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This post was written 2 years ago and therefore may not be as accurate as more recent posts.

I heard a fascinating podcast recently on Apply Filters Podcast, which detailed proper Google Analytics tracking. A lot of developers are pretty terrible at marketing and SEO, and many of them also don’t properly attribute their links and where they come from.

A few months ago I was in the same boat, which really gave me no excuse as my background was in SEO and marketing for a long time. However recently I’ve started tracking links and I’m beginning to see the benefits.

What Is Analytics Link Tracking?

Analytics Link tracking is quite simple. If you have Google Analytics on your site, you can group links you put on other people’s sites or other locations into “campaigns”. This way you can identify where people properly come from.

Ideally you wouldn’t necessarily do this for all links – links from other sites the referral data is enough. However if you really want to drill down, and get a better idea on how people interact with your plugin and your site, then this is a great way to do it.

Why Should a Plugin Developer Use Analytics Link Tracking

As alluded to above, you’ll get a great idea on how your plugin’s users and potential users interact with your site.

Your site will usually get two forms of referral traffic for your site: The WordPress.org repository and the links within the plugin. Let’s look at both of them.

Links within the plugin are okay, but how do you know where they came from? Did you put something on the settings page linking to your documentation? Or are they clicking on a link from the plugins.php? What context are people clicking to your site? Are they missing your “upgrade to premium link?”. You have no idea, as the referral stat is simply “site.com/wp-admin/”. That tells you nothing, and you cannot refine your message. By using Analytics Link Tracking on your plugin, you can get context on how your users interact with your plugin.

The second area is in the WordPress.org readme. Now this is not quite as ideal, as the nature of WordPress Plugins pages being scraped as well as the fact that the referral data is already present, means that you will lose said data. Nevertheless, it can be a useful exercise, especially to try and refine your readme file.

A Real Life Example

One of the most popular pages on this site is the WP Flipclock Documentation Page. For a long time though, I couldn’t work out why. There isn’t really too much prominent information, just that the majority of traffic came from the WordPress.org listing for WP Flipclock page.

Whilst useful, I didn’t know where they were coming from on this page. As the readme file had 2 links to this file. A quick push up of a modified readme file with link tracking implemented revealed that the most popular link was the top link in the file, just beneath where I wrote “If you need examples, please see our examples”.

I’ve since modified the readme file to include a direct anchor list to the examples, and modified the documentation page. I’ve also added a “Sign Up For Updates!” box to below that page. The amount of people who download WP Flipclock from that page has shot up, and that page converts a lot better (a conversion in this case is a signup to my newsletter).

How To Implement Analytics Link Tracking

Implementation is incredibly simple. You simply add a query string to the end of your links. Your query string contains a few values.

  • utm_campaign – This is the campaign name, this is the first way to differentiate things.
  • utm_medium – The medium is often the type of traffic, cpc, email or link
  • utm_source – The source helps differentiate both links.

You can also create tracking URL’s using Google’s URL tracking builder.

How I Implement Analytics Link Tracking

I may not do it the right way, but this is the way that works for me.

My Campaign is usually the plugin name. Hindsight being a wonderful thing, I probably should have made it the plugin slug, but it is usually just the name, all lowercase, with no spaces. For example it is “inlinetweetsharer” for Inline Tweet Sharer.

My Medium is usually where the plugin comes from. This is usually from one of two places – plugin is for any link within the plugin, and wordpressorgreadme for the WordPress.org readme file.

My source drills down to further, to where the link is on the page, as well as what page it is on. So for example, if the medium is wordpressorgreadme, I usually break it down to what heading the link is under. So if it’s under description, then my source is description.

For plugins, I usually break it into what page the plugin is clicked on. The only difference is from the plugins page, where I tag the settings link and authors link separately. Yeah it’s a bit anal, but that’s what I do!

What Next For Your Analytics Link Tracking Adventure?

Where Analytics Link Tracking really comes into it’s own is from places that actually have direct traffic, and there are two massive sources for such traffic – Twitter, and Emails. I’ve talked previously about tagging twitter links using Buffer and IFTTT, and email is another kettle of fish that I’ve not really looked at. When I do (and I’m planning on in the next few months), I’ll be sure to tell my results here.

 
 
 

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