Who Keeps Adding _kk & _kt To My AdWords Destination URLs? Salesforce Was It You?

As part of illuminea’s marketing services team, I’ve been frustrated by a destination URL problem with one client’s AdWords campaigns. Regardless of how many times we edited the destination URLs, they kept getting edited to include parameters named _kk and _kt . The latter in particular was a horrible source of trouble as it generated long random strings of letters and numbers. For example, site.com kept getting turned into site.com/?_kt=98q3h46z9abzDFfuy235

I finally figured it out, and here’s an explanation of what was adding these strange parameters to our AdWords destination URLs, and how to solve the _kk and _kt and similar version control issues.

Why do these destination URL shenanigans matter? 

1) It wastes time if you keep making the same changes (updating destination URLs, in this case) over and over.

2) It makes the Destination URLs Report a lot less useful  ( Google Analytics Advertising -> AdWords -> Destination URLs) . Here’s what it looks like: when it has been muddied by the _kk and _kt parameters.

_kk and _kt parameters in AdWords' destination URLs report within Google Analytics

The AdWords Destination URLs report can normally allow you to easily compare which landing pages are converting best, so you can determine the results of an a/b test where the pages are managed by different systems. For example, you might compare a standard site page on WordPress vs a custom-designed landing page on Unbounce, a landing page creation tool. (Normally, Unbounce would tell you what the conversion rates of your different pages are, but that only works if both pages were built on Unbounce. )

(There are workarounds to getting the answers in Google Analytics even with the _kk and _kt variables. However, they’re a lot more time-consuming and require you to go to Excel, which means the online tracking systems failed to achieve their core purpose.)

Additionally, by comparing and contrasting your landing pages, you can see what elements are most common on the high-converting landing pages vs those on the low-converting pages, and figure out what works and what doesn’t. 

3) It breaks redirects. If your ads were originally created to send traffic to page x, but then page x gets 301 redirected – the redirect won’t work if there are parameters added.

We ran into this issue as we managed the AdWords before and after a site redesign, and while we set up redirects properly, the parameters being added back caused the ads to send traffic to 404 Not Found pages.

4) As an AdWords service provider, this kind of thing can make you look bad. I initially reported this situation as my own error in somehow forgetting to save changes / leaving the work incomplete.

Rubbish!

I did my job… Salesforce undid it. 

How is Salesforce adding parameters to AdWords destination URLs?

Salesforce has an app called Salesforce For Google AdWords, which allows an integration of the two marketing platforms. 

Salesforce used to do this by default. The goal was so to see what keywords, ads and landing pages generated particular leads. Then Salesforce would tell you if those leads turned into sales or not, so you knew where to reinvest (or cut investment) in your ad campaigns.

In the following screenshot of the AdWords Change History Tool, you can see the Salesforce app (user email sfgadev@salesforce.com) edited the ads and added in the _kk and _kt parameters via the AdWords API. Click the image to make it larger.

So how do you stop Salesforce from doing this?

How do you manage version control in AdWords?

First, you can just go to the Account -> Access Settings and remove access for sfgadev@salesforce.com. 

Second, you need to have a project management site or document where you share and annotate changes. Everyone on the team needs to use the log, for EVERY change. Alternately, you can do this by email but it’s obviously more cumbersome and not purpose-built.

Takeaways

This experience shows how important it is to get as much information as possible out of clients when working on their web presence. But sometimes, if the client is a large-ish enterprise, they might not even be aware of the integrations that have been set up on their end!

In those cases, there’s nothing you can do but sleuth around until you find the answer. In this regard, both the AdWords Change History tool and your log of the team’s actions are really valuable!

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Responses (2)

Pete

December 15, 2012 9:26 pm

Thanks for publishing this. I had been checking my campaigns on Bing, trying to see where these were coming from.

Stony Grunow

April 27, 2013 12:45 pm

Hi Illuminea

This won’t be happening for much longer! Salesforce for Google Adwords is being retired on May 1st, 2013, and once that happens the _kk and _kt query strings will be gone.

For people who can sell online, they have an easy connection between ads and revenue, but for sales in the offline world, it can be a challenge to keep the connection between your marketing activities and the people buying.

We offer a replacement for Salesforce for Google Adwords called Daddy Analytics, and we use standard Google manual tagging to connect Adwords spend (and social, email, etc.) to the person submitting their information through a form your website. So while we do use query strings to tag ads, you won’t see those query strings cluttering up your analytics report. Most third party analytics tools strip out utm_ query strings, so your other reports won’t be cluttered either.

Happy to show you or anyone how it works, we have a 10 minute manned demo you can sign up for at http://daddyanalytics.com/request-demo/

thanks!
Stony, Daddy Analytics evangelist

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