Facebook used to have them, Amazon still has them – parameters in the URL that show through which on-site campaign link the visitor has reached the current page. But unless you really have a thoroughly thought-through system in place, you should think twice about using them.
Internal Referral Parameters are not Campaign Parameters
First of all, let me clarify what I mean by “Internal Referral Parameters” (IRPs): Those are not to be confused with (external) Campaign Parameters (for Google Analytics, read “utm_campaign” and the like). As stated in the first article of this series, you should never use Campaign Parameters in the links of your on-site campaign because they will override the external source of the visitor.
To give you an example for an IRP: If you visit Amazon.com’s homepage and click on “Books” in the left-hand navigation, you get to a page with the URL:
See the “ref=sa_menu_bo8”? That is the IRP. It helps Amazon.com determine which links (=on-site campaigns) on its homepage, category pages, and so on are the most effective.
Another website that uses IRPs is YouTube. There, you often encounter URLs like
Here, the “feature” parameter is telling YouTube which link you used to get to the current video (in that case, I clicked on a “related video” on the right-hand side.
We stopped using them, and so did Facebook
My company used internal referral parameters for some months, but we stopped using them for the reasons I will explain in the full article. So has Facebook, which had used them extensively until a couple of months ago. They now seem to have dropped almost all URL parameters. Apart from the challenges those can cause for web analysts, they had other negative side effects: It was not easy, for example, to get a clean or “canonical” URL of your profile or fanpage because there always was “parameter clutter” attached to it, and every page existed in the form of countless URLs. You’d even see websites linking to the “wrong” (non-canonical) version of their fanpage.
In the full article, I will look at four pros and cons of Internal Referral Parameters. Although they are easily combinable with conversion metrics and make some basic reporting easier, there are hefty issues like SEO problems, cluttered advanced reports and more work up-front if you want to avoid these problems.