

For example, you can add UTM parameters to your social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram.

Website referrals:

It’s common for tags to be placed on URLs shared across specific website referrers. For example, one hot new product discovery platform is Product Hunt. (Best practice:

As a marketer, you can then identify how many people were sent to your site from a specific referrer. This is important and offers a quick sanity test and determines if you are being charged appropriately.

Billboard advertising:

Billboards are not dead! There – I said it! There has been a resurgence in billboard advertising through creative marketing strategies. At Bitly, we have seen many of our clients use billboard advertising to promote their campaigns. Bitly’s unique custom branding and keywords allow our clients to shorten our links where the viewer can coherently understand the URL and the campaign.

There are a number of other use cases, but for the sake of this article, let’s get to how to maximize and better understand your viewership. Here we highlight a technique that will save you and your development team time and money.

The solution

Let’s examine a marketer who is looking to create three unique links for their campaign. For example, they want to distinguish each link and its effectiveness through their newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter.

Instead of setting up these unique parameters, all they have to do is follow the steps below.

Original URL:

  • Add a question mark directly at the end of the URL, followed by utm and an underscore. Then, identify the medium (email, social, etc.) and source (newsletter, Facebook, etc.) The medium and source are separated by an ampersand in between.

Let’s say we are a looking to shorten a link on ESPN and want to be able to quickly distinguish people coming from the newsletter, Twitter, and Facebook. (Bitly already provides access to who came from Twitter and Facebook, but Other is displayed from other sources, such as one’s newsletter.) It would look like this for each source type:

Newsletter segmentation:

Facebook segmentation:

Twitter segmentation:

  • Insert each unique URL into Bitly.

Each unique URL will live in Your Bitlinks. In the example above, each Bitlink displays the unique URL, which has been customized based on the source parameters.

Let the clicks come in! You can now observe, analyze, and make strategic decisions based on where your clicks are coming from.

These steps can help all marketers alleviate the stress of creating UTM parameters or delegating them out.

Be on the lookout in Q4 for Bitly’s Campaign feature. This will provide more functionality and capability for all marketers who embrace UTM parameters.


Zach Schleien @
Customer Success Data Analyst Intern