utm_source=crap: How Google Analytics Breaks Links + UX

The head of a white lama is dirty. It looks funny in an awkward way


Did you notice how dirty some website addresses are? They are full of crap! Why?

Over the years Google – the dominant analytics provider on the market – and marketers have increasingly inserted it!

In this post I explain the issue and suggest some solutions to get rid of utm_source and similar crap.

Where Does utm_source Website Address Pollution Come From?

Google and marketers add so called utm_source etc. parameters to third party website addresses (so called URLs).

I have warned against this type of URL or Internet address pollution repeatedly to almost no avail.

Clean URLs were an SEO and user experience (UX) best practice for more than a decade. Then tracking pollution became acceptable.

Yet it seems we’re in a middle of a wide-spread regression to pre-WordPress and human readable website addresses now.

More than that: it’s an era where third parties actively get away with harming your website usability and findability.

How do they harm your website? They sabotage it by inserting unwanted code into your site to make your URLs dirty (again).

Yet they do it only as a side effect. Most marketers just don’t care about website user experience.

They just ignore the pollutants they add to website addresses.

They are rather keen on proving that their ad and other marketing campaigns work.

Clean website addresses are merely collateral damage while “retargeting” target audiences.

Google Doesn’t Care About the People

Google takes no prisoners when it comes to tracking people around the Web.

Many marketers apparently play dirty whenever their bottom line justifies it.

For Google you are not the user, you are the product.

Only those who buy ads from Google (aka marketers) are actual customers.

As I’m neither a marketer nor a Google shareholder I speak out!

I view this trend of adding lots of crap to website addresses with growing annoyance.

As an optimizer of websites for people or popularizer I fix and improve things.

I’m mostly interested in making things work as smoothly as possible so that my visitors get

  • what they want
  • when they want
  • how they want it.

In the past I have even offered a simple JavaScript to remove the utm_source crap from your site.

The simple solution worked fine on my sites for years. How long exactly?

One day some spammers were able to use it against me by bombarding me with requests.

Then I had to find a more sophisticated solution. In case you just want that scroll to the bottom of the post.

For static websites or your WordPress install the script might still work.

You are welcome to try and improve it. I’m not a programmer by any means!

Tracking Visitors Across Websites



In contrast Google and marketers are predominantly focusing on making money and proving it by tracking people.

You probably know this tracking phenomenon from the ads that follow you around the Web

for weeks after you searched for something on Google or have checked out some online stores.

I minimize such privacy invading annoyances by using

  • anti-spyware tools
  • ad blockers
  • privacy-oriented search engine DuckDuckGo

utm_source URL pollution may seem harmless in contrast to other profiling and surveillance techniques like tracking cookies.

Why? Tracking cookies follow you across most websites you can’t simply block it.

Under mounting pressure even Google had to deprecate them and third party cookie support will be phased out.

Yet Google and its partners have come up with even more sneaky techniques to track people across websites.

URL parameters are just a remnant of the more obvious tracking past. Nonetheless you have to fix it.

Every webmaster needs to take care of this parameter pollution her or himself.

As a user I often clean up web addresses of web pages I visit manually by simply removing the redundant parameters from them.

Why? When copy and pasting addresses into a mail message

  1. I don’t want the address to be huge and get broken down in several parts by the character limit of the mail software.
  2. I don’t want to scare people with strange additions looking like some virus no human can decipher.
  3. I don’t want people to think that some of the parameters are the actual URL, especially when they include sources like twitter.com

So what do I actuall do when I remove utm_source crap my my website address mnaually to celan it up for sharing?

When copying and pasting I look for the question mark and delete everything that follows it including the question mark itself:





How Google Analytics Breaks Links



Long story short: utm_source parameters are a big turn off for people and can potentially ostracize them.

Nothing new here. I’ve been preaching that for several years now.

Yet it gets worse. It’s not just about the the ugly and misleading looks or general user experience.

I started to encounter links containing utm_source parameters that actually break links!

Yes, perfectly working links without parameters end up being broken after lots of utm_source crap gets added to them.

Look at this example here I have taken from a real life newsletter I received (the redundant crap is highlighted by me):


Take note that the site does not use the website address anymore so you can’t test it by now.

When clicking it on any browser – I tried

  • Firefox
  • Chrome
  • IE
  • Opera

– you would see an empty page.

It’s not the first time it happens to me that utm_source parameters literally block content.

This is a partial screenshot taken on my Firefox: Yes. It’s blank!

The page hasn’t loaded correctly! Without the parameters it works perfectly fine though.


Enlarge Your Website Address Now!

The address from the broken link example above is pretty long by itself, it’s 117 characters long:


yet the added utm_source parameter crap amounts to another 191 characters. Thus the useless tracking part of the URL exceeds the original URL by far.

Why would you allow someone to sabotage your website address like that?

You may argue that is an extreme case of website address pollution that rarely happens. Thus I’d like to show once again a more common example.

Here’s a link polluted by the Buffer tool many marketers use to automate their content sharing on Twitter and beyond.



the original URL is shorter than the polluted addition. It’s also redundant as you can see.

It says Buffer twice (great advertising for them!) and adds Twitter.com to your URL.

This way some people and tools might even mistake that for the actual address.

This example shows how a third party or rather three of them literally conspire to pollute your website address:

  1. Google with its market dominating Analytics
  2. the Buffer social media automation tool vendor
  3. the careless or downright dirty marketers.

All three either don’t care about proper UX and SEO best practices.

Many rather prefer to sacrifice them in favor of short term ROI (Return On Investment) measurement to prove their worth.

In Google Analytics website statistics Buffer will appear as a major source of traffic this way.

I have made the Buffer team aware of the issues last time I have written about the user experience issues.

Yet no change has been made ever since. They followed me on X/Twitter but didn’t act on it.

The Only Revolution is a Better Solution

When you use Google Analytics on your site it adds utm_source crap to your website address looking something like this:


The parameters start after the question mark: “?”

Ideally the crap parameters get automatically counted and discarded then.

Yes! It’s possible! There is a workaround script provided by a helpful programmer by the name of Jason Weathered.

I had installed for years and worked flawlessly along GA.

You only need to add it to your existing Google Analytics code in case you use GA like I still do.

There’s another similar script on StackOverflow.

To remove utm_source crap from other sites you visit automatically – at least for your own use.

There is a simple tool as well. You can download and install it.

Then you can also strip the tracking parameters right in your browser. It’s the ClearURLs extension that is available for all major browsers including

I have used it successfully for a while on my Firefox. Take note though: some sites may not work as expected when you enable it. It’s mostly creepy sites that rely on tracking users though.

Update July 20th, 2017: I deleted the Google Analytics tracking code from my blog altogether for privacy reasons.

Thus the utm_source removal stopped working as well.

Nonetheless it can work