All About URL Trackers

URL Trackers

URL trackers, what are they?

If you are doing any kind of online marketing and you want to know what’s going on with your campaigns then this is an important and very useful tool to use.

A URL tracker is a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or if you like, an indirect web link that is used to count the number of times a link is clicked.

Why would you want to do this? Well, let’s say you sent a promotional email to 500 people with a link in it.  Would you like to know how many people clicked that link?  Let’s say 50 people clicked the link.  A little later you send out another email with different copy in it but for the same promotion, let’s say that 100 people click the link this time … which of the 2 emails are you most likely to send out next time?  Clearly the second email appears to be more effective but you would only know that by knowing how many people clicked it.

As a bonus a URL tracker acts as a shortener so if you had this:

http://motors.shop.ebay.com/items/CarsTrucks___W0QQ_flsoZ0QQ_lsbxZ2QQ_makZ-ChevroletQQ_modZCorvetteQQ_sopZ7?_rdc=1?

which is a bit unmanageable, you can shorten it to this:

http://atracker.link/100980

which is much easier to work with!

Trackers are essential for things like solo ads.

How does a URL tracker work?

You need a system for this and fortunately there are plenty out there to choose from.  You may be already using them where they are already built into software you are using such as Google Analytics or aWeber.

Here’s an example:

You have a web site called “www.mystuffforsale.com” and you are going to run several promotional campaigns for it online.  Let’s say you are going to send out emails and run 3 banner ad campaigns.

This is how you might set up your URL trackers:

http://atracker.link/100001 points to www.mystuffforsale.com for the email.

http://atracker.link/100002 points to www.mystuffforsale.com for banner ad 1.
http://atracker.link/100003 points to www.mystuffforsale.com for banner ad 2.
http://atracker.link/100010 points to www.mystuffforsale.com for banner ad 3.

The “http://atracker.link/??????” links are the ones you will use for the email and banner ad campaigns and these will be used to record the number of visits.  When a visitor clicks this link they will go to your “www.mystuffforsale.com” web site via the URL tracking link on the tracking system where it can record the relevant information as your visitor passes through.

When you run the campaigns and will see results similar to this.  You can view them at any time, while the campaign is running and afterwards:

http://atracker.link/100001 – 150 visits / 110 Unique visits

http://atracker.link/100002 – 98 visits / 90 Unique visits
http://atracker.link/100003 – 178 visits / 155 Unique visits
http://atracker.link/100010 – 5 visits / 5 Unique visits

So what does this mean and what are the two figures?  When someone clicks your tracked link the tracking system records the IP address of the visitor which will be unique so the system can record each new visitor that clicks your link and if they click it more than once. Taking the first example above; there were 150 unique visitors but some of them clicked your link more than once which could be good if it means some people are interested enough to look more than once.

Tracker stats

How to use a URL tracker

You can use them anywhere you can place a link. You can place them as a bare link just as you see it:

http://atracker.link/100010

You can place them in HTML or Java script with a text link such as:

Click this text

Or part of a banner:

My Free Internet Marketing Video Course

Or anywhere else such as video’s or menu’s to external links, the list goes on.

Once in place you can keep an eye on the clicks from your URL tracker system.

URL tracker campaigns

You could end up with many URL trackers in the end and you will probably want to start grouping them before you end up with a long list of hundreds of different URL trackers used in a variety of ways.  Depending on your tracking system you can group them.  You might set up groups in different ways, here are a few examples:

Product ABC – Banners

    • http://atracker.link/100010
    • http://atracker.link/100011
    • http://atracker.link/100012
    • ….

Product ABC – Tweet links

    • http://atracker.link/100045
    • ….

Product ABC – Emails

    • http://atracker.link/100051
    • ….

Short campaign for product ZZZ

    • http://atracker.link/100022
    • ….

In the above example for product “ABC” many URL trackers are used so it makes sense to break them up into subcategories.  Product “ZZZ” is only going to have 10 URL trackers so one group will do.

Other things you can do with a URL tracker

There are quite a few other things you can do with a URL tracker.  I’m not going to cover all of them here, I am sure there are more things that people have thought of than I know about but here is a selection of them.

Cloaking URL trackers

This is a feature that allows you to hide the real URL of a destination website.  Let’s say you have this:

http://atracker.link/100010 points to www.bbc.co.uk

Normally when you click “http://atracker.link/100010” you will see “www.bbc.co.uk” when you arrive on the BBC web site. If you cloak it then you will see “http://atracker.link/100010” when you arrive on the BBC web site.

Why cloak a URL? You might want to hide an ugly, long or incongruent link or perhaps if your link is an affiliate link you might want to hide the destination link to try and prevent someone from signing up to something other than through your affiliate URL.

Rotator URL trackers

This is for testing, A/B testing as it’s often termed.  Let’s say you want to test the effectiveness of 3 landing pages used for opt-ins! You might setup a URL tracker for each page and then another link that will rotate around the 3 pages in turn each time the link is clicked, like this

Rotator-for-mypage:

http://atracker.link/100011 points to www.myfirstpage.com
http://atracker.link/100012 points to www.mysecondpage.com
http://atracker.link/100013 points to www.mythirdpage.com

If you received 900 clicks to “Rotator-for-mypage“ each page would get 300 clicks. If the opt-in results looked like this:

http://atracker.link/100011 points to www.myfirstpage.com       – 98 opt-ins
http://atracker.link/100012 points to www.mysecondpage.com – 10 opt-ins
http://atracker.link/100013 points to www.mythirdpage.com      – 77 opt-ins

You might keep the first and third pages as they are doing quite well but number two you would probably want to drop! Personally I think I would probably just keep the first one.

Reports on URL trackers

This brings us to what information you could capture from a tracker:

  • IP Address of click – which can be evaluated to a country and perhaps a region.
  • Date of click
  • Time of click
  • Referrer of click – If available, the referring web site from where the click came from. This might be Google, a banner website, an email server or any other website that had the URL tracker on it.
  • Unique clicks
  • Repeat clicks

There are lots of ways you can display this data and lots if useful information can be gathered such as trending for the most effective dates and times, which countries are your clicks coming from, the best times of year, which URL trackers got the most repeat clicks and so on …

Clixtrac Referrers Chart

Some URL trackers you can use

Here is a selection of URL tracker systems in alphabetical order. There are others out there. I have not checked all of these out.

I use www.clixtrac.com/?aff=8383 which I have used in the examples above. You can register for free to see how it works but to use it effectively you need to subscribe starting at $4.95 a month. There is an affiliate program so get 4 or so affiliates and it is effectively free. I also use this one because this URL tracking system seems well liked and so far no links have ever been rejected by anybody or any system.  The number of URL trackers you can use is unlimited.

There will be other URL tracker systems that are more or are less comprehensive than Clixtrac and some maybe slicker as well, some maybe better but this is the only paid one I can recommend from experience.

For free, http://goo.gl seems good. It’s basic but as it’s a Google service you can expect it to work well.

I have commented as I can about some of these:

URL Tracking for WordPress

  • Pretty Link Lite – Free URL tracker WP plugin (you can donate if you want to)
  • Pretty Link Pro – Paid version of Pretty Link with extra options and training (one time payment)
  • Go Codes        – A free older plugin for WordPress with basic stats.

Stuart

Thanks for reading this far.
www.stuartchalmers.com

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All About URL Trackers

4 comments

  1. Great post, thank you for the information, Stuart.
    I suppose you can add a couple of WP plugins there, too:
    GoCodes and Pretty Link, which also give you basic tracking stats and let you mail out with your own URL.
    GoCodes sets an additional element into the link:
    /go/ where you can replace “go” with whatever you like,
    Pretty Link does not even have the additional term, which makes it … errrr. prettier.
    GoCodes and Pretty Link lite are free, Pretty Link Pro costs but has more powerful stats.

    Max

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