Why should I remove UTM parameters from the <link> in my SmartFormat feed?

The SmartFormat feed specification recommends publishers remove the UTM tracking parameters from the end of URLs in the feed. This may feel counterintuitive if you want to track incoming referrals from your feeds but this FAQ will explain why it’s a best practice and how we can help maintain the tracking you need.

UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters are added to the end of URLs in order to track click behavior on these links. The UTM parameter on the following URL is everything after the question mark, highlighted in bold below:


The UTM tags an incoming pageview referral so an analytics system can segment a site's referral traffic. In the example above, the inbound pageview would be tagged as coming via a syndication partner Smartnews via the RSS channel.

While UTMs are a staple on the desktop web, they can degrade the performance of your articles in the SmartNews app where a majority of the pageviews are within the app. SmartNews honors the <link> sent by our publishers on their SmartFormat feed, interpreting the <link> as the canonical link for the story so if that link is different from other links we find across other feeds and web crawls, it may dilute the strength of the article's signal in our algorithm.

This is why we ask in our SmartFormat feed specifications that publishers leave off UTM parameters from the URLs in the <link> elements of their SmartFormat feeds.

Note: You only need to strip off UTM parameters from URLs in the <link> element of your SmartFormat feed. UTMs on links in the body text or elsewhere are fine.

Publishers that follow their analytics closely are encouraged to add their analytics script to their SmartFormat feed. If UTM parameters are important for tracking referrals from the "Read this on the web" link in the app, please reach out to your SmartNews Business Development contact and they can arrange to have your UTM text added in a way that does not impact your articles’ success.