Migrating to Upgraded URL’s the Easy Way

Many AdWords advertisers have already upgraded their URL’s. For those who haven’t, I’d like to share the highlights of what we’ve learned during the transition. I’ll cover the gist of what you should know, along with some nice tricks to make the upgrade easier.

Your Options

Depending on whether you already use tracking URL’s there are different upgrade methods available:

options-for-url-upgrades

A simple transfer means that your current destination URL’s will be used as final URL’s. If you haven’t used tracking URL’s so far, this is the way to go. Afterwards you will be able to implement tracking without losing ad history by using centralized tracking templates (e.g. at the campaign or account level).

Even if you’re already using tracking URL’s, you can simply transfer those into final URL’s. This is allowed, unless there’s a redirect with an external domain. This isn’t exactly a great solution, but it’s a way to stall until you have time for a fresh start.

Implementing local tracking templates means that each ad gets its own tracking template. This lets them keep their statistics, as long as the ad level template isn’t changed or removed. However, since tracking URL’s are usually constructed in the same manner they all should end up with the same tracking template. This can be seen as a waste since a centralized tracking template would be an easier and cleaner solution.

If you’re already using tracking URL’s and you want to make use of all the advantages of the new upgraded URL’s with their centralized tracking templates, you have to start fresh. This means changing all of your ads, giving them clean final URL’s and adding tracking templates at higher levels. This way you’ll lose your ad history, but you gain a future-proof setup with all the flexibility that comes with upgraded URL’s.

Editor Magic with Formula Words

There are many ways to upgrade URL’s: manual edits, bulk uploads, scripts, the API and AdWords Editor. We’ve found the editor is the best option since it lets you see what you’re doing and comes with some tools that can make your life easier – if you know how.

A tremendous help are formula words. They can be used with the search & replace tools to insert things like the name of a campaign into a field. All available formula words can be found here.

So if you want to copy the destination URL into the final URL for every ad, just do this: Select all of your ads, click right and select Change URLs (Ctrl+U). Then change every final URL to “[destinationUrl]”:

awe-set-final-urls

Now all of your ads will have their destination URL as a final URL as well. AdWords Editor incorrectly adds an “http://” in front of every final URL so that you’ll have URL’s like “http://http://www.example.com”. To clean this up, use the Replace Text tool (Ctrl+H) to change “http://http” into “http”.

Then you can take it from there. You may want to remove tracking parameters from the final URL’s which can be done with the Change URLs tool as well. To do this, simply use the third option (“Remove URL parameter with this name”).

Formula words are also handy when it comes to custom parameters. Some advertisers provide information about campaign structures in their tracking URLs. Information such as this can be stored in custom parameters. For example, if you use a tracking parameter like “campaign=something”, you may want to use a custom parameter like “{_campaign}” that holds a campaign’s name.

To do this, select all campaigns, go to the URL options tab and write in the parameter’s name. As a value put down “1”:

custom-parameters

Now open the Replace Text tool and change the custom parameter from “1” to “[campaign]”:

awe-text-replace-custom-parameter

Again there may be some error messages. This is when campaign names contain spaces, which cannot go into a URL. Use the tool again to replace spaces with “%20” or whatever your tracking URL’s use instead of spaces. You should also take care of ampersands by replacing them with “%26” or something else.

Want to keep ad history? Beware…

If you’re using the editor and want to keep your ads’ history, never ever post changes to AdWords the way you’re used to. If you simply post changes, your URL upgrades will be treated as any other change to an ad – meaning your ads will be deleted and fresh ads will be created.

post-url-upgradesInstead, use Post URL upgrades. This will only upload changes that let you preserve your ads’ history. If an ad’s history cannot be preserved, there will be an error and it won’t upload. You can also use Check URL changes to see if your changes are ready to go through.

What else should you know?

These were the highlights of what we’ve learned about URL upgrades. We’ve also covered them at length in our German step by step guide on URL upgrades.

You’ll also need the basics and the best source of informaton I’ve found is Google’s guide on How to upgrade your URL’s from the AdWords Help pages. This should be your go-to resource.

You may also want to check out what you can do with ValueTrack nowadays as it might save you a custom parameter. The page on ValueTrack is here.

About Martin Roettgerding
Martin Roettgerding is the head of SEM at SEO/SEM agency Bloofusion Germany. On Twitter he goes by the name @bloomarty, and you can find him regularly on #ppcchat.