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What Are The Differences Between Pixels and UTM Parameters? and Do You Need Both?

Updated: Mar 13

A man working on his UTM parameters on his multiple screens: computer and two laptops

Ever wondered how websites track your online behavior or where those targeted ads come from? 

It's all thanks to tools like pixels and UTM parameters. But what exactly are they, and do you really need both?

In today’s article, we'll break down the differences between pixels and UTM parameters, so you can understand how they work and decide whether they're essential for your marketing efforts. 

Let's get started!

What Are UTM Parameters?

A man in a stripped shirt explaining to a lady wearing a red shirt what UTM parameters are on her laptop

Imagine you threw a big party and you want to know how your guests got the invite or heard about your party. Maybe you invited them personally or gave them a call, or maybe even sent them a simple text message. 

I mean. you could just ask them, but it might be hard to keep track of everyone's responses.

That's where UTM parameters come in. UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module (named after a company Google acquired), and it's a code you attach to the URL of your party invitation. Or in this case, your ads.

Here's an example: Let's say you're inviting people through email, social media, and a banner ad on a website. You can add UTM parameters to the links in each of these platforms.

For the email invite, you can add "?utm_source=email" to the end of the URL. This tells you that the visitor clicked on the link from an email.

For your social media posts, you could add "?utm_source=facebook" or "?utm_source=twitter" to indicate where the visitor came from.

Whereas, for the banner ad, you might add "?utm_source=banner" to show that they clicked on the link from the banner ad. 

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Basically, you just add the name of the platform to the end of the UTM code to have a clear idea of where each visitor came from. Make sure to keep the UTM codes simple and clear to avoid confusion! This would defeat the entire purpose of setting up the codes in the first place.

What Are Pixels?

Pixel codes, also known as tracking pixels or web beacons are snippets of code embedded into web pages or emails. They're used by advertisers, marketers, and website owners to track user behavior and gather data about how people interact with their content.

Here's a simple example:

Let’s say you're browsing online and you visit a clothing website. You're looking at a pair of shoes, but you don't end up buying them. 

Later, when you're scrolling through social media or reading the news, you notice an ad for the exact same shoes you were looking at earlier. How is this possible?

The pixel code! When you visited the clothing website, a tiny pixel code was loaded onto the page, and it quietly recorded information about your visit, like which pages you looked at and how long you stayed. 

This information is then sent back to the website's servers or to third-party services, allowing them to create targeted ads based on your interests and behavior. 

I know! Isn't it crazy how advanced technology is these days?

So, What Are The Differences Between Pixels and UTM Parameters?

A woman figuring out the differenced between UTM parameters and Pixels on her laptop

The main difference between UTM parameters and pixels is that UTMs are like visible tags you attach to your marketing links to track where your website visitors are coming from, while pixels are invisible trackers that silently gather detailed data about individual user behavior on your website or in your emails.

To help you understand better, here’s a table explaining the differences in depth.

So, Do You Need Both Pixels and UTM Parameters in Your Marketing Campaign?

Whether you need both pixels and UTM parameters in your marketing campaign depends on how you want to understand your audience and how effectively you want to track your marketing efforts.

If you're just starting out and want to know which sources are driving traffic to your website (like emails, social media, or ads), then using UTM parameters can be really helpful. They help you understand where your visitors are coming from.

However, if you want to go deeper and understand how visitors interact with your website or emails, then pixels are what you need. They track specific actions users take, like clicking on links or making purchases, helping you optimize your campaigns.

So, while you can still get some information using just one of these tools, using both pixels and UTM parameters together gives you a more complete understanding of your audience and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, which can ultimately help you make better decisions and achieve better results.


Well, aren’t we glad you asked! We at DigiCom are obsessive data-driven marketers pulling from multi-disciplinary strategies to unlock scale. We buy media across all platforms and placements and provide creative solutions alongside content creation, and conversion rate optimizations. We pride ourselves on your successes and will stop at nothing to help you grow.


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