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Parameters and their tracking options in analytics

Sean Needham avatar


This article will help you understand different parameter types and how you can change the way Siteimprove Analytics tracks parameters used on your pages.

What are parameters?

URL Parameters (or Query Parameters) are parts of a page's URL after the "?". Some parameters are used to track which campaigns bring visitors to the website, others to specify what content should be displayed on the page, whilst others are used to specify sessions and similar specifics. A URL string can contain multiple parameters in which case each one is separated by the "&" character.

parameter diagram

Campaign parameter

A URL with campaign parameters could look like this:

example.com/job?utm_campaign=july2018&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=banner 

The specifics of the parameters give detailed information about how the visitor reached this particular page (as part of the July 2018 campaign, they clicked on a link in a Twitter banner).

These types of parameters are useful to track in regards to seeing the success rate of campaigns.

This example uses three parameters: utm_campaign, utm_source and utm_medium. 

To find out more about monitoring campaigns using Siteimprove Analytics see "How do I monitor a Campaign using Siteimprove?"

Language parameter

A parameter can also be used to specify what is displayed on the page.

 example.com/job?lang=en 

This example uses the parameter "lang" to determine the language of the page displayed. In this case the page will be displayed in english.

Session parameter

A session parameter that does not change the content of the page may look like this:

example.com/job?sessionid=23565965 

The specifics of the parameter registers the session id number, but does not provide additional data in regards to where the user clicked the link or determines how the content should be displayed. 

This example uses the parameter: sessionid

In principle, Siteimprove Analytics counts every URL as a unique page, which is relevant in the cases where the parameter specifies what content should be displayed on the page.

However, in some cases, the parameter has no effect on the page content, and therefore it is not relevant to register all combinations of the URL, parameters and values as unique pages.

For example; if there is a sessionid parameter, where every session is allocated its own value, this will result in large numbers of different URLs, even though in reality there is only one concrete page.

So in practice, every URL will be shown as a unique page in Analytics, where each one could have been visited just the one time, instead of showing one URL with the total amount of visits.

Page URL Page Views
example.com/job?sessionid=659515618979 1 page view
example.com/job?sessionid=659515367833 1 page view
example.com/job?sessionid=659515355335 1 page view
example.com/job?sessionid=6f5951561244 1 page view
example.com/job?sessionid=65951f561222 1 page view

 

Using parameter rules as described below to ignore the sessionid parameter would give this result.

Page URL Page Views
example.com/job 5 page views

Parameter rules

The default behavior for pages with parameters is to count each unique parameter value as a unique page. You may change this behavior by setting up parameters rules for parameters that should not behave as unique page identifiers.

Add_parameter

Administrators can inform Siteimprove about how to track the parameters by choosing one of 3 options:

As a campaign - Make parameter count towards a standard UTM parameter. Eg. if you created a custom parameter called 'source_name' that you want to map to the UTM parameter UTM_source.

As one page with additional parameter details - Almost similar URLs where the only difference are the values of this parameter will be counted as one page, but parameter details will still be stored as specific details for the page.

We will save the parameter information so that the user can see this break down under Analytics > Content > Parameters. When tracking parameters this way it is also possible to utilize the parameter values when creating filters and segmenting data.

As one page, ignore parameters

Siteimprove Analytics will ignore the parameter. Almost similar URLs where the only difference is the values of this parameter will be counted as one page.

e.g. If you have a URL called www.example.com?parametername=somevalue, then setting up the parameter of “parametername” and choosing “Ignore”, simply means that from now on all pages that resembles www.example.com?parametername=somevalue will be shown as www.example.com.

Setting up parameter rules

There are two ways to set up tracking of parameters in Siteimprove. The first one is useful for setting up known parameters that you are anticipating will appear in the analytics data.

  1. Go to Analytics > Analytics Settings > Tracking > Parameters/Campaigns.
  2. Select 'Add Parameter'.
  3. Enter the parameter name.
  4. Enter the parameter description (optional).
  5. Select how the parameter should be tracked from the following options:
    • As a campaign
    • As one page with additional parameter
    • As one page, ignore parameters

This method can be quite tedious if your website is using many different parameters, which is why there also is another way to start tracking parameters in Siteimprove: Discover Parameters.

Discover Parameters

Discover Parameters screenshot

Discover Parameters shows which parameters are already appearing on your website based on a sample size of monitored URLs (the sample size can be changed in the top right corner). This will help you identify various parameters that you perhaps did not know existed and you can easily set up rules for each parameter by clicking the "+" box to the right. Clicking this box will open the "Add Parameter" window previously shown in this article.

  1. Go to Analytics > Analytics Settings > Tracking > Discover Parameters
  2. Click the "+" button for the parameter you want to set up rules for
  3. Enter the parameter description (optional).
  4. Select how the parameter should be tracked from the following options:
    • As a campaign
    • As one page with additional parameter
    • As one page, ignore parameters

Parameters tracked by default

The following table shows the default settings for common parameters found. If required, these settings can be changed under, Analytics > Analytics Settings > Tracking > Parameters/Campaigns.

Parameter Parameter type

_ga

Ignore

dclid

Track on page

fbclid

Track on page

gclid

Track on page

msclkid

Ignore

utm_campaign

Campaign (Name)

utm_content

Campaign (Content)

utm_medium

Campaign (Medium)

utm_source

Campaign (Source)

utm_term

Campaign (Term)

Using parameters in campaigns

Parameters can be used to monitor the success of marketing and social media campaigns. To find out more about monitoring campaigns using Siteimprove Analytics, see the following articles:

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