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Friday, March 7, 2008

Click tracking - software and tips

Click tracking - software and tips

Click tracking is an important part of measuring your marketing efforts. Many site owners and marketers throw money at online advertising in a variety of directions and never really understand where the consequent sales and traffic are generated from - and the advertising with the best conversion rates. It's not just the money spent in advertising; effective click tracking can also help you in refining your site sales pages by showing you what's working and what isn't.

In this article, we'll look at free ways you can track where your clicks are originating and sales conversions, and also click tracking software you can use to more accurately measure clicks - and save time in doing so. Click tracking software is also a very useful tool for affiliate marketers - it can help lessen sales leaks, therefore boosting commissions in the various programs you participate in.

Appending links

One of the simplest methods for tracking clicks is to append links you use in your advertising like so:


Append the ?987 to your own site home page address, or any other page for that matter; in your browser and hit enter. The ?987 will be recorded in your server logs, which you can then search for instances of. Learn more about studying server logs. If you use a web site traffic statistics program or service, depending on the included features, you may also be able to track the results there.

Custom landing pages and order complete pages

A more focused click tracking strategy that will also allow you to optimize conversions from clicks to sales is to use a custom landing page. Using a copy of your main sales page, simply save it under another name; e.g flombles-a.htm and then direct traffic from an advertising campaign to that URL. You can then monitor your server logs or web traffic stats for results, or for a quick tally of how many people have hit that page, add a simple visible counter.

To track conversions from click to sales, depending on the type of shopping cart software you are using, you can then create a custom order confirmation page - i.e. the page that is displayed once the transaction is complete. This is very easy to do if you're using a payment processing service such as PayPal.

The other great thing about using custom landing pages is that you can tweak them "on the fly". It's well known that each search engine and each web site has a particular type of user (age, interests etc.), and they'll all have different triggers leading them to purchase. Learn more about creating landing pages.

Server log analysis

As mentioned earlier, server logs can provide a treasure trove of information about your web site visitors. Manual log analysis, while time consuming, can provide very valuable data where traffic comes from and what people do once they hit your site.

Even if you don't use specialized click tracking methods, by occasionally downloading your server logs and studying the contents, you'll be able to run searches on referrers and by searching on IP numbers (the unique address of each visitors computer while on the web), to track what a visitor does once they arrive on your site.

A server log is just a text file, with a single line entry for each page and image that is requested from your site, along with information about the computer requesting that information. Most web hosts do provide access to server logs, so if you're not sure where yours is; ask your host. Even if your log file has a weird file name extension, you'll find that when opening it up in an application such as Notepad, you'll be able to read it. For a more detailed discussion on logs, view our guide to server log analysis.

Vendor/ad network tools

If you're engaged in PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, most of the top PPC companies will provide quite powerful tools - not just for tracking clicks, but conversions. Click conversion tracking is usually quite simple to implement. You add a snippet of code provided by the company to your "order complete" page. The PPC service then compares the origin of the click, to the originating IP of the sale and can provide you with a conversion rate. For example, if 100 clicks produces 5 sales, then your conversion rate for that campaign is 5%.

Click tracking software

The above click tracking strategies can help you to monitor performance of campaigns if you can't afford to fork out the cash for specialized tracking software, although they all have their drawbacks - time, accuracy or control. If you're really serious about monitoring performance of your ad campaigns, then it is definitely worth considering a specialized software package that runs on your own server. There's a plethora of choices out there, but many only do half the job.

One click tracking package definitely worth reviewing is Track Point. Features include:

* Search engine friendly!
* No limits - you own the software.
* Use for PPC, email marketing, site links and affiliate links
* Short link generation
* View sales conversion rates and COA (cost of acquisition)
* Supports multiple users with separate accounts
* Shopping cart friendly - use with any ecommerce software
* Easy to use with custom landing pages
* Comprehensive, printer friendly reports that can be generated for specific dates
* CSV format export - compatible with Excel and most other spreadsheet applications
* Easy to install (or take advantage of the free installation service)
* Supports multiple languages
* Cross browser compatible
* Compatible with MySQL or PostgreSQL databases
* Use for multiple web sites.
* Easy co-branding options
* Extensive, easy to understand documentation
* 6 months of free support
* 6 months of free updates
* Money back guarantee

Track Point provides data on which search engines and keywords your visitors used in their queries before they landed on your site.

Track Point also provide a functioning online demo so you can really put it through its paces first before making a purchase decision.

With increasing, sometime brutal, competition, not to mention rising prices in online advertising, it's crucial that you implement some sort of click tracking strategy - after all, "if it can't be measured, it can't be managed".
Related learning resources

PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising guide

Server log analysis - studying web traffic

Creating effective landing pages

Web site traffic statistics - free services

Merchant accounts and payment processing services


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