Let's Get Tracking Uncategorized Understanding Tracking Links

Understanding Tracking Links

I know that when I first started, tracking links just looked like a confusing mess of mumbo jumbo. Sure, I could enter the needed information into my link generator, then copy and paste it into my ad network, but everything that happened in between was a mystery. In this section, I’ll break down tracking links so that you get an idea of how they work. Then, you’ll be able to make quick changes to the links themselves, without having to repeat the steps of generating the links via your tracker every time.

emNote I still don’t recommend that you manually change your tracking links in the beginning. Make any changes through your tracking interface until you get a firm grasp on how tracking URLs work. And always, ALWAYS click-test your ads when you change the links!em

The first thing to understand is that tracking links and affiliate links basically work in the same way. Both of them carry tracking information which gets read by either you own tracking system or your network’s tracking system. Technically, you affiliate link is simply a tracking link generated by your affiliate network. You can even use your affiliate network to track your campaigns (more on that in the next chapter…)

strongspan style=color #3366ff;emQuery Stringsemspanstrong

There are a few ways that URLs carry tracking information. The most common way is though what are known as query strings. When you look at a tracing links that uses query strings, the start of the query string will always be indicated by a question mark (). Here’s an example of a tracking link that I might use in a POF campaign, with the query string in bold


Everything before the query string is called the path. It’s the part of the URL that tells the browser where to go. No matter what the query string says, the path will always send users to the same place. In this case, it’s a PHP redirect file inside Prosper202.

Now let’s go ahead and pick apart the pieces of the query string its self…


All the pieces I’ve bolded are what are known a variables. You can see that there are five of them t202id, c1, c2, c3, and t202kw. When the user passes through the tracking system, there are scripts that will look for these variables in the URL. When these scripts find the variable “t202kw” for instance, they will then look to see what value is associated with it. Groups of variables and their values are typically separated by an ampersand symbol (&).


All of the bolded pieces of the query string above are the values. When we break the whole string down into individual variables and their values, we get this


Now things are starting to look a little clearer!

When the tracking scripts find the variable “t202kw”, they will see that its value is “AD1”. In Prosper202, this ends up being the keyword data. Since POF doesn’t use keywords, I created the code AD1 instead to tell me which ad copy is getting clicked on. (It really doesn’t matter what kind of data I decide to track here. “t202kw” is simply the variable that tracks the most important data for a campaign. In many cases, this will be the keyword.) When I create a second ad copy, I would change this code to AD2, and so on.

The AD1 value in this example is static. In other words, no matter who clicks my ad, it will always stay as AD1, and Prosper202 will record it as AD1. Since I can use a different URL in each ad copy I create in POF, I can copy the same tracking URL and just change the code for the ad.

But what about the c1,c2 and c3 variables In my tracking link, I have their values as {gender}, {age} and {state} respectively. These values are not static. They are dynamic tags that will change depending on who clicks on my ad. These tags are specific to POF. When the user clicks, POF will find the tags in the URL and replace them with the user’s data.

So, suppose that a 28 year old female from Indiana clicks my ad. This is what would happen to the three variables

c1={gender} ==> c1=female
c2={age} ==> c2=28
c3={state} ==> c3=Indiana

And this is what the URL would look like


The one variable we still haven’t covered is the first on in the string t202id=12345. This is a number that Prosper202 generates when you create the link. When Prosper202 reads it, it knows what campaign the click is associated with, what affiliate network it’s under, what the traffic source you’re using as well as other internal information. Affiliate links will typically have variables telling the network what campaign the click is for as well as your own affiliate ID. Basically, if you don’t know what a variable does, don’t mess with it!

strongspan style=color #3366ff;emShort Form Linksemspanstrong

Some tracking links use what I like to call “short form”. In short form links, there is no query string, and only the values are shown, separated be slashes (). Basically, it all appears as part of the path. As a short form link, the previous example might look something like this


As you can see, I use the same tokens for the values. The difference is that instead of using variables such as c1, c2 and c3, the tracker refers to the order in which the values appear to know which is which. Otherwise, it functions the same as a query string would, as far as we’re concerned.

strongspan style=color #3366ff;emSingle Variable Trackingemspanstrong

In some cases, you will be limited to just one variable that you use to track information with. You’ll likely only run across this if you are tracking though an affiliate network that only supports a single tracking variable and you don’t have a third party tracker. ClickBank is one example of this. Here’s an example of a ClickBank affiliate link


As you can see, the query string only gives us one variable to work with “tid=”
Let’s assume that we want to promote this on POF, and that we want to collect the same age, gender, state, and ad copy data. There’s only one way to go about it. We have to put all those values into the “tid” variable.
Since POF will replace the tags with the user’s data no matter where they appear in the URL, we can get away with a link that looks like this


When our 28 year-old female from Indiana clicks the ad, the link turns into this


And our ClickBank reports might show something like this


We have all the information we want, but if you haven’t already caught on, sorting and analyzing all this data looking for trends is going to be a huge pain, and it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of time. This can work if you’re really strapped for resources, but it’s largely just to illustrate why you may be very limited without having your own tracking system set up.

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