Parameters, Macros, and Attribute Value Pairs Oh My…Wait, What?

Becky Doles

In performance advertising the name of the game is CONVERSION and to do that one must quickly and effectively adapt to and deliver on the needs and wants of the consumer. Doing so requires collecting copious amounts of data points which through analysis provides feedback on how one’s advertising campaign is performing across a variety of KPIs.

Sounds simple enough, but in practice it is easier said than done. This is mainly due to the fact that one’s advertising efforts are generally widespread and thus require working with multiple publishing partners and affiliates simultaneously.

Maintaining a broad network of publishing partners and affiliates allows you to cover the breadth of the advertising market as well as access more channels through which you can collect valuable user data and ultimately acquire more users and generate more revenue – every performance marketer’s dream, right?

On the flip side of this coin, however, is that with all of these advertising channels comes the seemingly daunting task of passing information between various platforms with differing systems of identification and naming protocols for parameters, all the while ensuring that the informational value itself remains constant.

Luckily there are a few great conversion tracking and attribution analytics companies out there that can do precisely that! In fact, they make it all seem incredibly easy as with the simple click of a button there is all of your attribution data beautifully cataloged and rendered in intuitive tables and charts. And while this is our reality, it is all predicated on your knowing what it is you want tracked, attributed, cataloged and passed along. Which means – insert drumroll please – that the more knowledgeable you are about the the nuts and bolts of conversion tracking and attribution analytics, the better these companies can help you understand the success of your campaigns.

First Things First – Learn the Lingo

Just like you don’t toss your child into the deep end of the pool to learn how to swim, we’re not going to jump headlong into the depths of the pool that is passing and cataloging data/information cross-platform. Instead, we’re going to wade into the shallow end by first defining the terms that we will use throughout this swimming lesson.

You have all likely heard the terms “parameter”, “macro”, “variable” and perhaps even “attribute value pair” and “field value pair” (go you!). However, these terms are generally bandied about without much ado as regards what is actually being referred to – not to mention that most are slightly different variations of one another! So that we don’t end up getting thoroughly confused and arguing later on, let’s go ahead and define these terms as they apply to the world of tracking and attribution in both traditional advertising as well as mobile advertising.

Consider the following tracking link example in thinking about these terms and what they mean.


Parameter is perhaps the most generic term out there and the bible-long Wikipedia page on it attests to the fact that the term “parameter” isn’t as straight-forward and singular as we would like it to be. Unfortunately it is also the term that is most often used and while we all inherently “know” what is meant by the term (e.g. &publisher_id=587), it is not the most precise term – in my honest opinion – to describe the entire picture of what is meant when we’re told we can append optional parameters to a tracking link!

In fact, I think the term “Parameter Variable” (as it would seem the term parameter is here to stay) is more accurate as it does actually address the distinction involved; i.e. a parameter variable is an attribute in your system that denotes a particular type of variable to be defined; e.g. the ID of a user or some other definitive characteristic of your data.

Using the tracking link above, this applies to the variables “publisher_id”, “site_id”, “offer_id”, “sub_publisher”, “sub_site”, “sub_ad” and finally “sub_keyword”. Ok, but what about the other half of the equation; i.e. the information after the equals sign? Traditionally, this tidbit is thrown in with the parameter variable and the whole is considered a parameter (e.g. &publisher_id=587).


However the information after the equals sign is in fact a separate piece of the puzzle as it is the actual value of the parameter variable requiring definition. Generally the value defined for the parameter variable is, well, a value (e.g. =12345) that you are providing to another system. But, it can also be replaced with what is called a “macro”.


Macros are placeholders for the value of the parameter variable (e.g. ={number}) to be dynamically replaced later. Why later? Well, because the actual value itself is yet to be determined as it denotes a value you would like to collect upon click of the tracking link or install of your mobile app. So in essence macros are used when you are requesting information that you would like to collect at a later date.

Attribute Value Pair/Field Value Pair

Of any of the terms thus far discussed, these two terms are the most accurate descriptors for what is meant by the term “parameter” and at this point you should already understand why. Attribute value/field value pairs are exactly what they sound like – the pairing of an attribute and its value, e.g. &publisher_id=587 (looks familiar no?). Unfortunately, neither of these terms roll off the tongue which is most likely why you don’t hear them nearly as often as you should!
Now that we are clear on this, we can start wading into deeper waters and discuss the mechanics of passing and cataloging data/information cross-platform, while maintaining clarity across all platforms and consistency within your own.

But, to ensure that you don’t get pruny from staying in the pool too long, we’re going to save the deep water swimming lesson for another day. In the following lesson, we will start applying what we learned today in the shallow end to the logistics of how data is passed between platforms and how to keep the process efficient and accurate.

Get your swim ring and goggles ready!

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.

One response to “Parameters, Macros, and Attribute Value Pairs Oh My…Wait, What?”

  1. Lead4ward says:

    Good article, but I am not sure about use of the term “macro”. Usually this thing is called “dynamic parameter”.

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