What Are Rumors About UTM Code Removal All About?

Some browsers have threatened to remove UTM tracking codes from URLs. Here’s what you need to know.

Video Transcript

Tricia: Hopefully, this is a quick question. UTM codes. So, we’ve heard that they’re talking about not allowing these third-party cookies, all that stuff.

David: Right.

Tricia: Tell me, if someone asks, are UTM codes still working? Are they going to continue to work? How do you answer that question? And what are your thoughts on that?

David: So UTM codes are not cookies. UTM codes send information through the URL to Google Analytics. So, every time a visit happens, or an event happens in Google Analytics, Google Analytics reads the URL, and when it reads the URL, it says, oh, there’s a UTM code, so I’m going to override the source of this session with that because Google Analytics as a JavaScript on that page is actually reading the URL. That’s how it can do stuff like showing what page a visit came from and stuff like that. Right? So, that’s all it’s doing. So, UTMs don’t have anything to do with third-party codes.

Tricia: Yeah, sorry. I think…

David: That’s fine. Sometimes people get confused. It’s important to note this because that’s the trick case. Now, saying that some browsers have threatened to remove tracking codes from URLs.

Tricia: Yeah, okay.

David: And this is definitely a tracking code in a URL. So, is any link with Facebook. So is any Google Ad. It adds the GCL ID code. Microsoft is an MSL ID code, something to that extent for Microsoft ads. LinkedIn does it. Everybody is adding it, so some of the browsers are threatening to take it. I use Firefox, and Firefox is trying to pivot to privacy. You can copy a URL without the tracking codes and just remove it. That’s not for everything right now. So, this kind of goes into the conspiracy theory that there is a lot of money in tracking codes. Facebook does not want to give up that data.

Tricia: Yeah.

David: Google sure as heck doesn’t want to give up that data. So, this is just so funny. I should have saved this. I got an email from Google. It’s not that Google knows who the heck I am, but it said you, as a small business owner, need to be concerned about these things. And they rephrased website privacy as a conspiracy against small business owners. And they were trying to tell their side of the story for website privacy, saying customers want personalized ads that are relevant to them, and this allows us to do that. You, as a business owner, want to know the ROI of your marketing efforts. So, you need to contact your congressman and make sure… It was really interesting. So, let’s not diminish the power of capitalism here. We’ve all been burned by capitalism, but we also make money from it, so we can have a love-hate relationship with it if we want. I err on the love side, but that’s neither here nor there. So, just know that when clients start panicking about anything, third-party cookie removals, removing tracking codes from URLs, there are forces more powerful than you and me at work here that are going to fight this. I personally think this is why there’s no nationwide privacy policy in the United States yet. There may be, I’d say, in the next year or so, we might see the standardized privacy policy for websites in the United States just kind of like GDPR, but I’m sure they’re dragging their feet because think about it this way: Remember when the rumors of Google Analytics being illegal or circulating and we kind of rolled our eyes? I rolled my eyes at that. The Biden administration went to Europe and negotiated for Google Analytics. Meanwhile, Russia is bombing the Ukraine. However, the Biden administration was negotiating with GDPR in Europe. That should tell you how much money is behind this.

Tricia: Yeah, for sure.

David: And I don’t want to debate Ukraine. That’s not my point. My point is that there were real issues going on, like life and death issues, and one of the things the Biden administration put their efforts into was making sure Google Analytics would be acceptable to GDPR.

Tricia: Yeah.

David: If it weren’t for the US government intervening, the European courts might not have made it acceptable. So, just know that. Don’t panic.

Tricia: Yeah.

David: We don’t know until we know. There’s got to be ways to track this because Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok all want to prove their value. And so, it might not be as good data as we have now, but there will still be data from which we can make our decisions. And so, I’m kind of on a do not panic status, and if that’s a little bit too tinfoil hat, please accept my apologies. I am a cynic, and I’m working on it.

Tricia: That definitely helps. Thank you.


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