If you’re working in digital marketing, you probably already know and appreciate the value of actionable data about your visitors and about how they interact with your content.
A recent eConsultancy report cites research from the MIT Sloan School of Management stating that “66% of companies using analytics say that it is delivering competitive advantage. Clearly, this is evidence that it is a process worth pursuing for most brands wishing to stand out. The most important finding from the research was that there is indeed a real desire to manage data and analytics better. The advantages of doing data well are beginning to be seen across any number of industry case studies where conversion rates are demonstrably rising, customer engagement is improving and companies are finding other benefits such as diminished cost to serve.”
While there are myriad tools and dashboards available for tracking incremental data, one of the simplest and most overlooked is the humble Google URL Builder.
In this post, we’ll make a case for using coded URLs in your digital marketing campaigns. In next week’s follow up post, we’ll explain how to build, implement and track these URLs and campaigns for actionable results.
What is the Google URL Builder?
Google URL Builder allows you to track traffic on URLs using campaign (UTM) tracking codes added at the end of a URL. For example,
will take you to a post on SMX Israel. By adding UTM codes to the URL like this,
we can share this link on our Facebook page and see specific data on how this link was shared and how visitors who arrived via this link interacted with our website, as opposed to Facebook traffic to the post at large. Everything added after the “?” in this link is a component of the tracking code itself and does not affect which page on the site is visited.
And to clean things up for sharing, we can shrink this link using a URL shortener without losing our tracking information.
Why should we use it?
Using specific tracking codes offers three major advantages:
- To clarify where marketing wins originated – online or offline
Tracking codes allow you to differentiate between various marketing methods to determine which is most effective. While Google Analytics may lump all your email newsletters together, using UTM codes allows you to gauge which mailings resulted in conversions onsite. This is true even for URLs printed in offline promotions, which usually get counted as the very vague “direct traffic.”
- To determine what “direct traffic” means
Google Analytics tracks all visits to the site from users who bookmark your URLs or type in your URL directly as “direct traffic.” To get a better peek at how users are reaching you, use UTM tracking codes to segment Google Analytics’ “direct traffic” conglomerate into specific campaigns with their own performance metrics.
- To separate paid promotion from organic traffic
Without specific tracking codes applied to the URLs, Google Analytics will see all visits from a single site as referral traffic from the same source. Using unique trackable URLs helps you to determine if referral traffic from a site came from paid advertising or organic links occurring within a site’s content. This is particularly useful where social ads are deployed – such as on Facebook or LinkedIn – as it allows you to see how organic content consumers’ behavior differed from those paid advertising clicks.
How is this different from Google Analytics?
Google URL Builder and UTM tracking codes work in conjunction with the Google Analytics already installed for your website.
After your shared content has some time to pick up steam, log in to your GA account to see specifics on the data. Under Acquisition, skip down to the Campaigns tab for specifics on how users found your site.
Under Campaigns you’ll see a list of all Campaign names that generated traffic during the time frame you’ve selected in GA. The campaign name correlates to the campaign name you provided in Google URL Builder.
When you click through to a specific campaign, you’ll see how the traffic is divided among Source/Medium for the campaign. The source is the UTM source you provided when building the link, the Medium is the UTM medium you provided.
Campaign name, source and medium are the three parameters required by the Google URL Builder.
As you can see above, the trackable URLs allow you to see how visitors who clicked a specific URL performed once they reached the website. This is especially useful for traffic from social media sites, as traffic generated by links shared on the network as a whole may perform very differently than traffic from users who clicked the link you shared on your own social media profiles. By looking at campaigns, we can limit the traffic stats to users who clicked the link you shared, and thereby analyze the performance of your digital marketing efforts and draw airtight conclusions about return on investment for those efforts.Trackable URLs allow you to see how visitors who clicked a specific URL performed onsite Click To Tweet
Next week: We’ll show you how to construct and shorten links (whether a few or a few hundred) and some great ideas for what and when to track using UTM-coded URLs.