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5 Types of Links You May Not Have Thought of Tracking

May 19, 2010
Think you're doing a good job of tracking and measuring the success of every link to your website that gets announced to the world in some fashion?
Photo Credit mark.mitchell.brown
While most website marketers are tracking website referrals from search engines, as well as links from other websites and paid search advertising campaigns, a lot of visitors show up as "Direct Traffic." Do you ever wonder where they came from? I know that I do!

I've talked about campaign tracking via Google Analytics before, so I won't bore you with the mechanics of how to create these links so they don't look ugly. But do read that article if you need a refresher course. After you have a good system in place for adding campaign tracking codes to your URLs, the most important thing you can do is remember to use them on everything!

So here are 5 categories of links that you may not have thought about tracking, but should be:
  1. Email Signature Links. Most of you have at least one link to your website in your email signature that goes out in most every email you send. But how many of you are tracking whether anyone clicks on them or not? I know that I rarely click on other people's email signature links. With that in mind, I was curious whether mine ever get clicked, so I appended them with some campaign tracking codes. Turns out they don't get too many clicks (just 8 this past month), but keep in mind that I don't have any sort of call to action in my signature, as some do. It would be fun to experiment with different offers in the signature to see how those fare.

  2. Specific Words or Graphics Within Your Website. Do you have call-to-action buttons or text links on various pages of your website where you're trying to elicit a specific response from your site visitors? Are you measuring them? For instance, on our website we have an image prominently featured on every page. It rotates between a call-out to subscribe to the High Rankings Advisor newsletter and one that provides more info on our low-end SEO website review. Because I look at the site every day and am not part of our target audience, I'm basically blind to the images.

    For a long time I assumed that most who visited our site would never click those images. Well, you know what they say about ASSuming things! After I added tracking codes to those images, I learned that people do indeed click them, and about 75% of those who click the newsletter image end up following through and subscribing. And more than 5% of those click to the SEO review page and fill out our contact form for more information. Hardly what I would call blind!

  3. Offline Marketing. You should of course have specific tracking URLs for any offline advertising you do in radio, TV, newspapers and magazines. But remember to add tracking codes to your links from other places where you're able to list your website URL, such as business cards, classified ads and telephone book ads. Does your business have a sign? How about a tracked URL there? Have a VW Beetle wrapped as a roving ad for your website? Use a tracking URL. Give your website address out on the phone a lot? Provide a tracking URL.

  4. Article Bio Links. You all know the power of writing content such as guest articles for other websites, blogs and newsletters in your niche, but are you tracking those links? While you can see the referring URL in your analytics when they come from a specific website, you can get more granular with your analysis when you have added tracking codes to the links back. For instance, with tracking codes in place, you can see which articles, in general, referred the most traffic to your site regardless of where they were posted.

  5. Social Media Status Updates. I covered this one in the aforementioned article, so I won't belabor it, but didn't want to leave it out because any links that you Tweet, add to Facebook, or leave in a LinkedIn update should have tracking codes. Clicks from social media often come without a referrer for many reasons, making campaign tracking your best bet for measuring their effectiveness. Remember to use tracking URLs in your profile link back to your site as well, so you can easily know which profiles bring actual site visitors and which don't.

Only with campaign tracking codes appended to any and all URLs can you quickly and easily know what media are bringing visitors to your site, as well as seeing what actions they take (or don't) once they get there!


Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Services Agency.

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Post Comment

 Barry Mills said:
I wholeheartedly agree with four fifths of this article, very good stuff. But I have to question the wisdom or practicality of tracking urls for offline advertising. I don't think people use them much, they either knock off the tracking part and go to the home page, or they forget them completely because they are too complicated. It's hard enough offline to get people to take a domain name on board, without also asking them to remember

There is a time and a place for different urls. I think using a separate domain name for specific campaigns can work, but only really if they are supported by a lot of advertising. You also need to consider whether the loss of exposure for your primary brand url is a price worth paying for the tracking. As a general rule, I'd say if the specific url is directing the user to specific and relevant content for the campaign, then that's OK but use a different domain (which can redirect to a tracking url in your main site if you like). If, however, the only point of the url is to track the visitor source, and you are really sending people to your home page, then don't do it - you will weaken your advertising.
 Anonymous said:
I do also want to track these, however, the less information I can give to google the better.
 Jill Whalen said:
I don't think you'll win that battle, Anon. ;)
 Lauren said:
Wow - what a set of AHA! moments I had while reading your article. I've so often wondered how to track in Google Analytics "direct" links to a website from things like printed brochures and email links. This was such a great posting.

I even have an immediate use for this as I plan my son's school's integrated offline/online marketing campaign for next year's enrollment.

And, as for the Barry's comment, I think when used in conjunction with exciting offers, the "" would definitely be used.

And that Google tool you referenced in the Measuring your Marketing article is a gem - I bookmarked that one right away. Thanks so much for sharing!!!
 Eric Fettman said:

Jill, our planets must be aligned. I just went over this with my colleague so he can include Google Analytics campaign tracking in all inbound links from our press releases.

I also wanted to share a trick that should avoid potential duplicate content issues without the use of the canonical tag: append the tracking code to the URL using # instead of ? or &. Example below:

Google search engine ignores # and everything after, but Google Analytics still parses out the campaign tracking.
 Jill Whalen said:
Interesting, Eric. And you're sure it tracks okay that way?

If so, that's a great way to do it for links within your own site for sure! I will do a bit of testing myself.

Glad you liked the article and that our planets are aligned! :)
 Eric said:
Jill, two mea culpas here:

1) I have not used this method yet myself - just applying it now for press releases.

2) I left something important out: you need to add pageTracker._setAllowAnchor(true); to your Google Analytics tracking code

Please see:

BTW (this is a bit off topic for SEO), if you use Vertical Response for mass emailing, the Google campaigns codes (medium: email, source: VerticalResponse, campaign: name of your campaign) are automatically appended to links coming back to your website (or to going to anyone else's, I guess) in the final format of the email. This I definitely have seen for myself in my Google Analytics campaigns.)

Sorry for not being more thorough and empirical in my original post - the last thing I want to do is to propagate incomplete or misleading information.

Glad you're on top of it!
 Jill Whalen said:
Thanks for clarifying that Eric. I'll check out that article when I'm ready to test it.
 Eric Fettman said:
(Anonymous above is me.)

Yes, I hadn't thought about applying this for links within site - great way to distinguish clickthroughs to same URL from two or more links on a single page.
 Jill said:
Yeah, I had fixed your name up there as I assumed it was you by the content ;)
 Tom said:
That is really some neat ideas for tracking.. I have recently placed code to track each of my daily blog posts on my desk top screen and each day I try to do something different in the post to beat out the competition for example I am in real estate and I post each new listing in the blog which is several posts per day. The trick is to try to take position 1 from the big dogs and have been quite successful... the tracking helps me see if minor changes have any immediate effect.