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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 and services are also very useful tools for affiliate marketers - it can help lessen sales leaks, therefore boosting commissions in the various programs you participate in.

Adwatcher click tracking
Free Click Tracking Trial

AdWatcher provides click tracking services to help ensure all your promotions are as profitable as they can be. Spend less time while making more money - try a free trial!

Appending links

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

http://www.yoursite.com?987   

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%. Some services will also provide reports on the revenue associated with each sale. However, you may also want an external monitoring source.

Click tracking software

If you're looking for locally hosted software with a decent array of features; i.e. software you install on your web site; that can be a challenge. In recent years, these packages have been hard to find, why this is I'm not sure.

What I suggest you do is utilize affiliate tracking software as really, what you're wanting to achieve is pretty much the same - see where your traffic is coming from and what sales that traffic is producing and sometimes how much it's costing you. That's exactly what affiliate tracking software does :). In your application though, you'll be the administrator and the affiliate so to speak; or you can view the sites and campaigns you set up as being the affiliates - it's basically the same thing.

Recommended affiliate management software 
Used and recommended by Michael - Post Affiliate Pro.
Amazing range of features, economically priced, quick and easy to implement!
Read my review

The great thing about using affiliate software in such a manner is that if you should decide in future to run an affiliate program of your own; you'll have the software already set up and ready to go! Learn more about affiliate tracking and management software.

Click tracking - third party services

If setting up and maintaining locally hosted clicking and tracking software isn't your cup of tea; consider using a third party service that will monitor clicks for you. With these services, you basically just add a few details, link code is then generated which then will track clicks and/or actions. The service provider takes care of the rest in maintaining, upgrading and securing the application, leaving you more time to focus on core activities.

A well established service is AdWatcher, which allows you to track any link at all - email campaigns, PPC, banner ads etc. You can try a free trial here. Some of AdWatcher's features:

  • Detect potentially fraudulent PPC activity.
  • Identify and block suspicious IP addresses and poor quality sites.
  • Identify high and low performing keywords.
  • Find the best and worst performing campaigns.
  • Track visitors, sales and leads generated by each ad.
  • Test multiple landing pages and ads simultaneously (split testing).
  • Work with any PPC search engine, banner ads, text links, email ads, or other types of ads.
  • Detailed reports of overall ad performance and drill-down statistics.
  • Ad campaigns report archiving
  • Automatic email or SMS reports. 

Click tracking free trial
FREE TRIAL!

Try out AdWatcher, a well established click tracking service today - 30 day free trial!

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

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources
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