How to create a tracking URL

url tracking

A tracking URL is a great way to get insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Simply put, it is a piece added at the end of a URL that gives more information of where your traffic is coming from and is typically used for analytics products such as Google Analytics. You could for example display a popup on your website showcasing your top 3 products. Without this URL you might be left in the dark about where your users came from and are going. With the URL you can quickly and accurately determine the behavior of your users and make more informed marketing decisions.

In this article we will look at how to generate a tracking URL and how to read and analyse the traffic gained from using this URL.

A bit about tracking URLs

A tracking URL utilise query strings to give it more meaning. A query string is the last bit of a URL that usually begins with a ? or a &.

  • Normal URL: http://photo-graphic.co.za/how-to-create-a-tracking-url/
  • Tracking URL: http://photo-graphic.co.za/how-to-create-a-tracking-url/?utm_source=SMS_Drive&utm_medium=sms&utm_campaign=2017_Summer_Promotion

There are five parameters you can use to define a tracking URL namely utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_term and utm_content but in this article we will only discuss the first three.

1. utm_source

This is the source of where the traffic is coming from. We are sending our a newsletter so for this example we will use the value newsletter.

2. utm_medium:

The advertising/marketing medium used. Since we are sending out a newsletter our medium will be email.

3. utm_campaign:

The name used to identify the campaign e.g. 2017 Summer Promotion. To keep it neat and tidy always use a unique name and name it according to your campaign. Another useful tip is to add a time frame to the name so you can remember when this campaign was launched for example 21_March_2017 or Summer_2017.

How to generate a tracking URL

Google has created an awesome tool to quickly generate campaign URLs. Its called the Campaign URL builder.

STEP 1. Paste the URL in the input field label “Website URL”. Its important to note that we are tracking a single URL. This could be a landing page, product or blog post.

STEP 2. Populate the next input fields based on our marketing campaign. Below is an example:

Generating a tracking URL using Campaign URL Builder

Finally the URL will be generated with the values you used, so go ahead and copy it.

Quick Tip: When sending out SMSs you are limited to a certain characters length, its therefore useful to shorten your URL using a tool such as Google URL shortner or just use the URL shortner in the Campaign URL Builder tool.

STEP 2. Use your URL in you marketing campaign so that you can start tracking your traffic! (Its always a good idea to double check that the URL is working correctly before using it in production so go ahead and open the link.)

Thats it! You can now start monitoring traffic coming from this URL.

Reading and analysing traffic coming from the URL

Now that we understand tracking URLs and have successfully generated one we can start to monitor our website traffic.

Login to your Google Analytics account. If you haven’t installed Google Analytics on your site yet, here is an awesome article on how to do it. (You will need to do this before continuing)

google analytics acquisitionIn the menu navigate to Acquisition > Overview. From here you can see all the channels of traffic on your website. (Its important to note that once a visitor has clicked on your tracking URL, it can take up to an hour to reflect in Google Analytics.)

You will notice some channels such as Organic Search, Paid Search, Social, Direct etc. Your tracking URL with fall under the channel “(Other)”. If you see this channel click on it. From there you will be able to view the traffic for all the various campaign URLs you have created.

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