With the advent of the tracking URL, you can analyze your marketing campaigns and improve their perfomance. From how URL tracking works and its advantages to creation and tips, we provide a comprehensive guide below. By the end of the article, you will have gained in-depth knowledge of the topic and will be able to create a tracking URL.
Do you remember the story of Hansel and Gretel, where they placed bread crumbs on the forest floor to make a trail? There is a mutual concept between the fairytale and URL tracking in digital marketing: the navigational element. For the former, it's the breadcrumbs, and for the latter, it's the URLs, both of which provide insights that can be used for their respective advantages.
What Is URL Tracking?
URL tracking has become a useful tool for determining the source of visitors to better target marketing efforts. A tracking URL is a special link that is generated for the sole purpose of tracing the origins of your visitors. There are a variety of metrics that can be obtained by using tracking links, such as which search engine a user came from, which keywords were used to get the user to your website, which of your calls to action caused the user to respond, etc.
What Is the Mechanism Behind Tracking a URL?
Using URL tracking, you may set up marketing programs to drive referral traffic to your website. Assigning a final destination URL or landing page – the original link you wish to track – and identifying where this link will be put is how tracking links are established.
Once the unique link has been established, it may be published everywhere on the internet - in your advertising or newsletters, on forums, or on social media accounts. As a result, the traffic originating from each source may be seen in real-time.
Anyone clicking on a tracking link will be routed to the destination page that you selected. Before reaching your website, data such as the user's origin site and location are captured. This usually takes milliseconds to complete.
Let's take an example. Suppose you want to track traffic from Twitter to the EmailSoldiers blog. So, the blog's link will be the destination and tagged as "Twitter." A tracking link will be generated, and when a user clicks on it, they will be redirected to the blog. This specific link can further be utilized for tracking the total links and views from Twitter.
Why Should You Be Tracking Your Link?
URL tracking is a useful tool for online marketers because it helps them better manage their campaigns. That way, the most beneficial activities are highlighting, letting even a tight budget produce a great return. Keeping tabs on the number of page views is useful, but keeping tabs on the click-through data from your links tells you far more. We've come a long way from traditional marketing's approach of applying techniques and waiting for the results. This means that you should use the most precise analytics you can find.
Who Will Benefit From It?
Link tracking offers a wealth of additional information to marketers working in any field, but here are some particular instances of how it may be beneficial:
- Digital Marketing Agencies
As we mentioned above, all the click statistics are correct, enabling digital marketing companies to provide better accuracy in the data presented to clients. Additionally, these companies can incorporate it into the analysis of their multi-channel attribution model.
Link tracking holds significant importance for the ad operations team since they have to manage and track many inbound marketing campaigns simultaneously. Apart from A/B testing ads, they can also use tracking links to analyze the response rates for campaigns.
- E-Commerce Businesses
When driving traffic to an e-commerce site, partnering with online affiliate marketers is a common option. It is also critical to know which affiliates bring in the most traffic and provide sale conversions.
To measure this, e-commerce sites provide affiliates with unique tracking links to integrate into their website posts. These links can be personalized so that different affiliate marketers can be analyzed based on their performance.
Another trending option is bringing in traffic through influencers and bloggers. This would work the same way as for affiliate marketers, except that the influencers and bloggers would post the link on their social media channels like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
Finally, offline marketing activities involving the distribution of posters, company cards, t-shirts, etc., can also provide insight into your incoming traffic. Identifying how many people are coming to your site from different sources and creating unique links can help you choose which efforts are worth your time and money.
- Company Marketing Teams
When it comes to marketing, link tracking is a lifesaver for small and large companies alike. Using tracking URLs, content marketers can identify which of their pieces of content were successful and which failed miserably. It's useful in figuring out what kind of material visitors are engaging with and which topics are popular.
The main advantage of tracking links is that it enables you to analyze your company's performance on all social media platforms. Further, it assists in filtering out the most effective campaigns for the respective business.
A tracking URL can be used to provide visitors with tailored experiences. This will, in turn, improve the site's conversion rate. Use advanced redirect settings when establishing a tracking link to redirect visitors based on their IP address. For instance, let's say your website offers multiple language options. To avoid a Russian-speaking visitor from being directed towards another foreign language, you set unique tracking URLs so that the visitor is redirected to your website in Russian only.
Another option is to send customized live chat invitations based on the monitored link to visitors who have shown interest. You'll be able to strike a friendly dialogue with your guests, which may persuade them to take action.
Where Can You Track Links?
You can track links almost anywhere, such as content marketing, display advertising, email marketing, website pages, blog posts, social media, phone numbers, and Google search ads. Tracking these links will provide you with accurate data for better business analysis. Platforms like Google Analytics allow sorting traffic by considering the source or medium in the UTM.
How to Create Tracking URLs
Summing it up, a tracking URL is a special link with tags or parameters attached to it, which enable you to identify a user's source, content engagements, and the campaign to which the content belonged.
Now that we know the "what" and "why" of tracking URLs let's dive into the "how-to" part.
What Are UTM Parameters?
UTM stands for Urchin Traffic Monitor. Urchin was the company that pioneered UTM parameters in the late 1990s and introduced UTM in 2002. Later, Google acquired Urchin and used the software for building Google Analytics.
So, UTM is a parameter added to the end of your link to track the source of the incoming traffic to your site. A UTM consists of the URL Base, which is the page address, and next to it are the tracking parameter strings. The latter component includes mandatory and optional parameters:
Campaign Source: The source part in the link informs us of the origins of the incoming traffic. For instance, if the traffic is from Twitter, the source would be utm_source=Twitter.
Campaign Medium: It can identify the medium, such as affiliate links, paid traffic, QR codes, social links, PPC, etc. The UTM parameter is utm_medium.
Campaign Name: A sequence of social media postings or blogs on a certain subject may come under tracking a campaign. The campaign name is included in the tracking URL and is used for identification. The UTM parameter is utm_campaign.
Campaign Term: You'll mostly use this to monitor the performance of your keywords during a sponsored search campaign. Display ad campaigns may also be used to understand the site visitors better. The UTM parameter is utm_term.
Campaign Content: It refers to the component used to direct traffic to a site, for instance, a button, a hyperlink, or a picture. This is a valuable metric if you're running A/B tests on your advertising. If you have many links pointing to the same URL, you may utilize it to tell them apart. The UTM parameter is utm_content.
For instance, we want to promote our whitepaper for marketers on our Facebook page. In this case, we've got the following UTM parameters:
- source: facebook.com
- medium: social
- campaign: marketing-report-fb-promo
Our tracking URL is ready:
URL Tracking Builders
Campaign URL builders can create accurate UTM parameters in no time. Let's learn how to use tracking builders to create tracking URLs:
Google Analytics Demos & Tools
The image below represents the campaign URL builder for Google Analytics Demos & Tools.
The first field is for your website's URL. The UTM parameters you would be required to fill in are the source, medium, and campaign name. The optional UM parameters include the ID, term, and content. Once you have filled in the fields, the campaign builder will generate a tracking URL for you.
The next campaign URL builder on our list is from Tilda Publishing. You will see their service as seen in the screenshot below:
The first field is the URL address of your website, followed by the traffic source. Here Tilda offers three options, including your values, Google Adwords, and Facebook. The necessary fields to be filled include the utm_source, utm_medium, and utm_campaign. The optional fields include utm_content and utm_term.
Once these parameters are provided, the campaign will generate your URL and display it in the "Result" box. Another added feature is parameters transliteration, in which you can shorten the tracking URL.
Now we will discuss the campaign URL builder by UTM.io. The image below shows the fields you will need to provide to generate a tracking URL.
Enter the essential UTM parameters after providing your website URL: source, medium, and campaign name. Next, if required, provide the term and content. Click on the "Build URL" button.
Once generated, the builder will display your tracking URL in the box below. Click "Copy URL" and begin using it.
The URL builder by Raven Tools will require your website link, necessary UTM parameters like source, medium, and campaign name, and optional parameters like term and content.
The generated URL will be available to copy and use from the "Code to Use" box.
The UTM Builder creates a URL with the UTM codes after providing all the required UTM information, as seen in the image below.
Once you have filled in the details, the campaign URL builder will display the URL in the "GENERATED UTM TRACKING URL" box.
Setting Rules for UTMs to Track URLs
You can set new URL tracking rules for automated URL tracking, which means the parameters will themselves be attached to the link. In this process also, you will be required to fill in the necessary parameters and optional parameters.
Once you save these rules, the parameters are applied to all the links in a post.
Why Do You Need a System and Structure of UTMs for URL Tracking in Your Company?
Even top companies like Google, Pinterest, and Medium have made common blunders when it comes to UTMs. That is why a system and structure for UTMs are critical to ensure accurate link tracking for your website. When creating a tracking link, you might contemplate the correct usage for the different UTM parameters. Sometimes the answer is obvious, but more often than not, errors happen. By the time you realize your decision was a mistake, it's too late.
These errors occur mainly due to the lack of a system. For instance, a particular parameter requires the same input in all the places. However, if a website has put certain custom channels in place, specific traffic will be filtered out and not counted in the conversion rate. This would result in both the traffic and earnings dropping.
Let's say triggered mailings have a different channel. So, in this case, utm_medium = email-trigger. Now consider various people or agencies operating on the mailings but without a proper UTM-tags system. It would result in chaos when you track a URL! All of them would be setting up different inputs for the different UTM parameters. This is why to track a URL, rules are essential, as contained within our Reference on UTM tags.
URL Parameters: General Tips
UTM parameters have the potential to transform your efficiency and market position, but only if they are properly used. Have a look at some of the best tips you can use:
- Avoid Internal Linking With UTMs. A UTM parameter used as an internal link compromises your Google Analytics account data security. Google treats these clicks as though they were new sessions. Thus the real source is obscured. Because of this, you can't get a clear image of how customers move through your website.
- Reduce the length of UTM Parameter Links. Transform cumbersome, lengthy links with UTM parameters into reasonable, small ones.
- Remain Organized When Managing UTMs. UTM parameters might be easily misplaced if you run several campaigns through several channels. As part of being organized, you should establish and follow a naming standard. This will be especially useful if you're working with others to track URLs.
- Avoid Spaces. It's easy to make a mistake in your UTM if there are any white areas.
- Run a UTM Test. You want to be sure it works before you use it. If it doesn't function, your data will be completely useless.
- Use Simple Language. Avoid using any special characters like !, @, $, etc., in the UTM parameters. However, insert a question mark (?) at the end of the URL and before the first parameter.
- Avoid Cloning. Don't use the same UTMs on URLs more than once. Not only will it collect incorrect information, but it is also difficult to handle. The cloned link would carry the characteristics of the original, leading to errors and inaccuracies when you track URLs.
- Use the Same Case Alphabet. UTMs are case-sensitive. Therefore, decide whether to use capital letters or lowercase letters. For instance, utm_medium = Email_Newsletter, utm_medium = EMAIL_NEWSLETTER, and utm_medium = email_newsletter are completely distinct parameters.
We hope that this article has motivated you to start using UTM parameters for all of your incoming links. As soon as you have mastered the art of developing and utilizing UTMs in your campaigns, you will be able to gather a wealth of valuable data.
However, keep in mind to be on the lookout for potential pitfalls and pay attention to the suggestions. UTM parameters may easily spiral out of control, resulting in confusion and losing all of their practical use.