Preview URL

For Google keywords and creatives, the Settings tab offers you access to the platform's Preview URL.

This URL is constructed from the URL components shown below using the very same logic that Google uses to build full URLs on the search results page. In a nutshell, for a given object with a Landing Page (known as a Final URL in Google Ads), the Preview URL is built with the following logic.

The Anatomy Of A Preview URL

  1. Find the nearest Tracking Template to the object. 
    For example, for a given keyword, check if the keyword has a tracking template itself. If not, look at the keyword’s parent group to see if there is a tracking template. If not, look at the campaign, then account etc. If no tracking template is found, the default tracking template of {lpurl} applies
  2. Substitute {lpurl}, {unescapedlpurl}{lpurl+2} or other Landing Page reference with appropriately encoded URL.
    • If {lpurl} is used, the landing page will be unescaped only if the tracking template begins with it ({lpurl}&pcrid={creative}&{_mkwid}=abc123, e.g.) otherwise {lpurl} will be escaped/encoded once.
    • More information can be found in the Tracking Template section here
  3. Finally, substitute any Custom Parameters with the appropriate value. 
    If {_mkwid} is found in the tracking template, for example, the platform will look for a corresponding {_mkwid} in the current keyword. If it is not found, Preview URL will move up to the group, and then campaign. If no value is found, it will be left as-is (when Google actually serves the URL, however, an unresolved custom parameter will be replaced with an empty space). 

In Google when URLs are built at ad-serving time, the order of lookup is a little different. Officially, the hierarchy is as follows:

  • Sitelink < Keyword/Placement/Product Group < Ad < Group < Campaign < Account

As a result, tracking configurations that use ad-level Tracking Templates will not be properly built by the platform's Preview URL. The difference is a result of Google only matching a sitelink, keyword, and ad when an ad is actually served, so the platform will be unable to resolve this particular setup.

The Preview URL is a quick way to verify that your URLs will have the expected tracking parameters when served and allows you to easily identify and make any changes before ads are actually served.

Written by Marketing @ Marin Software

Last published at: June 27th, 2023