A client of ours recently released a free WordPress plugin and we helped them identify and institute a few marketing techniques in order to encourage their plugin users to view the benefits of the premium (or paid) version of that plugin.
One of the first things we advised them to utilize was url campaign tracking.
Specifically, they were linking to their paid plugin from two places within their free plugin settings and we wanted them to see how many visits were coming from each link.
What is URL Campaign Tracking?
It very simple really, but if you're not familiar with the terminology it can seem a bit confusing.
URL campaign tracking simply refers to the practice of adding some additional parameters to a link you use on your site (or anywhere else, like an ad campaign).
When you add this extra information, your link is now referred to as a "campaign" that will be tracked automatically in your Google Analytics account.
Let's break this down with a simple example.
Let's assume I write up a blog post about the benefits of WordPress maintenance services. In this post, I would refer to the Dedicated Plan that we offer here at the WP Valet.
Now, let's also assume that I want to know how many people clicked that link and viewed our dedicated plan page as a direct result of reading that blog post and clicking that link.
Easy, I would add some URL tracking to my link.
So, instead of linking to:
I would instead add those extra parameters, and by doing so, create a URL tracking campaign. Then use the resulting link:
Let's break that down even further by looking at that second URL a little closer.
You can see that there are three additional parameters added to the end of the URL:
This helps Google Analytics identify the source of your referral link. You can see that I added "wpvblog" as the utm_source because this identifies the actual source of the visitor in our Analytics account.
When I look at my reports, I will see "X number of visits" to our dedicated plan page that came directly from the link I placed in our blog post as opposed to visits to our dedicated plan page that has come from people simply browsing our site, from social channels, or directly from advertising efforts.
This parameter is a way to further narrow down the specifics of the link I'm tracking. In this example, I've used "textlink" as the medium.
But what if I used a text link AND an image link within the same blog post (or utm_source)? Then I would use the same URL, but I would change the "textlink" to "imagelink" or similar.
It's another way to segment and narrow down your data reporting to tell you exactly where traffic to any given page is coming from.
And finally, this parameter helps me narrow down the reporting of visits by identifying not just that visits to our dedicated plan page are coming from our blog, but it tells me the exact blog post that these visits are coming from.
You may now be thinking that this is all well and good, but it still seems difficult.
Trust me, it's not. Just bear with me and keep reading.
Why you Should be Creating URL Tracking Campaigns
The best reason for utilizing this kind of referral tracking is to help give you a better picture of how visitors are reaching (or not reaching) the content you really want them to see.
It's data collection and it's vitally important to the success and guidance of your business.
How else are you supposed to know what methods are working best to drive traffic to the important areas of your site?
How to Track your Campaigns Using Google's URL Builder Tool
Here's the cherry on top. You can use Google's URL Builder tool to make creating URL tracking campaigns super easy!
Load up the Google URL Builder tool in your browser.
You will see a two-step process for building a unique tracking URL.
Enter the web address of the page you want to track visits to.
Fill in the required URL parameter fields.
Click the "Submit button and you will be presented with your unique URL campaign tracking address.
Copy this address and use it within your blog post, advertising banners, email campaigns, or wherever else you want in order to track visits from that unique URL.
How to View your URL Campaigns in Google Analytics
Now that you're tracking these URLs, and after you've had some visits, you can see this data in your Google Analytics account.
In your Analytics Dashboard, go to Acquisition-->Campaigns
By default, you will see your utm_campaign name listed, along with the associated visits data.
Remember the campaign name we used?
You'll also see some options across the top of this section named "Primary Dimension".
In this section you can see some other viewing options: Campaign, Source, Medium, or Source/Medium together.
Here's what our example looks like when we view Source/Medium:
Remember that our Source was "wpvblog" and the Medium we used was "textlink".
You could have created an additional link and used another Medium such as "imagelink" if you wanted to track multiple Mediums within the same URL campaign.
If we had done that, we would see both listed here.
URL Campaign Tracking Summary
As you can see by the explanation and examples above, utilizing URL campaign tracking is a great way to narrow your reporting focus and really dig deeper into data collection within your existing Analytics account.
Doing this will help to paint a more accurate picture of how your marketing campaigns are performing. This includes your on-site content strategy, advertising campaigns, email marketing, and just about anywhere else you create a link back to your site and want to know how that link is performing
Taking it One Step Further with Conversion Goals in Google Analytics
As we dig deeper into viewing (and acting upon) the data we collect in Google Analytics, it will become increasing important to create Conversion Goals.
And when we create these Goals in Analytics, we'll be utilizing the Google URL Builder to help us tag our campaign URLs.
More on that later...