URL Parameters – A Marketing Person’s Best Secret Weapon

Some things never change. The eternal struggle of the marketing person carries on. People like us in the marketing world face a big problem with attributing their activity directly to closed sales. All the same questions are asked by the higher-ups, what are you spending? Why are you doing X and not Y? (Because of course they know better, right?) And most importantly, what is the company getting for it - how do we show return on investment.

Analytics goals and traffic numbers will only get you so far until someone asks you for something “a little more comprehensive”. Then you need to go exporting spreadsheets, calling the CRM guys and furiously googling excel functions that will save you a bit of time. Surely, with all the technology, there must be a faster and better way.

Fear not, there is! It is easier than you think and it’s staring you in the face.

What’s the solution?  URL parameters 

You see them every day on the internet. You know them as those little values after the ‘?’ in a website’s URL.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 12.08.03.png

They are called parameters and they are one of a marketing executive's most powerful weapons.

Often dismissed as an ugly duckling to their human-readable counterparts, they're banished to the back end of the content management system. Used only in applications because of their appearance. Most people see an ugly series of letters and numbers. But not you!

You’re not most people, you want to work smart and parameters can help you do this.

Worlds with and without Parameters 

Without getting into the detail of how parameters are set up, we'll present two identical scenarios which are:

  • URL parameters are set up

  • No URL parameters are set up

The Scenario 

You work for a B2B company that sells consulting services at various price points.

You are doing your monthly report and you brought in 25 enquiries for a spend of €2,500 on 3 newsletters. They lead to landing pages on your site. Campaign A cost €250, Campaign B cost €750 and C cost €1,500. The A  & B campaigns generated 10 leads each, campaign C generated 5.

Imagine your boss tells you your company's most senior investor flew in this morning for a "surprise" visit. She wants to know what return on investment you can show for your marketing spend by each campaign. Which roughly translates to “What the hell are you doing with my money!?”.

Suddenly, you have to do a lot of sucking up to sales to get them to update the CRM. They won't! You then plead with them to tell you what sales they closed - and map that back to the marketing activity.

Now imagine you boss tells you this at 9am.

For an 11am meeting.

And the senior investor is one hour’s drive away.

The World Without URL Parameters 

You have tracked the thank you page (thank-you.html) after a contact us form. You can map the enquiries to the campaign in your analytics. Let's look at that goal.

Unfortunately, the thank you page (/thank-you.html) doesn't tell you a whole lot. It just gives you an arbitrary number, in this case, 25. You'll have to do a lot of work to figure out what revenue you made from these conversions.

Your Insight 

All you know going in to tell your investor is that you spent €2,500. You probably got a sale or two because the sales guy told you he got one and because you’re pretty confident your marketing is working. You will look into it. If you’re lucky, you will know how much the one sale is. You will also be lucky if it exceeds €2500.

You don't come out of that meeting looking so great. Now the investor has halved your budget and she informs you that she will see you in a month. You’re already not looking forward to it.

You hastily gather your things and as you’re leaving you catch a glimpse of the investor. You wish you hadn’t because she is glaring at you like this:


 A World With Parameters 

Now let's run through the same thing with the parameters set up. You've been clever about this. You've even asked the developer (or did it yourself) to push the information into the CRM. The boss comes in, drops the surprise visit bombshell. You go straight into the CRM system which is linked to your website’s Google Analytics. You run a custom report. You are looking for the client name, the closed sale status, the value of the deal, the submission number and the campaign source and a URL.

Low and behold you see 4 URLs in your web report with the value.

The following sales closed:

  • /thank-you.html?submission=214&custom=C worth €250

  • /thank-you.html?submission=230&custom=C worth €250

  • /thank-you.html?submission=220&custom=B worth €10,000

  • /thank-you.html?submission=217&custom=A worth €3,000

Your Insights with Parameters 

Already that is much more powerful! In summary you can tell the investor:

Campaign C was a bust, campaign A and B were worth it. B was the clear winner.

Your cost per acquisition for each campaigns was:

Campaign A - €25

B - €75

C - €300

Your return on investment per campaign was €2,750 on A, a rather staggering €9,250 on B and a loss of €250 on C. Naturally, your boss is happy and your investor is very happy. She tells you not to worry about C. “We’ll know for next time.” She is asking all sorts of questions but you’re out of time. As you’re leaving the investor says excitedly, “I‘ll see you next month?”


And with your boss and investor:


 Connecting the Dots 

Knowledge is power. Knowing how to collect and use the information you can gain from internet marketing is what makes good companies great. Analytics shows you key information that aids decision making. We have seen many companies struggling to tell the full sales and marketing story. A simple change like a parameter can help. This has the potential to transform your business. This is a rather simple idea but getting analytics right opens up a whole world of possibilities.

Need help showing return on investment for your marketing efforts? 

If you can relate to this story and need help showing that your marketing activity is driving results, please call us on 01 672 5222 or email hello@daracreative.ie. We’re looking for our next big success story.

We can work with you to set up transparent tracking and reporting so that you’ll know what marketing activity is getting results for your business. Work smarter by using URL parameters!


Written by: David Leonard-Scully, Digital Marketing Executive