Tracking landing page redirects does not have to be as overwhelming as it seems at first glance. When dealing with data and analytics, you will often come across a hundred different ways to find the same information. There are UTM campaigns, URL shortening services like Bitly, and even built-in analytics on services like MeetEdgar, Buffer, and Hootsuite. None of these are bad, but we want to show you one of the simplest ways to figure out if your referrals and redirects are working the way you want them to–and as effectively as you need them to.
Why Use a GA Redirect Tracker?
Well, mainly because you might have a ton of 301 redirects set up, and you might have absolutely no idea how they’re performing. If you use multiple redirects that all go to the same landing page, there’s no built-in way to see which redirect is leading visitors to your site. You only see that they have made it to that landing page. Additionally, you might have swapped sites and need to trace where certain backlinks come from that still point to the old site. Or maybe you want to know how much traffic comes from handing out business cards or from a particular event.
Regardless of your specific use case, making sure that you know where your traffic is coming from is an important part of running and marketing a website. As we said above, there are multiple ways of doing this, but UTM campaigns can be incredibly complicated to set up and manage. And unless you’ve already set up tons of shortened, trackable URLs, it’s not like you can go backward and retroactively have your backlinks point to those.
We want to provide some easy-to-follow instructions for you to set up own tracking for landing pages that don’t require breaking into full UTM parameter campaigns. They function under the same logic, but the setup and application of treating Google Analytics as a redirect tracker may be enough for the majority of you. It all comes down to being as simple as using a question mark when you enter a URL.
Creating a Query String
Any URL with a question mark (?) in it is tracking something. Such as https://www.elegantthemes.com/blog/amazing-post-by-bj/?twitterbio.
What comes to the right of the question mark is called a query string. So in the example above ?twitterbio is the query string. You will also see it referred to as a URL parameter or something similar. Browsers and HTTP protocols don’t register the query strings when they’re loading webpages. The browser knows that the query string isn’t part of the slug where the content is located.
You can set this to be anything you want, and it can be as long as you need it to be (which is why when sharing from Amazon or most social media platforms, the URL you’re sending is absurd). For setting up this kind of redirect tracker, we think the shorter and simpler the better. But your needs will vary, obviously.
Using Your Query String
This part should be simple. Anywhere you want to track the incoming traffic from, put the query string on it. As you can see, the ?twitterbio query string means that we’re tracking the number of clicks from our Twitter bio to the landing page of our website.
Normally, there’s no way to differentiate the traffic that comes from Twitter, tweets, which account’s tweets, etc. other than “referral: Twitter.com” indicators. Or t.co, which is from their URL shortener. By specifying ?twitterbio in my profile, that query string will then be recorded by Google Analytics so that you can see who made it to your page by clicking this specific link.
Finding Your Query String in Google Analytics
Normally, clicking that Twitter bio link would just take them to the post, and it would be recorded a user who made it to that page. Their behavior and other metrics would be tracked as nothing special. However, when using your query string as a redirect tracker, you can dig into your user acquisition a bit more.
First, you will need to get into your Google Analytics account.
Then, find the Behavior tab in the left sidebar. Expand it and select Site Content. And finally, click on Landing Pages. You will see a screen that looks similar to the one above. Next, scroll until you find the section labeled Primary Dimension.
Make sure that is set to Landing Page. Then in the search bar just beneath that, type in the redirect query string that you’re looking to track. If you simply put in a question mark (?), the results will return any and all landing pages that have been reached with a query string attached.
And as usual, clicking into the query string gets you detailed graphs and information on just that particular item.
Wrapping Up with GA Redirect Tracker
Probably the best part about using a query string as a redirect tracker to your landing page is that you can use it in concert with any other services, too. If you share a specific link on Twitter and you’re A/B testing, just add a ?ref=twitter-a, and you’re good to go. That will transfer between the t.co shortening that they use and end up showing your landing page with your string as well. Same for services like Bitly, Hootsuite, or Buffer, too.
As long as you get to manually choose the destination URL, you can add a query string and use Google Analytics to track the redirect to your site. No giant UTM campaigns to manage, no major adjustments of your permalink structure, and no effect on your SEO rankings and SERPs. Just simple query strings that you can seek out any time you want in your analytics dashboard. It’s one of the simplest and easiest ways to get detailed information about how your users behave. There’s no reason not to be using it.
What kinds of URLs do you watch using this kind of redirect tracker?
Article featured image by Alexandra Shargaeva / shutterstock.com