What Is a Postback? How Do Parameters, Macros, and Attribute Value Pairs Work? Oh My …

Becky Doles

In this post, we’re going to dive straight in and discuss the nuts and bolts of how information is passed cross-platform in performance marketing technology like TUNE. What is a postback? How do parameters, macros, and attribute value pairs work? Do they work with pixels? We’ll tell you. We’ll also discuss why knowing not only the nature of the information you are passing, but the direction of that info as well, is incredibly important in ensuring that you can work transparently with your publishing partners without your own internal system falling into chaos.

So let’s get down to the good stuff on postbacks, pixels, parameters, macros, attribute value pairs, and more …

What Postbacks and Pixels Do: Send Information In vs. Information Out

Essentially, everything boils down to the nature of the information being passed, either into your system or out of your system. Knowing the trajectory of the information is particularly important, as this will determine the format of the information required. Therefore, when generating tracking links and server postbacks, first consider who needs what information. Are you requesting information, or are you passing information to others?


Figure 1. The passing of data between your own internal system and a third party affiliate system through a performance marketing system. All data passes through the attribution analytics platform and thus ensures consistency of value naming conventions across systems.

If you are working with publishing partners and/or affiliates it is imperative that the integrity of the information being passed between everyone’s platforms remains constant and thus transparent. This is best achieved by maintaining open lines of communication with your publishing partners and/or affiliates to ensure that everyone is aware of which parameters and macros are supported by each system and subsequently what information is, in fact, being passed back and forth.

Each third party system you interact with will have its own set of parameters and macros, regardless of the fact that the same information is being represented in each system. Thus one of your priorities should be syncing with your collaborative third party systems to understand not only the values they are passing to you but also which values they want passed back to them; i.e. what external parameters you need to correlate with your own system values as well as those that you need to append to your pixels and/or postback URLs to send back their way.

Let’s look at an example of this in play to solidify the concept, yes?


Figure 2. The flow of information between your own internal system, the attribution analytics system and a third party affiliate system. Parameters and macros used are examples and do not necessarily represent true parameters/macros.

You provide your publisher with the following tracking link to be used for promoting your mobile app.

Your advertising partner then says that they would also like to append their Click ID to the tracking link which they can do by appending the attribution analytics system’s parameter variable that is designed for such values, e.g. publisher_ref_id parameter variable with the value of the publisher’s Click ID.

As they are passing this value of their own accord and unrequested by you, it is safe to assume that they are doing so because they would like this value passed back to them in the postback URL to be used for conversion tracking and reconciliation in their own internal system later.

Ok, fine no problem! In setting up your server postback URL to notify your publisher of any installs and or post-install events of your app driven by their campaign, you will append the attribution analytics system’s parameter variable that is designed for such values; e.g. tracking_id parameter variable with the macro of {publisher_ref_id} to the URL.{publisher_ref_id}

With this in place, upon install of your app through the publisher’s campaign, the attribution analytics system tracking the situation would then fire the server postback URL to notify that publisher of the install attributed to them, dynamically replacing the {publisher_ref_id} macro with the Click ID of that publisher which they had passed to you in the beginning (&ref_id=1234).

With this example you can see how information can pass seamlessly between varying platforms as long as you understand:

(1) The information passed to you – e.g. &ref_id=1234;
(2) The information you pass to others – e.g. &tracking_id={publisher_ref_id};
(3) Parameters (variable vs. value) and Macros.

And let’s not forget to tip our hats to those that make it possible to even keep it all straight in the first place – the attribution analytics systems themselves. These platforms are your best friends as they constitute the intermediary layer in which the data various systems provide is accurately tracked, attributed, cataloged and passed along seamlessly behind the scenes.

Still afloat? If you’re still managing to keep your head above water, feel free to look through our support documentation on attribution analytics for traditional performance advertising. If you find yourself in need of a lifeguard, however, we have plenty of them available to you around the clock and they are only an email away at [email protected].

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she handled content strategy and marketing communications at several tech startups in the Bay Area. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned home to Charleston, SC, where you can find her strolling through Hampton Park with her pup and enjoying the simple things between adventures with friends and family.

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