How to Track Clicks Into Your Website or Blog

How to Track Clicks Into Your Website or Blog

(This blog post was originally posted on LinkedIn on January 29, 2015. Since then, it’s been one of the most popular pieces I’ve ever written. The content is pretty timeless but I’ve made some edits over the past couple of years to keep it up to date.)

Today, I was reading a friend’s blog post on LinkedIn and noticed that he included a link at the bottom of his post inviting readers to read more about the topic on his website. It was something like www.billybobconsulting.com/best-post-ever (link changed to protect the innocent).

My first thought was “Holy crap. He’s a huge metrics guy but yet he’s not tracking traffic to into his website from that link.” Sure, he can look in his Google Analytics account and see that traffic came to his website from LinkedIn but he won’t be able to attribute that traffic back to the specific LinkedIn blog post I mentioned above.

When you’re a small business with limited time and funds, you want to know where your traffic is coming from so you know where to invest your time and energy in the future.

I immediately emailed my friend and told him that he should be using tracking links so he can see where he’s getting his website traffic from. He emailed back and said he didn’t know how to do it.

I figured that instead of trying to explain everything to him via email, why not write my firstever LinkedIn blog post AND help my friend (and maybe even you) at the same time.

The Types of Links You’ll Want to Track

It’s a pretty simple process to create tracking links. All you need is Google Analytics (software that tracks activity on your website) installed on your website and some basic organizational skills.

Let me share some quick examples of the types of links that you might want to track.

  • Blog posts that you share within your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.).
  • Links from one of your websites to another. For example, you might want to track traffic from your blog to your website or vice versa.
  • Online marketing campaigns (online advertising, PPC/paid search, etc.) – You can also track which paid search terms or even which banner ads are working best.
  • Email marketing campaigns (website/blog links within your marketing emails/newsletters)
  • Links that you share with prospects/customers – An example might be including a link to your website from within your email signature.
  • Traditional/off-line marketing campaigns – My friend might want to use HireBillyBobConsulting.com on his printed marketing materials and then when prospects type that URL into their Internet browsers, it would redirect to BillyBobConsulting.com (with the tracking URL included). He would then know how many visitors came from his marketing materials (especially if that’s the only place he used that URL).

Remember, you can only create tracking URLs for your own website/blog if it already has Google Analytics installed on it. If you’re NOT using Google Analytics, you need to go get it right now. Actually, read this post first and then go get it. It’s free and easy to set up.

How to Create Google Analytics Tracking Links

In this example, I’m going to use a real-life example from a recent post on my blog, VideoGamingDad.com.

Here are the steps to follow:

1) Go to the Google Analytics URL (link) builder. I always end up Googling “Google Analytics URL builder” because I never remember to bookmark it.

Here’s what the page will look like. Google does a pretty good job of explaining each of the fields but I’ve provided my explanation of how I use each field below.

Website URL – This is the actual website/blog/post that we want to drive traffic to. In my case, I wanted to drive traffic to http://www.videogamingdad.com/2015/01/where-did-the-creativity-go/.

Campaign Source – This is where the traffic will be coming from. So if you’re sharing the link on Facebook, you’ll want to put “Facebook.” I tend to try and keep the URL as short as possible so I used “FB.”

Campaign Medium – You can put in what medium the traffic is coming from. If it’s a link in an email, you might want to use “email” or if it’s a banner ad, you could use “banner.” I typically just use “link.” It’s not super important what you use as long as you’re consistent.

Campaign Term – This is typically for CPC campaigns to track how individual keywords are doing.

Campaign Content – This is a way to identify between different banner ads you might be running. You could name the ads or put in the different sizes to differentiate them.

Campaign Name – Give your campaign a name. This will make it easier to track activity inside your Google Analytics account. For my blog, I like to use the date the post was published. For this example, I used “1/25/15.”

2) Fill in all the required fields. “Campaign Term” and “Campaign Content” are only applicable for paid search or advertising campaigns. It is important that you are consistent when you create your tracking links so you can differentiate between them when viewing your Google Analytics data.

Here’s how my form looked:

3) Click the “Submit” button.

After clicking the “Submit” button, the following appears in a gray box right below it:

http://www.videogamingdad.com/2015/01/where-did-the-creativity-go/?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=1/25/14

Everything from the “?” on is what tells Google Analytics to log the link as a campaign/tracking link. It’s important to note that the tracking link won’t actually show up in Google Analytics unless someone clicks on the link first.

4) Test your tracking link before sharing it just to make sure it works and that it takes you to the correct page/post.

5) Copy and paste your tracking link into a Facebook post or wherever you want to share it.

I recommend logging the different tracking links into a spreadsheet so you can remember which tracking links you created and shared.

You don’t even have to use Google’s URL (link) builder every time. You could just copy and paste a tracking link you previously created (ex. from your spreadsheet) and edit it. It could be as simple as changing the “Campaign Name” or “Campaign Source.”

BONUS: How to Shorten Your Tracking Link (and Make it a Little Less Obvious That You’re Tracking Clicks)

If someone were to click on the link above, the full tracking link will show up in their browser window. I don’t think it’s a huge deal though because most people probably don’t notice the full link.

Where you run into problems is when you want to share a tracking link on Twitter when your message is limited to 140 characters. The example tracking link above is 117 characters. That would leave only 23 characters in the tweet and you wouldn’t have room to say anything meaningful.

Here’s what you can do about it.

1) Go to Bit.ly and create a free account.

2) Copy and paste your tracking link into the “Paste a long URL here to shorten…” box at the top of the page.

3) The following box (or something similar) should appear on the right side of your browser window.

In this example, http://bit.ly/1yhPIsv has become my tracking link. I can share it wherever I want. When someone clicks the bit.ly link, they will be redirected to http://www.videogamingdad.com/2015/01/where-did-the-creativity-go/?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=1/25/14 and Google Analytics will attribute the activity to the campaign I named “1/25/14.” Also, my 117 character link has been shrunk down to only 21 characters.

How to Find Your Tracking Link Activity in Your Google Analytics Account

Below are the steps for finding out how many people clicked your tracking links.

1) Log into your Google Analytics account.

2) Click on the appropriate website profile. I clicked on my VideoGamingDad.com profile within my Google Analytics account.

3) Click “All Web Site Data.” You will be taken to your analytics dashboard showing you an overview of your website activity.

4) On the left side of the page, click “Acquisition.” The menu will expand to show more options. Click “Campaigns” and then “All Campaigns.”

You should see the report dashboard below.

In the left-column (highlighted in yellow), are the different campaign names I gave these five posts. You’ll see 1/25/2015 in the top spot. The numbers that I highlighted are pretty self-explanatory except for “Sessions” and “Bounce Rate.” Sessions are visits to your site. This is not a unique number. The bounce rate is the percentage of people that came into your site and then left without viewing any additional pages.

5) Click on the name of the campaign (remember this is what you put in as the “Campaign Name” on the Google URL builder tool) you want to see in more detail.Continuing with the example above, I’ll click on “1/25/2015.”

I was taken to the page below showing each of the five tracking URLs I created for the 1/25 blog post. You can see that I shared the shortened tracking links on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Additionally, I shared the link on Humana’s internal social network, Buzz. I created five different bit.ly links for each of the five properties.

You can see how each link performed below.

One final note is that tracking data will typically show up within Google Analytics almost as soon as people start clicking on the tracking links.

That’s pretty much it. Pretty simple, right?

You should have just about everything you need to know about creating your own tracking links.

How do you use tracking links? Please feel free to share any additional tips/advice/feedback below.

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