Are You Tracking Your URLs?

For many brands, use of Tracking URLs (also known as UTM Parameters) has become the norm. Individuals and companies use them to track email marketing, Paid Search campaigns, press releases, and even blog posts.

 

Used strategically, Tracking URLs can not only provide essential campaign data, they can also allow you to turn that data into decision-making results for yourself and your clients. The data Tracking URLs could potentially provide include:

  • Sources that drive the most traffic
  • Differences in the number of clicks among ads
  • The format of the source (Banner, link, post)

There tends to be some confusion when it comes to tracking URLs so let’s start at the beginning. It’s not as intimidating as you may think!

What is a tracking URL?

A Tracking URL is simply a website address (URL) that’s been supplemented with parameters to reveal information through Google Analytics. Without Tracking URLs, it would be very difficult to understand points of entrance to your website. For example, if you see 1,000 visitors to domain.com/blog, there’s no deeper understanding of how that traffic is coming to your site. Adding parameters makes it easier to gauge the performance of various mediums, sources, and messaging, which is especially necessary for managing a Paid Search campaign. A Tracking URL leads visitors to the same page as the normal URL, but Google Analytics works in the background to capture the unique campaign data that’s attached to the URL. That being said, in order for Tracking URLs to provide any meaningful data, it is essential that Google Analytics be installed properly across every page of your website.

How do you make one?

Believe it or not, it’s pretty simple to create and use a Tracking URL. There are several tools available, but the one we commonly use is the Google URL Builder.

 

Say I wrote the best blog post ever and wanted to drive visitors to my post through a Paid Search campaign. Because Iam spending money, I need to evaluate ROI at the end of the campaign by creating Tracking URLs that allow me to see where readers come from before reading my blog. To do that, I will add information to the fields Google has displayed, including “source,” “medium,” and “campaign.”

 

The end result is this:

http://domain.com/blog/?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=PPC&utm_campaign=BlogEducation

  • The “Source” parameter is used to identify the last place visited before a person reached your website. I have set my source field to “Google” since visitors will be coming from a Google search, but other example sources could include “November-Newsletter” or “Twitter.” /blog/url-tracking?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=PPC&utm_campaign=BlogEducation
  • “Medium” identifies the way in which the visitor arrived at that source. In our example, they clicked on a paid search ad, which is why our medium is set to “PPC”: /blog/url-tracking?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=PPC&utm_campaign=BlogEducation
  • The “Campaign” parameter is used to identify different campaigns and/or marketing tactics used to drive traffic to your site. In our example, my campaign is called BlogEducation: http://domain.com/blog/url-tracking?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=PPC&utm_campaign=BlogEducation

Note: Notice the way the campaign is labeled “BlogEducation.” This is deliberate. First of all, there cannot be any spaces in a URL. Second, Google Analytics is case sensitive. These are important to remember when creating Tracking URLs. However, you label the parameters in your URL is exactly what will appear in Google Analytics. To see the traffic to my site from this blog post, I would look under Acquisition > Campaigns, then search for the name of the campaign in the search bar.

 

Make sure to adopt a standard naming convention, as it will help with analyzing data. If you do any importing, exporting, sorting, or filtering of data in spreadsheets, you will quickly learn what misspellings can do to the amount of time it takes to sift through it all. If I wanted to look back at my PPC campaign and see the results, I can search for “BlogEducation.” However, if I happen to misspell it or use all lowercase, “blogeducation,” it will appear as if I have two separate campaigns. I would then have to manually merge the data to get a clear picture of my campaign results. I recommend keeping an organized spreadsheet of all tracking URLs. This makes it easy to look back and find any errors. It also provides a point of reference for all tracking efforts and will help to maintain uniformity. Even when sharing content through social media, you can assemble a library of Tracking URLs that should be used according to the post and social media website.

Conclusion

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of Tracking URLs. For most beginners, the best way to understand the value is to start building trackable URLs and see the data populate over time in Google Analytics. There are plenty of great resources out on the web regarding this topic. Google support can provide answers to most questions regarding analytics. Finally, Google Chrome has a URL Builder extension you can add onto your browser, making URL building a piece of cake.

Ecommerce PPC Success: Low Cost Per Click, High ROI

We want to share how a client saw positive results quickly, and what steps Evolve took to make it happen.

When we first talked to VetRxDirect, a national online pet pharmacy, we discovered the site had been experiencing a harmful drop in traffic due to Google’s Panda update. This notorious change to its algorithm allowed Google to fight against promoting alow quality websites in search results. The change was especially hard for ecommerce websites, which often unintentionally experience duplicate content or thin pages.

Optimize

 

Since the decrease in organic traffic, VetRxDirect had been relying on paid search for much of its inbound visitors, but as any business knows, paid search can quickly devour a marketing budget, especially if it is not optimized.

Understanding Our Client’s Goals

The most important objectives were to remedy the drop in traffic (and revenue) from the Panda update and to better understand visitor behavior. Our client was also skeptical of Evolve’s ability to decrease the cost per click (CPC) for the paid search ads.

Developing a Strategy to Meet Goals

As a Google Partner agency, Evolve has a strong track record of driving revenue through paid search. Our experts build flawless campaigns that target the right customers and drive to strategic landing pages. In the case of VetRxDirect, we were able to quickly find and eliminate waste in paid search efforts. Refining the campaigns with up-to-date keyword research allowed our PPC team to lower the cost per click and optimize the cost per conversion.

 

An efficient paid search campaign does more than drive leads and revenue; it also provides visitor behavior insight that can be applied to organic efforts. We explained to our client that paid search improvements would deliver a clearer understanding of the needs and online patterns of its primary customer.

Research from the Online Market Audit delivers critical insight regarding the online opportunity for VetRxDirect to make cost-effective decisions online, including:

  • Online investment
  • Acquisition
  • Strategy
  • Continued growth

Strategy Implemented

As mentioned, Evolve’s paid search team fulfilled paid search campaign improvements, which consisted of keyword research, positive/negative keyword expansion and enhanced messaging. The result was a lowered cost per click and a higher conversion rate.

 

We are still preparing an Online Market Audit for this client, but the initial success in paid search is already exceeding online lead generation goals. We are confident that the results from the existing campaigns foretell success for VetRxDirectas future organic traffic and revenue.

To learn how your organization can benefit from the services Evolve provides, fill out the form below or call us at 1-844-Go-Evolve.

And if you are in need of medication for your pet, we know a guy.

Browse additional case studies

Learn how we set a record for a client in paid search

 

Higher Education Marketing Keyword Research

At Evolve Digital Labs we pride ourselves on keyword research. It’s a critical component of SEO audits and a benefit for brands to make sure they are targeting the correct audience. Keyword research is the foundation for implementing successful paid search campaigns and bolstering website content which drives conversions.

Advantages for Higher Education

The advantages of thoughtful and efficient keyword research for Higher Education institutes cannot be undersold. Universities both large and small are facing shrinking budgets, and an applicant pool, which assumes the education investment, is not worth the cost.

Those contributing factors make marketing initiatives all the more important, especially as it relates to cost-efficiency. Our goal in executing keyword research is to determine the terms and phrases prospective students are searching for to find a solution. Keyword research needs to be at the core of the marketing plan to ensure organizations are getting the most traffic for their investment.

Evolve Digital Labs analyzes five components for keyword research, including search volume by keyword, organic difficulty, client’s customers, client’s products/services and the client’s consumer path.

Segmenting Keywords

By segmenting keywords into campaigns we’re able to assess phrases in terms of search volume and organic difficulty.

Search volume relies on the number of national searches for a term each month, these terms are often broad vs. very specific queries for a brand or product – thus they are harder to rank for.

Organic difficulty is set up on a zero to 100 scale, with 100 being the most difficult. Organic difficulty is calculated based upon the total effort of competition in the search engines. Because the scale is incremental, ranking organically for high difficulty terms should be considered a long-term goal.

MBA Program SERP

In this case, the phrases at the top are paid, while those below ranked organically. There are a few colleges listed, vs. Wikipedia entries, and media articles. The organic difficulty for the term “MBA Program” and the search volume are both high, meaning ranking or moving up on the SERP will take time.

Higher Education marketing keyword research has multiple applications for growth in terms of both paid and organic strategies.

Paid Search Application

Like other businesses higher education organizations will have keywords which are difficult to rank for organically. Improving a website’s authority, to be capable of ranking in organic positions for recommended terms, requires a strategic plan and can be time-consuming. Paid search offers the flexibility of short-term exposure to targeted audiences, as organic efforts get underway. In cases where pages do rank organically, paid search for targeted “brand” terms may still be used to keep competitors from stealing prospective traffic.

Organic Search Application

Organic strategy should start by targeting terms from the keyword research that contain moderate search volume and moderate to low organic difficulty. Those keywords will allow for “quick wins” on the search engine results page, while concurrent site improvements and content optimization will help organizations eventually rank for significant more difficult terms.

For some universities keyword research may only be a component of paid search, but it should be at the forefront of all aspects of a higher education marketing plan.

Download our FREE online market audit checklist to learn more about our approach and how we can help your organic and paid search efforts.

Capitalizing on New Opportunities

Finding and capitalizing on new opportunities is critical to the success of most online operations.

With each new website visitor there are two options – a conversion and click through, which lead to a sale or to a dissatisfied searcher, who keeps looking… eventually becoming a loyal supporter somewhere else.

While that may seem like the most basic explanation of commerce online, Evolve Digital Labs unique audit strategy delves deeper, analyzing the factors driving conversions, and the obstacles standing in the way. Here’s how our audit can work for you.

When equipped with the right tools that enable effective communication, a website can provide the brand’s consumers with solutions to their needs. The first step in the assessment process is to evaluate on-site performance, ensuring the website is accomplishing this goal.

We review the health of a site usability and content, which include analyzing everything from the speed in which a page loads, domain authority, to the SERP rank, and how that stacks up against competitors. We take into account the optimum user experience, layout and design, and review content to ensure a user’s needs are being met, with clear solutions.

We will bring to the forefront issues that need immediate attention as well as barriers to successful SEM/SEO and organic traffic.

Included in the audit process is also a deep look at target customers. We research the resources they use, how often and why. We discover their language, and help businesses determine whom to pursue online. We’ll help your business pursue your true market.

True Market

A closer look at competition is needed to learn the threats in any given marketplace, whether that is new digital applications, or traditional media.

The marketplace may have a different look depending on the consumer. Our thorough analysis details the ideal consumer and the desired outcome.

Additionally reviewing the marketing mix is crucial, every channel, impression and visitor has a value.

If you’d like the team at Evolve Digital Labs to share insight on your website and how to make it better contact us today.

STL Digital Symposium Takeaways #STLDigSym

There were a lot of beer and toasted raviolis consumed at Ballpark Village Wednesday afternoon for STL Digital Symposium. #STLDigSym. That’s not necessarily a takeaway but a sign of a good time.

It was also a place where people were willing to go to extremes to keep tweeting.

 

Beer for phone chargers

And tweet they did. According to @TrendTopicsUSA #STLDigSym was trending for more than six hours. That’s impressive.

St. Louis trending topics

 

 

If you had too many of the aforementioned beverages and missed something here are a few quick takeaways.

Gunnard Johnson, SVP Data & Analytics at Centro, shed light on the Five Pillars of Performance: audience, channel, execution, exposure and response.

Johnson took time to brake down how data & analytics factor into generating tangible insights. You can read more about his key points here.

One take away from Gunnard and the panel that included, Evolve Digital Labs president, Derek Mabie, is data and analytics are meaningless if there is no narrative to assess and relay.

Data narrative


 

Shawn Stevenson detailed a discussion on content vs. context and contributing relevant information. His advice is about messages that actually provide value.Content and value

 

 

And with any valuable content, don’t forget the call to action. (See ours at the end of this post.)

 

Gunnar Kiene of SapientNitro talked about forging brand consistency vs. cohesion in a digital world.

Consistency as one tweet put it is about identifying what your brand is…and of course is not.

know your brand

 

Dan Pollman the founder of happyMedium wrapped up the day with an idea that should strike a cord with startups and growing firms.

 

Happy Medium builds.

We agree on 100% with the statement about making tools if they’re not available. Make something great and then share.

Here’s our final takeaway.

 

always changing

Thanks @AdClubSTL for organizing an engaging event.

Also if you’re interested in sharing ideas on data, analytics and actionable insights get in touch with us. We’d love to talk shop.  Want to collaborate on a project? Drop us a line.

Questions to Consider About Mobile Ad Spending

Internet users are spending 5.6 hours online every day, about 3 hours on their phones and nearly 2.5 on desktop. Can you think of anything else you do more regularly than check your phone? It’s sad but, neither can we.


Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends

 

The 2015 Kleiner Perkins Internet trend report provides very significant insight into usage, time, and ad spend. The nearly 200 slide presentation breakdowns with great detail information on millennials, consumer spending, and connectivity, however one figure left us with a few questions.

Media Time vs. Advertising Dollars

 

Note the gap in mobile spending as a $25 billion (give or take) opportunity. Now to our questions…

When is the last time a traditional ad campaign truly resonated with you? We’re talking about a serious impact, made you feel something? To see that advertisement again, you probably had to Google it.

Which brings us to three more questions.

Is your ad spending efficient and reaching the right audience? Should more money be shifted to mobile? A report by Emarketer notes mobile ad spending will pass desktop next year and,  by 2019 72% of all digital ad spending will be mobile. Will your tactics be similar?

Our strategists can maximize mobile ad spending and help reassess priorities to ensure your business connects with customers no matter where they searching.