In a recent Search Engine Land article I talked about how to measure the success of your SEO endeavors using Google Analytics (GoAn). It focused on how to check whether the keywords for which you optimized your pages were bringing you targeted search engine traffic and whether that traffic converts for you.
In addition, I gave you pointers on "Measuring Success Beyond the Search Engines"
as well as tips on understanding "If Your SEO Campaign Is Out of Focus."
To further add to your web analytics knowledge, today I'm going to explain how you can more accurately measure email and social media marketing efforts by using tracking links to create "campaigns" in GoAn.
If you have a Google AdWords account hooked up with your GoAn account, then you're probably somewhat familiar with how to view and analyze campaigns within GoAn. What you may not have realized is that you can create campaigns that show up in that same area of your GoAn account and that provide tracking beyond your paid search activities.
Where to Find Campaigns
To find your website's campaign info in GoAn, click Traffic Sources > Campaigns in your dashboard.
If you have no AdWords or other campaigns set up, you won't see anything in that area. If you have AdWords campaigns set up and hooked up, you'll see that info.
But what if you have an email newsletter where you often link to offers of interest or to past articles on your website? If you use an email marketing service such as ListHost or Campaigner, you'll know how many clicks you received, but they can't tell you much more than that because they don't know what happens after the click. You can look in the GoAn referrers section and try to find clickthroughs from whatever your email host names your tracking links, but this is clunky at best, and most of the time it's inaccurate.
Social Media Marketing
The same can be said about links you post to the social media ether. When you Tweet a direct link to content on your website, you may never be able to track the visitors as having come from Twitter. This is because most people use Twitter through various applications rather than from Twitter.com itself. So if you are reviewing Twitter referral data via GoAn, you will not see a good chunk of your actual Twitter referrals. See Danny Sullivan's article, "How Twitter Might Send Far More Traffic Than You Think."
While you can use URL shortening services such as Cligs that report the number of clickthroughs, similar to email marketing reports, the information provided is limited.
Setting-up Your Campaign Tracking
By now you're probably wondering how you can get your email and social media clickthroughs to show up as GoAn campaigns. The secret is tracking links! But not the old-fashioned ones we used to use in the '90s, where you just appended a question mark and a specific keyword referring to your URL. I'm talking about special Google Analytics campaign tracking links.
If you use GoAn at all, you've probably noticed that there are various "dimensions" to most of the stats you see. Three of those dimensions that are important for our tracking links are Campaign, Source, and Medium. Website visitors coming from an organic Google search, for instance, will show a Source of "Google," a Medium of "Organic," and a Campaign of "(not set)." Website visitors coming from your Google AdWords ads will show the name of your AdWords campaign as the Campaign dimension in GoAn.
To get a Campaign, a Source, and a Medium to show up in GoAn, simply add and name them using these special URL tags:
Example Tracking Link
A typical GoAn campaign tracking link for a blog post that you mention on Twitter might look like this:
Which simply means that the Campaign is called "BlogPostName," the Medium is "SocialMedia" and the Source is "Twitter."
Note that that there's no right or wrong way to name those fields. The key is in being consistent. This is something I've learned the hard way – by not always being consistent and then seeing confusing results later in my GoAn.
If you start by making your Campaign names equal the page you're pointing people to, then you should keep doing that with all your campaigns and don't all of a sudden create a tracking URL where you fill in the Campaign as Twitter and the Source as the name of the page.
An Easier and Prettier Way
If creating those tracking URLs looks tedious (and it is), don't despair – there's a better way! Google has a Campaign URL Builder Tool available in which you just have to fill in the appropriate fields and your tracking URL is created with the click of a button.
Campaign tracking URLs can be used for any piece of content on your site that you are marketing either online or offline, but many don't like to use them because they're long and ugly, not to mention impossible to remember or recite to someone in person.
Again, don't despair – I have a geek solution to this too, and it's fairly simple. You can either create a prettier/smaller version of your long tracking link by using your Cli.gs or other URL shortening service. Or you can create your own redirects through your server if you know how to do that. It's pretty easy if you're on an Apache server and can use an .htaccess file, but that may be outside your technical abilities.
I'm lucky in that our custom CMS has its own simple method for creating tracking URLs, which actually gives us an additional layer of tracking as well as a nice shortened URL.
Where to Use Campaign Tracking URLs
I suggest using campaign tracking URLs for any links to your site that you post to Twitter, Facebook or any other social networking site. In addition, use them for any links to your site from any email campaigns, newsletters, guest articles or posts, and blog comments. They would also come in handy for offline advertising such as radio, newspaper, magazine or TV ads.
There's one SEO caveat that you should be aware of when you use tracking links to your site. Because they're not the actual one true URL for the page you're pointing to, your pages may get indexed by Google under multiple URLs. Plus, you're not really passing link popularity or PageRank to the one true URL for the content, but are splitting it instead, which is never a good thing. One way around this (beware, it's also geeky) is to use the Canonical Link Element.
In Part 2 of this article, I'll show you the awesome information you can glean from your campaign tracking URLs, so stay tuned!
---Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Services company.
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