Today’s blog post is not for the analytics beginner. We’re going to geek out a little and delve deeper into advanced analytical tactics. If you are new to analytics or don’t know a lot, here’s a better read for today: Introduction to Analytics.

Links aren’t as important to Google as they once were, but they still have value. They are still an indication of what the internet thinks of your website and specific pieces of content. They can also help you figure out which advertising or social media program is really driving people to your website. If you want to know which pieces of awesome new content your readers are enjoying and sharing or how they are moving through your website, you need to track and measure clicks and links.

I know- I’m giving you one more thing you need to measure and track, but don’t worry, the Google Campaign URL Builder is here to save the day by giving you deeper insight into how well each and every one of your marketing messages is performing.

Install Google Analytics

Before you can track what visitors do when they visit your website, you MUST install Google Analytics to search for traffic coming into your website using the custom trackable links you are going to set up. If you don’t have Google Analytics installed, stop reading this post. Go to my article on how to set up your account. You have to walk before you can run. Then come back and we will talk about campaigns.starting-link

Pick Content to Track

The point of this exercise is to measure how effectively your content is pulling new visitors and potential customers into your website. Start with a topic which your audience has already shown interest in. This could be a new post in a series or a summary of a number of articles on the same topic.

Ideally this post or page should link naturally to one of your downloads, surveys or other conversion forms so you can track a visitor all the way through your website.

The URL for this page is the destination you will be sharing all over the web, from social media sites, newsletters, and other blogs to paid advertising. This address (and not your home page URL) is the address you will paste in step one of the form where it asks for the website URL.

Determine Your Parameters

Your URL tracking strategy starts with parameters: the source, medium and campaign name. The elements categorize specific parts of each unique URL so that as you make minor variations, you will be able to look for trends and refine your strategy over time.form-2

Source – This parameter simply denotes where the  link originated from. Do links on Facebook do better or worse than ones on Twitter? Does anyone even click on links from G+? One of the first things you need to decide is how you will name your source. Will it be “facebook” or “FB”? It doesn’t matter so long as you use this structure consistently over time. This way, you’ll be able to search for all links with the Source FB or G+ or NL for newsletter as needed.

Medium – People often get this parameter confused with “source” when building trackable URL campaigns. The “medium” is a broader category. It is the “mode of transportation” for the link. While the source of your new link was Facebook or G+, the medium or mode of the link could be “social_media.” If you want to compare links in 2 different newsletters, the sources might be NL1 and NL2 but the medium is email.

Campaign Name – This parameter is used to group together all of your trackable links that pertain to one product, service or marketing initiative. For instance, all links relating to your “Winter Beans Promotion 2014” campaigns should be labeled as such in this field. This makes it way easier for you to compare each link in an overall campaign and see which types of messages worked best for you.

To keep all of this straight, you need to set naming conventions on the front end. You probably should record all this information in a spread sheet to save time as you build each individual link in the URL building tool below.

Got all the details filled out? Hit submit and the Google URL Builder will add special tags to the end of a typical URL. The URL will be long and really ugly looking, but it will come out analytically beautiful. You should copy the new link into your master spreadsheet so you remember the parameters you set.

Publish to the Web

You’ve got a shiny new link, ready to be clicked and provide awesome data on who’s coming into your website. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and publish it. Google Analytics may take up to 24 hours to start giving you feedback on your trackable link, but it usually kicks in much sooner than that.

Report, adjust, repeat

Once you’ve given your link a bit of time to marinate, it’s time to check-in on the results of your campaign and see just how effective your link has been at bringing new traffic to your site.

Remember those parameters we used to define the different parts of your strategy a link was tied to? Now we get to use those terms to suss out exactly which external links moved the most visitors to our content. Here’s what the parameters look like in the “Campaigns” section of Google Analytics under the “Acquisition” tab:

web campaign analytics

From here, you can start at the highest level and see how all your links within one campaign performed. You can then get more specific and determine the details of your traffic, such as if social media sent more people to your content versus email. You can even go one step further to determine if Facebook sent more visitors your way than LinkedIn.

Hopefully, this gives you a powerful way to successfully track your marketing campaigns. Once you’re comfortable with trackable links, you can explore the best features of Google Analytics like conversion codes and behavior analysis triggers. The Google URL Builder tool is just the tip of the analytics iceberg.

Want to learn more about building effective campaigns and applying trackable URLs to advertising? Check out our Online Advertising Whitepaper to start learning today: