Of the very many things that it’s possible to provide webstats reports about, such as tracking visitors arriving from organisational wbsites, one of the most useful is being able to track how much traffic has been driven back to your website from a particular link – such as a link included in a particular tweet, or in a particular email announcement, and so on.
If a link to a JISCPress document appears on a third party webpage, and somebody clicks on that link and then lands on the corresponding JISCPress page, Google Analytics will capture where that incoming visitor cam from via the Referring Sites report. At the top level this is organised by domain:
We can then tunnel down to the page level:
This is all well and good, but sometime we also might want to know where the person who posted the referring link on their web page got hold of it. Did they capture it from a tweet, for example, or via an email list? When we releas a URI into the wild via some sort of marketing campaign, what sort of life does that URI have, and where will it end up sending traffic back from?
In the Googe Analytics FAQ answer How do I tag my links?, a method is described for adding additional tags to a referral URL (that is, a URL that you publish and/or distribute more widely that refers back to your website) that Google Analytics can use to segment traffic referred from that URL. Five tags are available (as described in Understanding campaign variables: The five dimensions of campaign tracking):
Source: Every referral to a web site has an origin, or source. Examples of sources are the Google search engine, the AOL search engine, the name of a newsletter, or the name of a referring web site.
Medium: The medium helps to qualify the source; together, the source and medium provide specific information about the origin of a referral. For example, in the case of a Google search engine source, the medium might be “cost-per-click”, indicating a sponsored link for which the advertiser paid, or “organic”, indicating a link in the unpaid search engine results. In the case of a newsletter source, examples of medium include “email” and “print”.
Term: The term or keyword is the word or phrase that a user types into a search engine.
Content: The content dimension describes the version of an advertisement on which a visitor clicked. It is used in content-targeted advertising and Content (A/B) Testing to determine which version of an advertisement is most effective at attracting profitable leads.
Campaign: The campaign dimension differentiates product promotions such as “Spring Ski Sale” or slogan campaigns such as “Get Fit For Summer”.
(For an alternative description, see Google Analytics Campaign Tracking Pt. 1: Link Tagging.)
The recommendation is that campaign source, campaign medium, and campaign name should always be used.
Elsewhere, (Library Analytics (Part 7), from which elements of this post have been taken), I considered how these codes might be used to track course referrals to Library resources from a VLE (something I need to revisit, now I’ve had a little more time to consider the possible role(s) of these tracking codes). But it also seems to me to be reasonable to raise a few questions about how we might use these tracking codes in the context of a document on JISCPress or WriteToReply in order to track referrals back to the site from social media campaigns highlighting a particular document or section of a document.
So, what are sensible mappings/interpretations for the campaign variables? Remember, these tracking variables are parameters that we might add to a link that we have posted somewherethat is intended to drive traffic back to the site. The tracking variables are there to allow us to see how different links are performing. Thinking about how we might use these five tracking dimensions, whether or not we use them in the “intended” Google Analytics way, may also provide us with some ideas about how to use links to drive traffic back to our site.
To try and ground the exercise, consider this example: a new document is published on JISCPress and we want to compare how well links posted on Facebook compare with links posted on Twitter for driving traffic back. For tracking to be most effective, we hope that if a link is rebroadcast or shared, the tracking variables are carried along with it. This means that if a link is posted to Twitter, that gets shared onto Facebook and onto a blog, we can look at the traffic that comes back, and from where (via the Referral tracking described at the start of this post), for each of the separately released URIs. A second example might relate to a campaign intended to drive traffic back to a particular section or paragraph of a document. This campaign might involve publishing a link back to the same paragraph in a series of separate posts or status updates, each with a different slug or call to action message. That is, each link+message may be published in the same place (and hence have the same referrer information), but at different times and with different link text, or contextual information. A third example might be where there is more than on link back to the same document on a web page, and we want to track how effective each link is compared to the others?
Here are the supported variables again:
- source: the obvious thing to use this variable for is the domain or URI of the page where the link is published to. So if we tweet a link, twitter.com might be sensible. If we blog it, actually might be best?
- medium: this is intended to refer to the sort of link that has generated the traffic, such as a banner ad. In our case, we might clarify the intent with which the link was posted, such as announcement, or question;
- term: this is an optional parameter, and I’m not sure how it should be used or whether it conflicts with other Google services. If we post something with a hashtag on twitter, or a st of tags on delicious, might we use those tags are terms?
- content The second optional variable, this is often usd to discern A/B test ads. If we tweet the same link with different call to action/prompting questions, maybe this differential content should be uniquely identified with the content field?
- campaign: typically used for tracking a promotion or campaign, this field might be used to identify a different document when, for example, a link to the top level JISCPress is referred to in a announcement about a particular document?
So for example, we might have something like:
appearing as the link for WriteToReply in an announcment about the hosting of the UK Government URI Sets document.
Or maybe a call to action on twitter relating to a particular part of a document:
What benefits would you like to see from #JISCRI calls? http://writetoreply.org/jiscri/2009/03/11/rapid-innovation-projects/#3?utm_campaign=jiscri &utm_medium=question&term=JISCRI&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_content=slug3
To support the generation of tracking URIs, a URL Generator Tool (like the official Tool: URL Builder) that will accept a tweet, for example, along with a JISCPress/WriteToReply URL and then automatically create tracking variable values might be worth considering?