Masters of Link Manipulation
A useful way of regarding the internet is that it’s all about links and clicks.
Links are not only the means of moving people from one web page to another, but they are also the carriers of information that gets transported between web pages – sometimes directly, and sometimes via cookies.
From this point of view, our jobs as internet marketers is to become masters of link-manipulation.
That means, whenever we place a link anywhere, we need to be thinking of two – sometimes three – things:
1. Does this link contain the right information?
This can mean “does it contain my affiliate ID?” if it links to a site you are promoting.
It can also mean “will this link pick up the ID of my affiliates?” if it is a link to one of your sites.
It can also mean much more complex things related to tracking and passing information via links.
2. Will I be able to obtain all the information I need about clicks on this link?
This is to do with click tracking and tracking visitors to websites.
Do you need to know how many people are clicking on that link? And when? And where they came from? If so, what are your options for getting that information?
- From the stats tools in your cPanel, such as AWStats
- Using Google Analytics
- Using special tracking URLS with Google Analytics
- Using your own link-tracker, on your own domain
- Using a third-party link tracker
- Using the tracking service that may come with the affiliate program you signed up with
- Using the tracking service that may come with your autoresponder service (e.g. click-tracking in Aweber emails)
- Using a combination of the above
3. Is my link so long and/or ugly that people may be reluctant
to click on it
do I want to mask my affiliate ID in the link?
In this case, we are concerned with link shortening/link cloaking.
Again, we have several choices:
- Using a link shortening service, such as bit.ly (most of which nowadays also provide link tracking)
- Using a third-party link cloaking service (which are now pretty much redundant, given all the free link-shorteners, which obviously also serve as cloakers)
- Using your own domain for cloaking/tracking/shortening
Often, people use several of these techniques at the same time, so that when we click on a link, there are often two three or more “processing” levels that manage it before we get presented with the final URL in our browser.
Perhaps this will make more sense if I describe what I use, on different occasions:
For links to my websites that appear on other web pages, I need do nothing other than set my sites up to be tracked by Google Analytics:
This is a hugely powerful system – and it’s completely free.
However, if I have a link to a site that appears somewhere which Google cannot track – such as in a PDF or in a Tweet that someone may click on in a desktop tool, for example: then I use a special tracking URL where I can set a variety of parameters which Google will track for me. Such a URL looks like this:
Horrible, isn’t it? So then I need to use something else, such as….
bit.ly or budurl.com
These are link shorteners that also provide link tracking. Both have become popular due to the growth in Twitter – especially bit.ly.
Although bit.ly provides link tracking, if I really want to track a link, I will use my own domain for that, via….
Go Try This
This is the “Rolls Royce” of click-tracking tools. I’ll almost certainly be writing more about this, but for now I’ll just say that I really love it. Apart from its excellent tracking and report features, now with Version 2, I can centralise the tracking over ALL my domains.
In other words, I can go to ONE management panel, and control all my links on, for example:
…. and more…
… is my cloaked affiliate link to the Got Try This site, which I have set up on my own domain (NetBiz-Insights.com) using … GoTryThis, of course! This will allow me to track the number of clicks (and unique clicks) on that link.
Off course, I could have also used the free bit.ly, except that:
- The interface is not so good It’s not aligned with the branding of my newsletter
- I can’t use “gotry” as the extension – it would be some random numbers and letters generated by bit.ly
- Spammers use these link shorteners a lot, with the result that some spam filters are suspicious of of emails that contain links shortened with them.
It takes some time to figure out how to use the various link shortening, cloaking and tracking tools effectively (individually or in combination). This article will, I hope, help you understand the bigger picture and show you what is available.