Understanding a prospect’s journey from anonymous visitor to known prospect and ultimately customer requires a key set of data points to be captured by marketing automation platforms. Tracking Referring URL can provide insight into how an individual reached the organization’s web properties by informing the Source value in Marketing Cloud Account Engagement1.
Referring URL is the URL of the webpage a visitor was on immediately before reaching an Account Engagement tracked landing page. When the visitor submits an Account Engagement form to kick off the lead intake process and be created as a prospect record, some Referring URLs will automatically be transformed into the prospect’s Source value based on the combination of the vendor name and the type of source. Some examples are Google Natural Search, Bing, LinkedIn and TechCrunch. However, organizations should avoid relying on Referring URL alone to identify prospect Source.
Backup in Absence of UTMs
Source field values, including those from Referring URL, can be used to understand the channels that contribute the most to new leads. Source reporting can show volume per Source as well as trends in Sources over time. This can be used by marketing teams to inform budget and dedicated effort for lead acquisition initiatives.
The ideal scenario to enable the most useful Source reporting is to have a comprehensive UTM strategy. This includes defining the values used to represent sources, mediums, etc., consistently appending them to URLs in marketing efforts and capturing the parameters as hidden fields on Account Engagement forms. The utm_source parameter will populate the prospect Source field. But sometimes UTM parameters are unfortunately omitted, especially in the early stages of the marketing team putting them into play. And even if UTM parameters are used consistently, there are some scenarios in which a link will not be managed by the marketing team and thus won’t have UTMs – for example, directly typed into the browser, found via organic search, or accessed from an unrelated third party’s link. Referring URL can help fill some of those gaps, but when a visitor directly typed the URL into the browser, they will have neither UTM parameters nor a Referrer URL.
Enabled with Foundational Implementation Step
Despite the limitations of Referring URL, there’s no reason tracking code shouldn’t be set as soon as possible as part of the Account Engagement implementation. Webpage tracking will be useful in many more ways, so capturing a Referring URL is just a bonus outcome of something you’ll want anyway.
Tracking Code as a Prerequisite
Referring URL is automatically captured when Account Engagement tracking code is implemented on the webpages. However, it’s important for the marketing automation team to plan and execute their Source strategy to ensure that all relevant components are in place to most thoroughly and precisely populate the Source field via UTM parameters as described earlier.
Unfortunately the referring URL data point isn’t visible in the Account Engagement UI and thus can’t be leveraged as criteria for automated processing, such as customized Source data standardization or list building. This is in contrast to other marketing automation platforms such as Adobe Marketo Engage, which exposes referrer URL to be used in triggers and filters.
Marketing Ops & IT Tasks
To ensure the necessary tracking code is in place, the marketing operations team will configure the domains in Account Engagement and work with the IT team to apply the tracking code to the website. These actions will allow Referring URL to be captured in Account Engagement forms and transformed into Source values.
While imperfect, Referring URL data is better than nothing when it comes to prospect Source. However, using UTM values with Account Engagement will result in a more complete picture of lead identification.
1In April 2022, Salesforce renamed Pardot to Marketing Cloud Account Engagement.