How To Better Track Links You Share Through Social Media

by | Jan 12, 2011

One of the primary benefits of social media is the ability to drive traffic to your website and blog. That’s great, but what about measuring the results of what people actually click on? If you’re like many people—and I was guilty of this for quite awhile myself—you might be doing some “lazy” tracking, using tools like Bit.ly to gauge the number of clicks to a link, for example. Don’t get me wrong, I think Bit.ly is a great service. But it won’t give you the full story on where people are coming from with links you put out there, and what they do when they get to your site. The answer to getting better tracking results is to tag your links properly and then measure them accordingly in Google Analytics. (You will need Google Analytics running on your site to see what actually happens.)

What Is Link Tagging?

Tagging your online links is an important practice to find out which marketing activities are really paying off. It essentially means adding some important information to each link you want to track that will then be properly logged so you can later view the results. Notice I said each link you want to track…you won’t necessarily want to do this with every retweet and miscellaneous post you make—just the important links that are tied to your bottom line! Fortunately, Google makes tagging links possible with their free URL builder tool. This tool can be used to “super charge” your shareable links, both on social media as well as other places like email newsletters.

Google URL builder

Using Google’s URL Builder

Access the URL builder tool here: http://bit.ly/gubuilder The builder tool is a form with six fields that will produce a fully trackable link. The first four fields are required.
  1. Website URL: This is the full URL of the page you want people to visit.
  2. Campaign Source: Use this field to identify where people will encounter this link. You might consider a phrase like socialmedia.
  3. Campaign Medium: This field indicates the medium you are using to post this link. Example: twitter
  4. Campaign Name: This is a name you choose for your internal use only, that will help you later analyze activities with the link. You might use the title of an article you are sharing (example: 10linktrackingtips) or a phrase like spring_sale.
Two optional fields include:
  1. Campaign Term: Use this if you are doing paid search campaigns and want to include keywords like party+favors
  2. Campaign Content: This is used for A/B testing and content-targeted ads. Use this to differentiate ads or links that point to the same URL. Examples: logolink or textlink
After you fill out the form, you will get a long URL that has a bunch of stuff at the end of it, like this: http://www.wrayward.com/blog?utm_source=socialmedia&utm_medium=socialfreshblog&utm_campaign=howtotracksociallinks Of course, you wouldn’t want to post that actual link anywhere, especially on character-starved Twitter. This is where Bit.ly comes in handy. Simply copy and paste the long link and shorten it directly in Bit.ly or in one of the other tools that will automatically shorten it for you, such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.

Seeing The Results

After you send it trackable links, you will be able to see the results under campaigns within the traffic sources area of Google Analytics. You can take link tracking much further by setting up goals for conversions in Google Analytics, which is beyond the scope of this introduction. Google provides a lot of good background information here.

Making Link Building Even Easier

Some products like MarketMeSuite have the Google URL form built in. Other social media software providers like Argyle Social essentially do this level of tagging “under the hood” (and more) when you use their platform to post links. Whichever way you choose, you need to be tagging and tracking your links properly to understand your social media return on investment. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com]]>

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