Less Tracking When Sharing Links

By Ian Darwin on 2017-03-18 15:11

Almost everyone who's active on the web has shared a link to a web page with someone. What many people don't know is that there is a bunch of garbage in most links that should be removed. It looks something like the following:
?utm_content=jjjjjjjj&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
The thing to note is that a full Web URL looks like this:
https://hostname.com/something/something?p1=value&p2=value&p3=value
The "something" parts have to be kept. The parameters are in the form "name=value", but the FIRST one has to have a ? before it and all the rest have to have an ampersand before them. Any parameters beginning with "utm_" are for tracking purposes, and can be removed. But you can't just snip with the first "utm_" parameter, because there may be parameters after it that are needed for the link to work. For example,
https://hostname.com/current/news?utm_content=jjjjjjjj&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&story=1234&lang=en
If you share this link, you should cut everything from the first "utm_" name to the last "utm_" value, so the link you share should look like this:
https://hostname.com/current/news?story=1234&lang=en
That is, you delete all the "utm_" stuff, but keep any other parameters, and keep to the "first parameter with ?, subsequent ones with &" rule.

You don't have to do this "tracking removal" when sharing, but if you do, you will reduce the amount of tracking your friends get. And you'll actually be doing the host site a favor by not replicating tracking information that is no longer valid after your share. If you want to get creative and replace the utm_source with your own imaginary (or actual) web site, there's probably nothing stopping you, and it probably won't hurt anything. Just don't point it at another commercial site, because it may result in them getting paid for your referral!

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