For small and midsized businesses, knowing where your money comes from is only half the battle. It's also crucial to know that you're spending money in the places most likely to produce a good return on your investment. And that's especially true when it comes to your small business marketing dollars.
In talking with small business owners, Brooks Robinson, co-founder and CEO of ecommerce marketing platform provider Springbot, learned that, "Many of them are frustrated with where to spend their energy. Some are paralyzed, not necessarily knowing what to do next." Enter the trackable link, a tool that businesses can use to determine where their marketing efforts really pay off and where their money does the most good.
What are Trackable Links and How Do They Work?
We've all seen Web links embedded in Facebook posts and email offers. Some lead to products, some to content. Many of these links are trackable. "A trackable link contains code that allows us to track the path to purchase," Robinson explains. "We can actually track where the person clicked initially—that might be on the tweet or it might be on a blog post—then we can track them as they come into the store." Trackable links allow businesses to digitally follow customers as they browse the store, add products to their cart and ultimately complete a purchase.
Many ecommerce platforms have a module for creating and monitoring trackable links. For businesses interested in getting just a taste of how trackable links work, there's even a free option out there. "One of the best ways to track links is just through Google Analytics. It has what's called a lead source tracking tool," says Michael Hunter, principal and director of strategic marketing at Entourage Marketing, a firm that specializes in social media and other digital initiatives. You can create trackable links through Google's URL Builder.
Business owners can set up lead source tracking through Google Analytics to not only generate trackable links, but also to see how the links perform. "Let's say you create a link that has a lead source track from Facebook," Hunter says as an example. "You can track a person who clicks on that link on Facebook to your website." It's possible to see where the customer came from as well as the overall ROI of that particular Facebook campaign.
Take Trackable Links to the Next Level
Several stategies can make trackable links even more powerful. One is to connect the link to a unique landing page on your website. For example, you may choose to create a page specifically for Facebook followers. The trackable link posted on your Facebook page leads visitors to a landing page designed just for them.
"It tailors the message to Facebook users," Hunter explains. You can build multiple similar pages, each dedicated to a specific community of visitors. "You're actually tailoring the message to where they're coming from, and you're driving traffic strategically to those pages," Hunter says. This approach gives time-strapped small business owners one more way to make their brand resonate with customers.
Some platforms also let you add unique tags to trackable links. This goes one step further than creating links for a particular channel. "Now we can also tag it based on author, sentiment, or some other characteristic," Robinson says. You can see more clearly whether funny posts garner more traffic than inspirational posts, for example. Or maybe you discover that one author in your company brings in far more sales than others.
You can also tag a link for particular campaigns. Robinson offers the example of a campaign centered on the Kentucky Derby. Now you can have multiple trackable links tagged for that specific campaign. When the campaign ends, Robinson says, "We know we made a big investment, we made a big push for the Kentucky Derby. How did we do in total?" By adding a greater level of detail to your trackable links, SMBs can move beyond raw data and discover how to make their marketing information actionable.
Give Trackable Links Time to Work
Hunger says it's important not to get too wrapped up in the numbers when you first begin using trackable links. "Especially if you're just getting started on social media or just getting started with your blog or launching a new website. Once you hit the launch button, that's just when your work gets started," he cautions. "It's not a miracle button that's going to get you a bunch of traffic."
Trackable links can certainly highlight which channels perform well and which don't, but don't jump to any conclusions about what to do next until you accumulate enough useful data.
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.
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