Future-proofing attribution and conversion measurement using a URL query string parameter

The impending deprecation of third-party cookies (3PC) will impact the ability of marketers to measure the effectiveness of attribution conversions to advertising which today relies on third-party cookies.

In preparation for the deprecation of the 3PC AdRoll is leveraging the use of a first-party attribution system by using a URL query string parameter to attribute click-through site activity back to the advertising program clicked (campaign, ad group, ad, etc).

Although AdRoll started adding the new adct URL query string parameter to all your ad landing page URLs when the ad is served, we are not currently using this parameter to calculate click-through attribution, instead, we continue using 3PC-based attribution. Adding the adct parameter is a preliminary step before we shift to first-party attribution, which will happen in the future.

What is a URL query string parameter?

A query string is a part of the URL structure that assigns values to parameters as defined. The structure of a URL with multiple query string parameters can be seen below: 

  • The query string starts with a question mark ‘?’
  • Multiple values are separated by an ampersand ‘&’



How does the adct URL query string parameter work?

AdRoll automatically includes the query string parameter adct and its corresponding value to the landing page URL for every ad at the moment the ad is served.

  • Since the adct query string parameter is added when the ad is served, the adct parameter is not visible in the AdRoll platform.
  • The parameter value is an internal AdRoll identifier of 140 characters or less.
  • The adct query string parameter persists unchanged through to the landing page. Redirects that strip or alter the query string parameter in any way must be avoided since they will prevent AdRoll from tracking the attribution of click-through conversions.  
  • The Pixel must fire in all your landing pages to capture the adct query string parameter value. If the pixel is absent the query string cannot be read and click-through conversions cannot be attributed. You can use Pixel Assistant to verify the pixel placement on all your landing pages.
⚠️The adct parameter must remain unchanged through the landing page.

We will not be able to attribute click-through conversions to specific ads, campaigns, or playbooks if you strip or modify the adct query string parameter from your landing page URL. Contact your website administrator to ensure the AdRoll adct parameter remains in place and unchanged through the ad to the landing page.

How does the adct parameter impact my web analytics reporting? 

Analytics tools that rely on the landing page URL for reporting purposes may be impacted by this change only if the entire URL including the query string parameter is used in a given report. That said, this change should not negatively impact web analytics reporting.

  • If you are using Google Analytics
    You can remove query string parameters easily. This useful resource walks through how to configure these filters: How To Handle URL Query Parameters in Google Analytics (by Affiliate Camper).

    If you are able to see the adct parameter in Google Analytics you will need to follow the steps in the guide above to remove the parameter from Google Analytics reporting.
  • If you use Adobe Analytics
    Your reporting will not be impacted as Adobe Analytics will only track query string parameters if the implementation is configured to expressly capture them. Pages reports by default will ignore the entire query string.

How does AdRoll add the query string parameter? 

AdRoll adds the query string parameter adct to existing landing page URLs when an ad is displayed. If a URL does not contain a query string a query string is started and the adct parameter is added:

Landing page URL without the query string parameter ...becomes
https://landingpage.com/url https://landingpage.com/url?adct=[value]

If a landing page URL contains a query string then the AdRoll query string value is appended to the end of the query string. 

Landing page URL without the query string parameter ...becomes
https://landingpage.com/url?utm_campaign=display https://landingpage.com/url?utm_campaign=display&adct=[value]


What is contained in the adct parameter value?

The value for the query string parameter adct is a proprietary alphanumeric string that identifies relevant information about the ad served (campaign, ad group, ad, etc.) and allows for first-party advertising conversion click-through attribution. This value will not be longer than 140 characters and may change over time.

Can the adct parameter be used for custom reporting?

No. Given the nature of the value and the need to periodically make changes to the query string parameter value structure for different advertising tactics, we cannot provide value translation to allow bespoke reporting at this time.

Is the adct parameter a UTM?

No, the adct URL query string parameter is not a UTM.

Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) codes, are simple, customizable text-based tags that allow marketers to measure the performance of marketing campaigns across traffic sources with greater accuracy and resolution. These codes are widely used. We don't use UTM parameters for attribution and instead, we use a URL query string parameter to avoid collisions where advertisers already have the UTM in use. To avoid such problems, NextRoll created a separate parameter.

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