Here it is: link tracking 101. Ready?
One of the biggest advantages of the internet and digital content is the ability to measure everything. You can analyze what works and build on that. We all want to see results, right?
Sounds great. But where do you start? And how do you do it correctly?
If you publish any digital content online, you need to track how it performs. Otherwise, how do you know if anybody is reading it? If you do have an audience, who are they? And how many people view your publication daily, weekly, or only monthly? How did they find you? If the answers to these questions are interesting to you, you should start tracking and learning today.
The easiest and most reliable way to start tracking your website performance is to install Google Analytics. This is by far the most popular free tool available and will answer most of your tracking questions.
How do you set up Google Analytics?
Go to analytics.google.com and sign in with your Google account
Create a new tracking account
Fill in the account information
Fill in the account name, website name, the website or digital magazine URL you wish to track, then select an industry, and finally click “Get tracking ID.”
You’ll receive a code similar to this:
Add it to your website as the first item in your website template <head> and you’re all set.
Now it’s time to test it
Click on Real time -> Overview (as shown in the screenshot below) and open the website or digital magazine in a new tab. You should see at least 1 visitor if you have implemented the code correctly.
Filter your own IP from the results
You don’t want to distort the data. Also, I would suggest that you filter out any and all IPs that are associated with maintaining your site or digital magazine. All you want to see here are your real visitors because your are going to make decisions based off this data.
To filter out IP addresses:
- Go to Admin and find “Filters” on the third column.
- Create a new filter.
- Enter the name of the filter, choose predefined, filter type “Exclude,” then select the source based on your needs — you can filter by IP, hostname, or even country.
How do I find my IP address?
Simply go to google.com and type in “whats my ip” and it will show your IP on the first line of the search results.
Congrats. You are now ready to track your website or digital magazine visitors
Where should I look for data?
The best place to start is by going to Acquisition -> Overview.
This should encourage your curiosity to find more data on your Google Analytics account.
Protip: be patient and allow enough data to collect before making any decisions to change your site. The more data you have, the better you can identify what, precisely, needs to change.
Okay, now that you’re tracking all incoming visitors to your site, what else is important? Your next step should be to learn how to track individual links and find data easily on your Google Analytics account. Why you may ask?
Let’s say you’re trying to increase visitor traffic to your digital magazine and you start promoting it through various channels. How would you know which channel is the most effective source? Not to mention if you have different promotional mediums on every source (banner ad, link, video ad, etc), how do you know which ad is pulling the most weight and which ad isn’t worth the cost?
Or, consider the common issue that most magazine publishers face where advertisers simply provide display ads for your magazine with direct links to their homepage. They’re eventually going to complain that the campaign wasn’t effective and that no traffic was sent their way. They may even wish to sever ties with your publication. Yes, we both know that they should have provided you with a link that they can track and that all traffic should have been directed to a specific, high-performance landing page that can convert, but, sadly, the real world is such that many advertisers won’t know to do this.
So how do you track things more specifically to know what’s working for you and what’s working for your advertisers? It’s simple to track links and get in-depth analytics by using your new Google Analytics account. Here’s how:
Let’s say you want to track a link: yourdomain.com/landingpage
You’ll see all the traffic that came to this page using Google Analytics, but this will be overall traffic and you can’t measure the effectiveness of any specific campaign, source, or medium.
To solve this
Go to https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/ and put your link in the website URL field.
Fill in Campaign Source
This is where you advertised your link. Let’s say you adverttised on Forbes.com. So type in “Forbes.”
Fill in Campaign Medium
Let’s say you just had a text link at Forbes. So type in “textlink.”
Fill in Campaign Name
This is for your own organization, so let’s say the whole purpose was to promote your April issue. So type in “April-issue” or anything that makes sense to you.
Create a link and copy it
Now use this link on your text link advertising on forbes.com and you’ll be able to see how exactly this specific campaign performed.
Go to Acquisition -> Campaigns -> All campaigns and see all your campaigns
You’ll be able to split them by name, source, and medium.
This is the most versatile link tracking method. It can be done with any link. If your advertisers run an ad in your magazine or a few different ad mediums on your publishing network and are not tracking their campaigns, you should explain to them how to do this so that they can see how well their ad is performing with your publication.
Want to try is it works? Submit your tractable link to on of free directories to see it in action. For example here: Thales Directory