Demystifying HubSpot ad tracking: UTM matching for accurate insights

Johan Vandecasteele
Johan Vandecasteele
28 February 2024

Analytics HubSpot


Ad tracking across various platforms remains a critical aspect of digital marketing, often fraught with challenges that can significantly impact reporting accuracy. One common practice among marketers is the manual maintenance of UTMs for HubSpot ads, and that is where you can get into trouble with HubSpot reporting ...

Blog Images 1000x600 Matching HubSpot UTMs with traffic sources for Ad Tracking
Let's share insights on creating UTMs on HubSpot and, in some cases, avoiding UTMs in favor of auto-tracking. 

Through this, you can understand the limitations and the added benefits you can gain from incorporating automatic ad tracking on HubSpot. 

The default functionality: auto-tracking of your ads in HubSpot!  

As a force of habit, marketers tend to maintain manual UTMs on HubSpot ads.

But based on discussions with clients who run ads on Google and social media channels, incorporating HubSpot ads tracking and specifically auto-tracking offers the following benefits: 

  • It gives visibility on specific ads your contacts are clicking and converting on
  • Assists with data and reporting hygiene
  • Reconciles data based on HubSpot Traffic Sources
  • Can reduce steps in your ad campaign set-up process
  • Can provide additional data when the API limits tracking 

We mentioned how auto-tracking helps match your data with traffic sources and reduces steps in the process. A related query from one of our leadstreet clients got us started on this investigation.

It was a quick email that read something like:

Our ads reporting doesn't look right, can you help us troubleshoot?

The client wanted to reduce silos and centralize their leads tracking in HubSpot-- something we advocate for. And for this, HubSpot auto-tracking is crucial. But it entails aligning UTM trackers in Google Ads, LinkedIn, and Facebook with HubSpot fields.

This step of reconciling data tracking helps you avoid the scenario we found: The team connected HubSpot auto-tracking to Google Ads. The ads went live, but the team discovered that HubSpot couldn't see the leads coming from paid ads. So, the leads got tagged as organic.

With some detective work, we realized you can solve this by optimizing your team's processes and letting HubSpot take care of the UTM step. So, your team must avoid creating manual UTMs where auto-tracking is available.

How to activate auto-tracking on HubSpot 

You can enable automatic ad tracking on HubSpot. When the ad accounts are correctly connected, HubSpot will implement auto-tracking for all your campaigns.

(Pro tip: learn more about auto-tracking and tracking URLs)

How to activate auto-tracking on HubSpot

To set this up, you can: 

  • Go to your HubSpot account and click the settings icon in the main navigation bar.
  • In the left sidebar menu, navigate to Marketing and then to Ads.
  • For each ad account, click to toggle the Auto-tracking switch on.

Remember that HubSpot attributes contacts to the ads they clicked after enabling auto-tracking. Contacts will not be attributed to the ads they clicked while auto-tracking is disabled. Retroactive auto-tracking is also not possible. 

A guide on HubSpot UTM parameters

Measuring performance helps marketers allocate and reallocate time, effort, and money into campaigns, platforms, or media that bring results. UTM codes are crucial in helping manage and measure campaigns. UTM codes are critical in helping manage and measure campaigns. Get a breakdown of what’s in a UTM.


UTM is an acronym for Urchin Tracking Module code. This snippet of text added at the end of a website page or landing page URL helps you track marketing metrics like views, clicks, contacts influenced, or new contacts. 

A UTM can have a maximum of five parameters: 

  1. Campaign - Typically, the name you assign to the campaign like utm_campaign=winter_sale  
  2. Source - Indicates the specific website a visitor of the page will come from  
  3. Medium - The channel the visitor will come from, like organic social media, paid social media, search, or email  
  4. Content - Gives an idea of the content people clicked, whether an image, video or an article link, a sidebar link  
  5. Term - Gives an idea of the keywords used to drive traffic

A UTM can also contain the following symbols: 

  • ? - Indicates to the analytics software that a string of UTM parameters will follow
  • & - Indicates that another UTM parameter will follow

Traffic sources and UTMs in HubSpot 

When creating UTMs, matching Sources as categorized on HubSpot is essential. This will make it easier to align your ad reports with other reports on HubSpot.

(Pro tip: learn more about traffic sources)

In the Sources tab in the traffic analytics tool, you can see different traffic metrics categorized into sources. You can see this in your Sources chart and table. This system is based on the URL that the visitor clicked. 

The Source is attributed is based on a set of rules. The resulting source is categorized based on the First page seen property. The rules are applied in the following order and consider the mediums and sources used combined with the referring domain.

1The "utm_medium" parameter is “social” and the "utm_source" is the exact name of a recognized social network. 
The "utm_medium" parameter is "social" and the referring domain is a social media site. 
Organic social
2The "source" parameter contains “adwords”, “ppc”, or “cpc” associated with paid search. Paid search
3The "gclid" parameter is present, indicating a Google click ID for Google ads.Paid search

The "utm_medium" parameter contains "paid," "ppc," or "cpc", combined with a "utm_source" parameter that is the exact name of a recognized social network.  
The "utm_medium" parameter contains "paid," "ppc," or "cpc", and the referring domain is a social media site. 
The "utm_source" or "utm_medium" contains "paidsocial". 

Paid social
5The "utm_source", "utm_medium", or "utm_campaign" parameter is present and the referring domain is Paid search
6The "utm_source", "utm_medium", or "utm_campaign" parameter is present and contains the word "adword," "ppc," or "cpc". Paid search
7The "utm_source", "utm_medium", "utm_campaign", or "source" parameter contains the word “email”. Email marketing
8The "utm_source", "utm_medium", "utm_campaign", or "source" parameter is present and does not contain the word “email”, “adword”, “ppc”, or “cpc”. Other campaigns
9Referring domain is a social media site. Organic social
10Referring domain is a mail domain or RSS reader. Direct traffic
11Referring domain is a search engine like Google, Bing, Yahoo or Ecosia.Organic search
12The referring domain is considered internal team traffic based on the listed site domains in reports settings. None
13Referring domain is not a social media site or search engine. Referral
14No referring domain or tracking URL.    Direct traffic

Understanding each traffic source

In the Sources tab, you can view one or two levels of data for each source by clicking on one in the table.


But what does each source really mean?

  • Organic search - From non-paid search results in known search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, ...  
  • Referrals - From external sites that link to your website. It could be related to PR opportunities, listings, or your organization's ecosystem of partners, industry associations, or vendors.  
  • Organic social - From posts on social media websites or apps that are not paid. It can be your regular newsfeed posts or reels sharing blog posts or updates.  
  • Email marketing - From bulk emails sent through HubSpot's marketing tool.
  • Paid search - From paid search campaigns like on Google AdWords  
  • Paid social - From paid social media campaigns like Facebook lead ads or LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms.  
  • Direct traffic - Traffic with no indicated source, likely from people who already know your brand or website and have typed or pasted a specific URL onto their browser  
  • Other campaigns - Usually from tracking URLs created in HubSpot  
  • Offline sources - From offline sources like contact imports from another CRM or an on-the-ground event 

How to disable HubSpot ads tracking

There are clear benefits to auto-tracking on HubSpot. For example, you can track Google Discovery Ads Discovery campaigns if you avoid overriding tracking for the ad campaign's groups or ads.  

However, some API limitations impact what and how you track ad data for other campaigns. Depending on your ad type, there are situations where it's best to turn off auto-tracking on HubSpot and use manual UTMs with consideration for the rules around traffic sources. 

Switching off auto-tracking: 

  1. Click to toggle the Auto-tracking switch off.  
  2. This step removes HubSpot access to your tracking settings.  
  3. It will not remove the existing tracking parameters from your ads.  
  4. You can remove these parameters natively on Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads. 

Overriding the parameters:

As a default setting, HubSpot's tracking includes UTM parameters to match HubSpot traffic analytics. To override the utm_source or utm_medium parameters to match your preferred third-party reporting service like Google Analytics, you can edit the HubSpot tracking template:

  1. Go to the ad network of the specific tracking template you want to edit.
  2. Click Edit tracking template.
  3. In the right panel, enter a new utm_source or utm_medium.
  4. Then hit Save. 

On HubSpot email UTM tracking

Earlier, we mentioned that Email marketing is a traffic source. And that it pertains to bulk emails sent through HubSpot's marketing tool.

It is essential to understand the difference between tracking emails vs. logging them to maximize email reporting.

  • In email tracking, you can monitor when contacts open your emails. To do this, HubSpot inserts an invisible one-pixel image into the email after it is sent. As a default, marketing emails are tracked to get reports on open rates. 1-to-1 sales emails are also tracked so that sales reps can get notified in real-time when a contact opens their message. 1 to 1 email tracking is available to HubSpot users with assigned Sales Hub paid seats.
  • On the other hand, logging refers to when you attach an email to a contact or company record on HubSpot. It gives context to the communication with the contact so far. Marketing emails sent to a contact will appear on a contact record automatically - no need for you to enable this. And if you have enabled tracking in your email settings, you'll gain visibility on a contact's engagement with marketing emails.

Email tracking is already enabled out of the box. Using the SMTP API, HubSpot accounts with the Transactional Email add-on can track clicks for external non-HubSpot emails. But we recommend you check your email settings and adjust them according to your needs.


Step 1: Log into HubSpot and go to Settings.
Step 2: On the left-hand side, go to Marketing and click on Email.
Step 3: Among the tabs, click the Tracking tab.
Step 4: Toggle the Track email opens to enable or disable this and to show this data in your email performance and dashboards.
Step 5: Toggle to switch on/off the ability to track and count clicks for HTML emails and then for plain text emails.
Step 6: Scroll down to the bottom of the Tracking tab to see Source Tracking. Here, you can enable any of the following options:

  • Adding source tracking tags to all URLs
  • Adding source tracking only if no existing tags in the URL
  • Not adding source tracking tags

Getting support 

We understand that HubSpot and Google Ads tracking can sometimes be confusing, mainly when you are used to manual processes. But with resources and tools like HubSpot's knowledgebase, you can troubleshoot and resolve issues. 

In addition, you can always consult the leadstreet team on HubSpot UTMs, ad tracking, and other HubSpot services!

Johan Vandecasteele

Johan Vandecasteele

Managing partner leadstreet ✪ Diamond HubSpot Partner ✪ Top 50 HubSpot Agency worldwide ✪ 2020 HubSpot Champion User ✪ Member HubSpot Advisory Council EU

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