Link tracking is pretty much vital for independent affiliates, so today I’m going to give you a quick look at how I track almost everything on my blog. I’m no expert on anything really, however when it comes to “what’s going on” with my blog and my external promotions, I have a a couple of convenient methods for checking things out. Folks much brighter than I have written books (literally) about tracking user behavior in sales funnels, so if you really want to dive in, give Google a go. Otherwise, if you’re keen on a simplified look at how I track, read on!
Intro | Setting the Stage for Tracking
Before I ended up with my current configuration, I tried a lot of different services – and logic – when tracking different advertising efforts. From here-now-then-not “link shrinkers” in my early days, to hyper-detailed analytics of late, I’ve always wanted to know what worked – and what didn’t. After plenty of years of trial and error, I finally figured out that my comfort zone for tracking involved splitting things up a bit. These days, when I look at tracking, I divide it up four ways:
- Incoming Traffic – the landing & activity of visitors as they browse posts, pages, and generally move about within my website.
- Internal Affiliate Links – the referral url’s for various affiliate programs & services I recommend and/or promote
- External Campaigns – all of the splashing, squeezing, and rotating I do out in traffic exchange & listbuilder world
- Analytics & Reach – how my website performs overall, including scores of aggregate data to further understand my audience
I use a specific tool for each of the tracking perspectives outlined above. Although I’ve tried at times to do all my tracking with an “all in one” solution, the perfect solution has never quite popped up. Maybe one day…
Tracking | The Tools I Use
Although four may seem like a big number for tracking tools, it works for me. Read on to see how I use each of my tracking options in specific ways.
Incoming Traffic to my blog is generally assessed using site stats made available via the free Jetpack Plugin for WordPress. Views per page/post, referring traffic sources, clicks on outbound links, and some keyword information (for visitors arriving via search engines) is quickly accessible via my WordPress dashboard. This gives me a concise look at the day’s activity, and is great for comparing one day to the next.
Here’s a screenshot of the Jetpack stats for you. I know, I need to be more active!
Internal Affiliate Links (that users follow outbound) are tracked using the Pretty Link Pro plugin for WordPress. I utilize the option of a custom domain, thus my affiliate links look like http://dormdough.com/go/prettylinkpro when you hover over them. Of course, substituting http://kurthilliard.com/go/prettylinkpro works too – neat, eh? The big advantages of PLP for me are threefold: tracking individual user’s history of clicking my outbound links, “global” control for all of my affiliate links on my blog from one panel in my dashboard, and well, they’re prettier than most raw affiliate links! Note that a free “lite” version of PLP is also available. Find it by searching available plugins in your WP dashboard. For the pros, please use my pretty affiliate link above. 🙂
External Campaigns (me promoting me or something else somewhere else) are tracked using Trck.me from the folks over at TimTech. Although I might one day change, for now the convenience of the control panel, referring stats, and the number of “legacy” ads I have laying around online keep me a faithful user of this service. Oh – let me not forget the banner rotator – perhaps the best convenience of all. As a general rule, I only add my rotators (website and banner) to any advertising rotation in traffic exchanges, and then vary what I display from my Trck.me control panel. Additionally, I use specific trackers for mailing campaigns.
Check out the traffic stats panel for a website rotator using the Trck.me service.
Yes, I track click conversions using Pretty Link, not Trck.me conversion tracking (thus the zeroes!)
Analytics & Reach are measured using – you guessed it – Google Analytics. This powerful platform is considered a must by most, and you can count me among that crowd. Live activity, source, demographics, the all-too-feared bounce rate, and dozens of additional metrics are available. For WordPress users, premium themes like Sahifa (run on this blog) make integrating GA easy, otherwise check out the WP Plugin Repository in your dashboard for a free plugin to do the trick. Since I don’t use an extra plugin for this, I won’t recommend a free plugin specifically. Many of the GA metrics are available for anyone’s review on most sites – why not “google” to learn more!
Conclusion | Is Tracking Everything Worth the Effort?
Short answer? You betcha.
Tracking provides you a look at how your audience interacts with your website, what’s popular (and not), and can even lead you to problems long before you know you have them. Running an ad campaign that should be landing thousands of visitors on a landing page – but isn’t? Check your rotator. See a weird outbound click on your blog stats? Run a security check. The list goes on – tracking activity is certainly an integral part of a smart marketing approach.
Speaking of marketing – you already know you don’t need me to tell you (but I will) that tracking any external campaign or internal sales funnel is more than smart, it’s crucial. Even if you’ve never been into stats, you should be. For an easy way to get started, grab the free Jetpack for your WP blog and activate the stats. Tell your friends to pop in for a visit, then see what kind of activity shows up in your dashboard.
Have fun – happy tracking!