Why manual UTMs from Google Ads do not show up in GA4?

Published   March 1, 2024
Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a new platform that offers many features and benefits for marketers, but it also has some differences from the previous version, Universal Analytics (GA3). One of these differences is how GA4 handles manual custom UTM parameters in your Google Ads landing pages.

UTM parameters are tags that you can add to your landing page URLs to track the performance of your marketing campaigns across different sources and mediums. For example, you can use utm_source to specify the source of your traffic (such as Google, or Facebook) and utm_medium to specify the type of traffic (such as cpc, email, or affiliate).

Manual UTMs

In GA3, you had the option to enable manual UTMs to override the auto-tagging feature of Google Ads and Search Ads 360, which uses a unique identifier called GCLID to track your ad clicks. This option is shown in the screenshot below:


This means that if you used manual UTMs in your Google Ads landing pages, such as utm_source=pdis-google and utm_medium=cpc for a paid display campaign, you would see these values in the Source / Medium dimension in GA3, as shown in the screenshot below:


However, in GA4, this option is no longer available. GA4 always uses the GCLID value to identify your source and medium coming from the Google Ads and Search Ads 360 traffic, regardless of your manual UTMs. This means that if you use the same manual UTMs as before, you will see a different value in the Session source / medium dimension in GA4, as shown in the screenshot below:


Note: GA4 is still under development, so it is possible that the option to allow manual UTMs to overwrite the auto-tagging feature will be added in the future.

This difference can have an impact on how you analyse and categorize your traffic in GA4, especially if you use custom channel groups and rely on the source or medium values to define the rules. You should review your channel settings and make sure that your campaigns are correctly assigned to the right channels in GA4. Otherwise, you might see discrepancies or inaccuracies in your channel reports compared to GA3 or your expectations.


In this blog post, you learned how manual custom UTMs in your Google Ads landing pages affect your GA4 reporting differently from GA3. You also learned why you should check and adjust your channel settings in GA4 to ensure that your campaigns are properly categorized. If you need any assistance with setting up or auditing your channel groups or data accuracy in GA4, our team of experts is here to help you. Contact us today and let’s get started!


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