Google Hints at Upgraded URL’s

When Google announces new versions of their AdWords API this is usually only relevant for developers. This time, however, the API is ahead of the interface, which offers an interesting glimpse at an upcoming new feature that will likely affect all of us: Upgraded URL’s.

I went through the corresponding API guide to summarize what’s likely to come.

Upgraded URL’s were created to make dealing with tracking URL’s much easier. Right now, they’re just an API beta feature, but it looks like Google is determined to make them generally available in the near future.

Tracking Templates

Upgraded URL’s will replace destination URL’s as we know them. Instead of a destination URL there will be a final URL and a tracking template. For example:

Final URL: https://www.ppc-epiphany.com/

Tracking template: http://track.com/track.php?kw_id=123&redirect={lpurl}

When a user clicks an ad, both are combined to the kind of tracking URL we’re used to: http://track.com/track.php?id=123&redirect=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ppc-epiphany.com

This setup simplifies tracking in several ways:

  • Dealing with final URL’s is easier than dealing with complicated long tracking URL’s.
  • Tracking templates can be changed without resetting ads.
  • Different tracking URL’s can lead to the same final URL. Seeing the final URL lets Google crawl fewer pages.
  • Dealing with final URL’s instead of complicated tracking URL’s makes life easier for account managers.

The last point is because you don’t need a separate tracking template for every ad. Instead, tracking templates can be set at every level: for the whole account, for a single campaign, for an ad group, an ad, a keyword, or a sitelink.

By the way, if this sounds a little familiar it’s because AdWords already offers tracking templates: For dynamic search ads and shopping campaigns they’ve been available for quite some time:

Old dynamic tracking URL campaign level setting

In most cases an account-wide tracking template would completely remove the need to deal with tracking URL’s in the daily campaign management. However, so far this wouldn’t work to replace all existing tracking URL setups.

Custom Parameters

In many cases, tracking URL’s contain ids of some sort. For example, some tracking systems replace every keyword URL with an individual tracking URL that contains a parameter for the keyword’s id. Like in the example above: http://track.com/track.php?kw_id=123&redirect={lpurl}

To continue using tracking URL’s with individual keyword ids, you could create a tracking template for each keyword. Or you could simply use custom parameters.

Custom parameters can be assigned to campaigns, ad groups, ads, keywords, and sitelinks. Then you can refer to these parameters in tracking templates or final URL’s as if they were ValueTrack parameters.

For example, you could assign a custom parameter keywordid to every keyword. Then you could use a tracking template like this:

http://track.com/track.php?kw_id={_keywordid}&redirect={lpurl}

Since the tracking template has the keyword id inserted dynamically, the template could be set at the account level.

New ValueTrack Parameter: {ignore}

With upgraded URL’s there will also be a new ValueTrack parameter for final URL’s: Using {ignore} tells Google that subsequent parts of the URL can be ignored by the crawler since they don’t affect the page’s contents. For example, a final URL could look like this:

https://www.ppc-epiphany.com/{ignore}?code=123

This would tell the crawler that the page is no different from https://www.ppc-epiphany.com/ and therefore doesn’t need to be re-crawled.

Mobile URL’s

In addition to a final URL it will also possible to specify a final mobile URL. However, you won’t have to. Using the ValueTrack parameters {device} or {ifmobile} will still be possible.

Rollout

So far Google hasn’t announced when and how exactly upgraded URL’s will be rolled out. The announcement is only about the API where upgraded URL’s

will become generally available soon

The API documention on the other hand mentions this:

A compatible version of AdWords Editor will be available when Upgraded URLs launches to all advertisers.

Based on these two statements I’m confident that this won’t stay an API feature for long. Also, it wouldn’t make much sense to introduce a simpler way to handle things only through a complicated API. Tracking templates are already part of the AdWords interface for shopping campaigns and dynamic search ads, so there would be no reason not to make them available everywhere.

The rollout itself should be simple. With a new version of the AdWords Editor advertisers could prepare final URL’s and tracking templates. At some point there would have to be a switch from the old destination URL’s to upgraded URL’s. For advertisers who haven’t upgraded their URL’s by then Google could simply use their old URL’s as final URL’s and be done with it.

Conclusion

I believe upgraded URL’s are a great new feature. There doesn’t seem to be a catch: it comes with new advantages without taking away anything. As someone who has to deal with the pitfalls of tracking URL’s from time to time I hope Google rolls this out rather sooner than later. And I hope that tracking providers will quickly upgrade their systems to take advantage of this new architecture.

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.

  • Thomas

    Nice insights.
    Thanks for sharing. I hadn’t heard about the opportunity to receive the keyword id dynamical with custom var. It would be much easier to add a keyword id param for value tracking, but this isn’t possible right now.
    Just create a script to add on every destination url he value track params. In this case you had a google tracking on ad or adgroup level.

    But just to be sure: keyword ids as custom params just work if I set them first on keywordlevel?

    Really thanks for sharing

    Best thomas

  • Michael

    Thanks for sharing.

    Regarding forced migration, it may not be so straightforward that “Google could simply use their old URL’s as final URL’s and be done with it.”

    According to Google API documentation, existing Destination URL that contains third-party redirects may not be used for Final URL.

    “The final URL represents the actual landing page for your ad, keyword or sitelink. The final URL must not have any off-domain redirects but can redirect within the advertiser’s domain.”

    • Martin Röttgerding

      You’re right, this could be a little trickier than I wrote. But I hope Google will roll this out soon and finds a way to help advertisers to a smooth transition.