Ever want to track the effectiveness of your advertisements or track how your manual link building is working for your business?  Of course you have.  Here are 5 ways to use URL parameters to augment your marketing and your Sources report. 

First, let’s start with a quick refresher on what a URL parameter is. A URL is made up of a couple of different parts. If we look at a URL like www.hubspot.com/products/integrations?utm_campaign=fake_campaign we can break this down into 4 parts:

  • Subdomain: www
  • Domain: hubspot.com
  • Path: /products/integrations
  • Parameters: utm_campaign=fake_campaign

The parameter is separated from the rest of the URL by a question mark. If you have multiple parameters they would be separated by an ampersand. For example www.hubspot.com/products/integrations?utm_campaign=fake_campaign&utm_medium=social

Each parameter has a field and a value. For the example, "utm_campaign" is the field and "fake_campaign" is the value. 

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s check out why we would use URL parameters. The basic idea behind them is that we can pass information (in the field=value format) between websites without always having to write code.

The great thing about you being a HubSpot customer is that the analytics code and forms you are already using know how to interpret URL parameters.

Ways to Use URL Parameters

Here a couple of use cases for using URL parameters for your marketing.

  1. Tracking ad cost
  2. Tracking ad A/B testing
  3. Organic link building/exchanges
  4. Bring information about a user from your application
  5. Bring information from email tools outside of HubSpot

We'll go through each one in more detail. 

1. Tracking ad costs

Measuring ROI is always a difficult thing. It’s hard to exactly decide how much cost to attribute to different marketing efforts and then to figure out how much those marketing efforts affected the end purchase. However, ads can be a simple way to attach a cost to what it took to acquire a lead.

A HubSpot form can automatically grab information from the URL parameter and put the value into a field with the same name as the parameter. In this case, we could have a hidden field on the form called “cost” then we would have a URL that looks something like www.myurl.com/landing-page?cost=1 to represent the cost of that click was 1 dollar.   When a form gets submitted we now will have the cost as a field that we can segment and report on. 

2. Tracking A/B testing of ads

We can track A/B testing of ads in a very similar way. When you assign different variations for your ad you can have them go back to the same landing page, just use different parameters to denote which version of the ad they came from. Your URL may look something like www.myurl.com/landing-page?utm_campaign=my_campaign&utm_medium=sitename&utm_source=banner_ad&version=A Then we can run revenue reports on each list (one for each version) to see what is really being most effective, and who doesn't love a good revenue report.

Note: Revenue reporting is only available for Enterprise HubSpot subscriptions.  If you are interested in upgrading your account to gain access to this feature, please contact your Account Manager or begin your 30-Day Free Enterprise Trial.

3. Tracking link exchange referrals

While HubSpot’s tracking code automatically tracks if visits are coming from other websites (generally called referrals), they all go into one bucket in the Sources report sometimes it can be helpful to break them out. One way to separate referrals would be to segment those that we got organically vs those we got via a link exchange.

While you always have to be careful with link exchanges to make sure you don’t get marked for spammy behavior, they can be helpful. When you hand out a link add parameters to it.

Throughout this blog post, we’ve been looking at different examples of parameters and you may have noticed that many of them are prepended with “utm”.   UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. There are several standard UTM parameters but HubSpot supports three of them, utm_campaign, utm_source, and utm_medium. These feed into the Sources report. You can learn more about how HubSpot categorizes Visits, Contacts, and Customers in Sources here.

You don't have to do these by hand, check out the Tracking URL Builder in your portal.  Now you can know not only how much traffic you are getting from these sites but how that translates to contacts and customers as well. 

4. Bringing in information from an application

For marketers who have an application, it may be helpful to get information from that application into HubSpot. Things like what product tier they are using, features they use, etc. What you shouldn’t pass via a URL parameter is anything that personally identifies anyone. Since they will be exposed in the URL it’s not secure and could be intercepted. This gives you more segmentable options for your marketing going forward.  Think about if you could market based on product tier they are using without making your developers integrate with APIs - cool stuff.  

5. Tracking emails from other email tools

Although HubSpot does have an email tool, every once in a while it’s not a fit for all emails. In that case, it can be helpful to use the UTM tracking parameters talked about above to make sure people are categorized correctly in the Sources Report.

There you have it. The five ways to start using URL parameters. You can learn more about how to create and implement tracking URLs here. There are many other to use URL parameters. If you have any other ways of using them please share them in the comments below.


Originally published Aug 3, 2015 2:30:00 PM, updated February 28 2018