Data Science

Tracking URL: What It Is and How It Works

By Héctor Borrás, on 12 October 2021

URL tracking is the process of adding unique identifiers to your URLs. A URL Tracker can help you measure the impact of your digital marketing campaigns on leads, sales, and overall business growth. You can use gathered analytics to establish which campaigns work well, the content types that people respond to the most, and whether you are getting a ROI from your social content. This can be an incredibly useful tool for marketers in both big and small businesses. 

Here, we will discuss what a tracking URL is and how it works. We will also share a step-by-step guide to help you create your own tracking URLs and gather valuable analytics to help boost the performance of your campaigns. 

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Tracking URL What It Is and How It Works

 

What Is a Tracking URL?

A tracking URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a standard link that has had parameters attached to it for the purpose of tracking and analytics. These parameters enable URL traffic to be properly analyzed so that content can be adjusted in order to encourage engagement and increase visits and conversions.

Essentially, a URL tracker is a marketing tool that can help you monitor the impact of your campaigns by analyzing how certain links are performing. By adding a unique identifier to a website or landing page URL, you can measure valuable data through platforms like Google Analytics. This can include page views per visit, impressions, average time on site, conversions, clicks, click-through rates, % new visitors, and bounce rate. These stats can help you understand how your content is being received by your audience so that you can optimize it accordingly.

 

How Does a Tracking URL Work?

A tracking URL is created by adding certain unique parameters and attaching a digital tracking code to a destination URL that tracks user activity. 

Activity that can be tracked includes:

  • Clicks
  • Page views
  • Impressions
  • Average time on site
  • Conversions
  • Clicks
  • Click-through rates
  • New visitors
  • Bounce rates

When you track a URL, before a site visitor reaches the destination page they wish to access, they are temporarily redirected so that data like which site the user is coming from, or where they are located, can be collected. This enables data to be gathered and analyzed.

A URL tracker can be shared through any online platform, including ads, social media posts, email marketing campaigns, blog posts and newsletters. 

 

Types of URL Tracking

Let’s take a look at a few of the most common types of URL trackers, which can help you track the performance of your website or landing page links. 

Auto-Tagging

If you used Google Analytics for your URL tracking, then the easiest way to manage this is to enable auto-tagging. Auto-tagging attaches a 'Google Click Identifier' (GCLID) parameter to your URL so that you can identify which ad was clicked for each visit to your site.

This basically means that all your Google Ad campaigns are automatically tracked, so you don’t need to configure each URL manually. However, you’ll still need to tag your non-Google Ads paid ad links. The other downside is that auto-tagging is not compatible with all URLs and certain parameters cannot be configured. Nevertheless, it’s a great place to start if you are new to tracking URL tools.

Manual Tagging for Google Analytics

The next step up in the world of URL tracker tools is manual tagging for Google Analytics, which overrides the auto-tagging feature we just discussed. 

This is when you use the Google Analytics URL Builder to generate tags for your links. The tool allows you to easily add campaign parameters to URLs so you can measure campaigns in Google Analytics. 

Manual tagging can provide data for the following dimensions: Campaign Source, Medium, Content, Keyword. Campaign Source is typically going to be the search engine (Google, Bing, etc), and Campaign Medium defines the type of advertising (PPC, email, etc). Additional parameters can be used to further identify your ads.

Manual Tagging for Backend Systems

The third commonly used type of URL tracking tool is manual tagging for backend systems. This type of URL tracking relies on ValueTrack parameters to record certain details about a URL by replacing dynamic parameters with a value that is based on the details of the ad when it was clicked.

For example, the parameter {matchtype} indicates the match type of the keyword that triggered your ad. When you view your data, instead of seeing {matchtype}, ValueTrack records the value "b" for broad match, "p" for phrase match, or "e" for exact match. You can then view data through Google Analytics or any other site-analytics software.

 

How to Create Tracking URLs

The easiest way to create a URL tracker is by using a URL generator.

Now let's look at how the Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder can be used to generate a tracking URL.

Access URL Builder

Step 1: Select the URL you want to track. This might be a link to a website, ad or landing page. 

Step 2: Access the site for your URL builder of choice (in this case, the Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder).

The website will ask you to complete a series of fields to configure your Campaign Parameters.

Step 3: Insert your chosen URL tracker into the space for ‘Website URL’.

Step 4: Complete fields for other parameters, including ‘Content Source’, ‘Content Medium’, and ‘Content Name’. 

Step 5: Once you confirm all these parameters, the Google URL Builder will generate a Campaign URL at the bottom of the page. Copy this tracking address and paste it in the area assigned to codes within your email newsletter, blog posts, or social media campaigns.

Then sit back and wait for your results to start coming in!

Analyze Results in Google Analytics

Once your tracking URL has been publicly available for a day or so, you can start monitoring your campaign data through Google Analytics.

  • Log in to your Google Analytics account and click on ‘Acquisition’. 
  • Select ‘Campaigns’ from the dropdown menu. 
  • Select ‘All Campaigns within Google Analytics’. 

You will now have access to all tracked analytics. This data can then be used to make adjustments to your content so that you can increase your site traffic and conversions.

 

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Héctor Borrás

Key Account Manager Engineer at Cyberclick