For a few months now, my friend Jeff Bell has been bugging me to use link tagging in my social media postings and e-mails I send for the company. He’s all hopped up on his recent Google Analytic Certification and LOVES to tell me about the cool analytics tools available in there. (Yeah, I know, SNOOZE FEST, but he’s my bestie so I try really hard to pay attention!) Anyway- he kept going on and on about all the benefits of using link tagging to track driving traffic to the site. He’d say things like “you need to use link tagging because…” Every time he did this, my A.D.D. would kick in and I’d start to notice something shiny! Nonetheless, he’d diligently keep bringing the topic up harping on me about why I’m not using them more in social media postings and I’d continue to change the topic or find something shiny to pay attention too.
As you can tell, I’ve fought using this “link tagging” nonsense for some time now. Honestly, it seemed like A LOT of extra work. I mean, seriously, you have to go into the URL Builder, put the information in, generate the link, THEN go to a link shorter service so you condense massively long link that’s created (and is probably 140 characters by itself) so you can then go and post it/use it for social media. I mean seriously- that’s quite the process, isn’t it? All that work for the ability to track who clicks on the link and visits your site? Come on, you can get that information through link shorteners like bit.ly or owl.ly. That process is super simple and quick- it’s even BUILT-IN to management tools like HootSuite! So I waged forward, blissful in my link shorterner only world, determined NOT to use link tags.
Over time, though, Jeff made his dislike of link shorteners known to me. Not the service itself, but the fact that it doesn’t tell you anything. We’ve argued back and forth about this for a while, mostly resulting in me losing interest and changing the topic (shocker). Apparently, my ignorance WAS bliss at the time. To me, CTR was the only number I cared about, so link shorteners worked just fine. I only wanted to know how many people actually clicked on a link I posted and I never really thought much about (or cared about) what happened once they got there. I was just that someone was reading my message and clicking on the links! Then one day, we debated it again, and BING! A light bulb finally went off in my head and my whole perspective on this Link Tagging business changed. Just for fun, here’s how that conversation went:
JEFF: Christina, you need to use that Link Tagging Tool I gave you.
ME: Why? I use Owl.ly for (most) of the links I post. What does it matter? (already looking for something shiny!)
JEFF: I hate link shortners. They do not tell you anything.
ME: YES IT DOES SILLY! (Frustrated we are once again having this argument) “It tells you how many people clicked on the link!” (Oh, you wanna play friend? LETS GO!)
JEFF: UM, NOT REALLY. It just says they clicked on it. What did they do when they got there?
ME: Well they…. I dunno…. They….looked at it? They….hung out on the site? (Crap) Why are you even asking me that question? All I that matters is how many people clicked on it.
JEFF: IS that all that matters? Don’t you want to know what the people you’re sending to our site are doing once they get there?
ME: Sure, I do. But doesn’t your fancy Google Analytics tool to tell you that?
JEFF: Yes, GA tells me what people are doing on the site. But how do I know the difference between people you send to the site from social media and others that come through different channels?
ME: Hmm…. I dunno…..
(As I’m processing this in my head, Jeff patiently waits for the “light bulb” to go off in silence)
ME: Man, I wish you had a fancy Google Analytics tool that would track what people I sent to the site through social media did once they got there. That would be pretty sweet.
JEFF: OMG haven’t you been paying attention to me at all in the last month?? I do have a fancy tool for that- it’s called LINK TAGGING!!!
DAMN IT!!! Jeffrey won. (This time)
He’s right though; simply using a link shortener in social media isn’t enough anymore. Sure, it works great for tracking click through rate, but it doesn’t really give any information about that. It’s missing a huge piece of the social media ROI equation: how did that click through translate into a conversion? Where else did they go on your site as a result of you posting that link on social media? Link Tagging gives you that information and (depending on how in-depth you use it) can give you a better idea of what postings can lead to more conversions on your site. It can also shed some light on what kind of visitors are you driving to your site and if they have real value by being there. Plus, it can help you identify ways to improve your social media efforts.
(NOTE: You can only “tag” links that go to your Google Analytics installed site. That means, unless you have a redirect on your site somewhere, tagging a link to your Facebook page does you no good.)
It’s not a perfect solution by any means, and won’t solve all the problems with social media analytics/ROI, but it does give a bigger picture of how our social media efforts impact conversion rates. And in a world where a lot of us are all still trying to figure out how to best measure ROI for our organizations and clients, I think this is a good place to start.
So, at the end of the day, I guess I’m now in debt to my Google Analytics Expert bestie who finally convinced me to use this Link Tagging thing…..
~Christina Torri, Social Media Coordinator for Mindscape at Hanon McKendry