Tag Archives: Mac App Store

Parameters of iTunes, App Store and Mac App Store links

ITUNES LINKS HOW DOES IT WORK

Apple replacing the LinkShare and DGM networks of their Affiliate Program with (the much superior and real-time) Performance Horizon provided an excellent excuse to dig deeper into the components  of iTunes, App Store and Mac App Store links. These are my findings and open questions.

Dissecting a link

This is how a link generated with iTunes Link Maker looks (plus campaign tracking):

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/email-contacts-extractor-lite/id684303508?mt=12&uo=4&at=10l6nt&ct=web

The components and parameters of this link are:

  • Country code, optional. E.g., us.
  • Action, mandatory. Indicates which store holds the linked item. E.g., app.
  • Description, optional. For descriptive purposes only. E.g., email-contacts-extractor-lite.
  • Primary ID, mandatory. Uniquely identifies the linked item.E.g., id684303508.
  • uo=4, optional. Meaning unknown.
  • Media type, optional. E.g., mt=12.
  • Affiliate ID, optional. E.g., at=10l6nt.
  • Campaign text, optional. E.g., ct=web.

All these components are shared by iTunes, App Store and Mac App Store links. We’ll talk about some of them in more detail below.

Country code

The country code is optional but Apple recommends to keep it. They say:

If you are dealing with a link that does not have a country code (for example, most EPF links are not tied to a country), you should insert one that is appropriate for your users. The country code serves as a hint to the store. If the specific content is not available in the user’s storefront, iTunes prompts the user to switch storefronts to view the requested content.

The country code also serves as a hint for the default language of the page requested when the user’s preferred language is unknown. If no country code exists on the link, iTunes defaults to the U.S. storefront.

In other words, keep the country code to let Apple know which localized version of the item it should display to the user.

Media type

The infamous mt parameter (mostly known for mt=8) indicates the media type of the linked item, and gives the OS another hint of which store it should open. Over StackOverflow user Ted has compiled its various known values:

1 Music
2 Podcasts
3 Audiobooks
4 TV Shows
5 Music Videos
6 Movies
7 iPod Games
8 Mobile Software Applications
9 Ringtones
10 iTunes U
11 E-Books
12 Desktop Apps

Many developers are tempted to remove this seemingly useless parameter, but it is not recommended. On Mac, it will open the Mac App Store when linking to a Mac app. On iOS, it will reduce the number of redirects when linking apps. And it might have future uses.

Affiliate ID

After signing up for the Performance Horizons affiliate program you will receive your affiliate ID, which is indicated by the at parameter. Including the affiliate ID on your links will not only give you a commission from sales but also provide precious download/sales/conversion rate information.

While Apple statesadd this to the end of any iTunes, App Store or iBooks Store URL to be eligible for commissions“, this is not exactly true. As shown below, not all links work affiliates tracking:

✓ http://itunes.apple.com
itms-apps://itunes.apple.com
macappstore://itunes.apple.com
http://appstore.com

Campaign text

The optional ct parameter allows you to differentiate between campaigns. From Apple’s documentation:

The “ct” value is campaign text that you can optionally add to any link in order to track sales from a specific marketing campaign. By using a campaign value, you will see in the reporting dashboard all clicks and sales related to that specific campaign.

For example, the link below has added a campaign tracking parameter for a newsletter link. You can name the campaigns anything you choose, but the “ct” value may not be longer than 45 characters:

https://itunes.apple.com/sg/artist/bruno-mars/id278873078?at=12345&ct=email

To those familiar with Google Analytics campaigns, ct is the equivalent of utm_source (Campaign Source).

Open questions

  • What does the uo parameter mean? What is the effect of removing it?
  • Is it possible to add affiliate and campaign tracking to appstore.com short URLs (e.g., http://appstore.com/mac/emailcontactsextractor)?