Installing Google Analytics (GA) is the first step to polishing your on and offline marketing efforts. It makes it easy to see a variety of things about your visitors.
How well are they converting (filling out forms, making purchases, etc.)?
Are they bouncing a lot (entering your site and then leaving right away without doing anything)?
In many cases, you can even tell where your visitors are coming from. However, there can be some significant gaps in this when you have incoming links from print ads, web ads, flyers, physical banners at trade shows, etc. This post will help you to create specific URL’s to use in your marketing and to track them to see their effectiveness.
Why Should You Care Where Traffic Comes From?
When you put a link somewhere, it’s pretty handy to be able to track it. This is doubly true if you paid for that link. It’s triply true when you have lots of different links that you’ve paid for. It’s quadruple-y true… (okay, I’ll stop, you get it).
You want to know how many visits you get to your site from an ad. You also want to be able to track what visitors do once they reach your site for comparison.
If you put a link out there without tracking it, you won’t be able to answer essential questions like, “is my magazine ad doing better than my trade show ad?” or, “did we actually get any business from that web ad we made?” or, “is anyone actually using the link in our weekly bulletin?”
How will you know where to spend more ad money?
How will you know whether you should change up your content?
In e-commerce, for example, it’s especially important to be able to compare your different types of traffic. You want to compare organic (people who find you in a non-paid way on a search engine), paid advertisements, social, and campaigns (custom built URLs … we’ll get to this in a second).
You want to compare more than just how much traffic you get. You want to know about bounce rate (the percentage of visits in which a person leaves your website from the landing page without browsing any further), how much money each is making (not actually getting any sales from your ads or getting a lower conversion rate than organic traffic? That’s a problem!), and more.
Why Should You Create a Custom URL?
Take the example of a sales flyer. If your sales flyer had your usual URL at the bottom, how would you know if anyone used it to find the sales? Was a sales flyer a waste of money?
If everything is tracked in Google Analytics, you won’t be able to differentiate the people that are looking at your sales page from social and those who are looking at your sales page from your sales flyer you printed and mailed out. This is, of course, a problematic business plan because it is never a good idea to blindly throw money at resources without being able to see benefits.
Creating a custom URL allows you to track how many people visit your website after seeing your sales flyer because you can track the custom URL created.
Tracking Custom URLs
The good news is that it’s easy to track custom URLs. You are going to follow a few basics steps:
- Choose a Vanity URL (something that looks nice and is easy to remember. Ex: if your website is http://practicaltangible.com/, add a practical addition like http://practicaltangible.com/EasyURL to the end of the URL).
- Find the page you want this to point to: (www.PracticalTangible.com/super-messy-url-thats-hard-to-remember).
- Tag the link from Step 2 with Google’s URL Tool.
- Redirect the link from Step 3 to point to the link from Step 1.
Create A Vanity URL
Step one is easy. Pick something descriptive and easy to remember. If you are doing multiple versions, make sure they are different. You might do this, for example, when you are running a campaign where various sources will take visitors to the same page.
At our site, abc Window Supply, we created an info page where we wanted people to land. We ran a magazine ad, some web ads, and listed it in our catalog. I want to be able to identify how much traffic I get for each of these, so I make multiple Vanity URLs. These can be whatever we want. However, they need to be easy to remember and to type (keep this in mind for your mobile users).
I might do:
Choose Your Landing Page
Creating effective landing pages is a topic for another post, and is discussed extensively elsewhere. For now, pick the page that people should land on when they type in your Vanity URL. It could be a services page, a prices page, a blog post, or just your home page. Whatever that URL is, copy it for the next step.
Tag The Link In Google URL Builder
Go to Google URL Builder and paste in your link. Next, fill in the pertinent data. You have to fill in campaign source but can optionally fill in additional information. This is handy if you have several different URLs out there.
Example 1: Email Newsletter. If you regularly send out an email newsletter, create a consistent way to tag the links in that email. Campaign Source might be “EmailNewsletter”. Then, you can track each newsletter by giving them a name.
Example 2: Door Hangers. After a residential job is completed, many window cleaners will hang a paper door hanger on the door to let the client know they were there and that the job is done. At the bottom of that door hanger, include custom URL’s that point current customers to refer new clients on your website. By tracking your custom URL’s, you can readily determine which neighborhoods have more prospects and more business.
All of these could have a Campaign Source of “DoorHanger”. We might then change up the Campaign Medium to “JayStreet”, “9thAve”, or “IronStreet”. This will help us track which of these is getting the most traffic and change things to make it as easy as possible for people to locate what they are looking for on our site.
Tip: For this to be most effective, be consistent with how you name things.
It shouldn’t be “newsletter” one week and then “
Once you’ve filled in the Campaign Source and anything else that you want to include, copy the new URL found at the bottom of the page. It’ll be much longer and contains some extra code at the end.
Redirect Your Link
Now, it’s time to point your nice, pretty Vanity URL to the ugly Frankenstein URL that Google gave you. When people type in the Vanity URL, they’ll end up at that longer URL, never knowing what happened. They will be on the page you want, and you’ll know how they got there!
To do this, we’ll create a 301 redirect. Each CMS (content management system; Ex: WordPress and BigCommerce) has a different approach, and their help documentation should describe how to do it. Here’s how I like to do it in WordPress.
Redirecting Links In WordPress
Install a redirection plugin (I use one creatively titled Redirection). Once installed and activated, log into your WordPress control panel and go to Tools > Redirection.
The bottom is where you will create your new redirection.
Enter the long URL that Google generated into the “Target URL” field. Add your vanity URL to the “Source URL” field.
Change the group to “Redirections” and finish by clicking “Add Redirect”.
Track The Visits In Google Analytics
With all of the heavy lifting done, it’s time to track your views and other stats! Log in to Google Analytics and select the site you want to track. In the menu, go to Aquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns. Select the date range you want (don’t go too broad if you are trying to see how something specific went. For example, in the case of the trade show, you might want to start by looking at the week of the show only).
Under the Campaigns column, you’ll see the names of the campaigns that you chose for your links. You’ll be able to see the number of page views you had, your bounce rate, and in the case of e-commerce, your conversion rate (how many users bought compared to how many visited) and how much those users purchased.
If you know how much you spent to get that traffic (a paid web ad for example), this is a quick way to compare how much you paid to how much you made as a direct result.
You can also go to the Source tab, Medium tab, and Source/Medium tab if you filled that data in when tagging your URLs. One reason you’d want to do this is for repeated marketing efforts like an email newsletter. The source for these might always be “emailnewsletter”. On the Campaign tab, you can see how your emails, in general, are doing. If you additionally name each source by the date you send the newsletter, you’ll be able to see how individual newsletters perform.
Creating Custom URL’s and tracking them is an easy way to determine if your marketing efforts are working for you and your business. Being able to determine if your banner, paid ad, email newsletter, or another marketing effort is producing results is a quick way to make your marketing work for you.
Has your business done anything like this? Comment below with thoughts or questions.