The best way to test if a link works is by tracking the click – but only if the site you’re linking to also tracks clicks. The vast majority of sites out there don’t track bits and bytes, but instead they use a simple “Thank You Page” after someone makes an order or completes an application.
You can still measure success with something as simple as HTTP cookies (you need to have at least two domains for this method to work), but it becomes quite difficult when you start trying to measure multiple links on the same page.
The problem is that each time you redirect them back to your domain they lose their cookies, so everything gets reset. And that means your data turns into what we call “noise.”
The only way to fix this is by using redirects, but it’s difficult (if not impossible) to do meaningful tracking with them because you lose the ability to see which link was clicked in the first place.
That’s why we recommend using one of two methods:
1.) Shortened links . It would take us 5 minutes to explain how they work, but it would probably take you 15 minutes per link to implement them correctly. If you don’t mind that then go for it, otherwise keep reading..
2.) Parameterized links . You can use parameters like utm_source or utm_campaign to save some tracking data while making your actual links much shorter.
Neither solutions are perfect, so take your pick depending on what kind of data you’re trying to track.
If the vast majority of your links are to one domain, then using HTTP cookies is by far the easiest way to go. You can read more about it here , but basically all you have to do is set a “cookie” in their browser with a unique ID for each user and another piece of code that reads that cookie when they get redirected back to your domain.
By sending some simple parameters along with that redirect you’ll be able to keep track of every single person who clicks any link from that page. One parameter tells you which link was clicked originally while everything else becomes metadata that you can use to filter your results.
The problem is that if you have 99,000 links on the same page then it requires 100,000 redirects which are more difficult to implement and will slightly slow down your site’s performance.
If you only have a few links per page, or they’re all pointing at different destinations, then parameterized redirects become an attractive solution because they’re much easier to set up.
You’ll probably spend at least 10 minutes setting everything up (for every link) but once it’s done you won’t need to touch it again unless you want to track some additional data.
As long as they don't change their destination URLs, you'll be able to track every single link without any additional work.
But what happens when they change their destination URLs? This is the trickiest part, but not impossible to solve assuming that you don’t want to use shortened links (if that’s your case then we can help!)
The general idea would be to create a redirect chain . Basically, every time someone clicks a link and gets redirected back to your domain you need to:
1.) Make sure it was actually them clicking the link and not some other random visitor.
2.) Find out what was the last click before this one – because those are the people who changed their destination URL.
3.) Replace any parameters with ones from the previous visitor, and add some new ones like utm_source=2 if it’s not their first visit.
By doing this every time someone gets redirected back to your domain you'll always be able to know exactly who clicked that link (and on which link!) without having any gaps in your data.
Sure everyone will see the same source attribution picture but at least you’ll still be able to filter all of your “clicks” by specific parameters such as campaign name or keywords used.
Now, there is a third method: replacing destination URLs with links back to your site and keep redirecting visitors through an endless redirect chain . This way they won't lose track of the URL they originally clicked on, but at the same time they won't be able to change it either.
Theoretically this would probably work, but imagine how many links you'd have to create for every single page on your website! It can get pretty ugly and confusing for visitors who click multiple links on the same page.
Now that you know what kind of link tracking is best for your needs, check out our guide “ Track Links Without Shortening Them ” to see exactly how it’s done in three easy steps.
However, if you need help or just prefer using shortened links then contact us at [email protected] . We’ll be happy to start sending you reports in no time!
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