Which online advertising works? Which doesn't. Advertising tracking is an essential tool if we are
to make our advertising and marketing more effective.

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  Home > Workshops > Website Selling >

Tracking Online Advertising

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Which online advertising works? Which doesn't. Advertising tracking is an essential tool if we are to make our advertising and marketing more effective.

Lord Lever - he of the soap powder company - once said:

"I know that half of my advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don't know which half".

That shameful statement was made many years ago. Today, no brand leader would stay ahead of the competition if they didn't track and monitor thair advertising. They'd be dead in the water within months. Tracking the results of any marketing activity is essential, because marketing and advertising are not precise sciences.

So, you try something out, you monitor the results and if it works, you do some more. If it does't you ditch that approach and try something else.

And this is just as important - if not more so - in online advertising as in any other marketing tactic. So how can you make ad tracking work for you? What tools are available? And are they cost effective for smaller businesses?

In this article, I'll be looking at four possible mechanisms:

  • Using your website logs
  • Using special URLs (web site addresses)
  • Installing your own tracking software
  • Using remotely hosted tracking software

Using your website logs
If you are seriously running a website, you must have access to your website logs, and be able to analyse them. At the simplest level, you can check how many times a particular page has been viewed over a certain period. If you look at your logs regularly, you will know roughly how many times a particular page has been viewed.

So if you run a campaign pointing people at a specific page, you might get a rough idea of how successful your campaign has been. But this is a very crude measure. And what if you were running a number of campaigns simultaneously - say in several ezines. You wouldn't know which ezine advert was working the best.

All in all, your website logs are not an ideal ad tracking tool.

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Using special URLs
You can refine the website log approach by generating special URLs (website addresses) for each campaign that you are running. You do this by simply adding a "?" followed by some code to the end of your website address. For example, if you were running a campaign in two newsletters (called, say, "Bloggs" and "Smith"), and you wanted to point people towards the web address www.mysite.com/buyhere.htm, you would put the link in the Bloggs newsletter as:


.. and in the other one as:


When you click on either of them, it still takes you to www.mysite.com/buyhere.htm. But, and this is the important point, your website log would record them as separate web addresses.

So you could analyse your logs and see whether Bloggs produced more hits than Smith. It works just fine, but website log analysis can be a fiddly job, and you normally only do it every week or every month. It's not the most efficient way of tracking online advertising.

Using tracking software
Tracking software uses the same principle as the previous method, in that you generate a special web address for each campaign. However, instead of your prospects going directly to the page, their browser makes a brief visit to a program sitting on your web server, which increases the counter for that address by one, then sends the browser to the page.

You can then interrogate the tracking software (via your browser) any time you want, and it will give you full statistics instantly on that particular campaign. And you can set up as many trackers as you want.

There are two tracking systems which I use currently. One is AdTrackz, which I've used for some time now. You need to be able to create a MySQL database, and you need to know how to install scripts. Not too difficult, if you know what you are doing!

A much simpler and more powerful tracking system is GoTryThis. Although you need a MySQL database, the software is installed for you, using a neat online installer system.

The cloaked links that it uses are much more user friendly that the AdTrackz links - especially if you register a domain name, as I have done. With GTT, you can create tracked links such as this:


If you want a simple system which works partly on your PC desktop and partly on your web server - without needing any MySQL databases or script installers, then you really should look at the "cloak and track toolkit". You can get the details here:


Finally, if you can't be bothered with any software or scripts, your best option is...

Using remotely hosted tracking software
I have to admit that I am currently not using any remotely-hosted tracking system. I used to recommend ROIbot.com, but that service disappeared a while ago.

There are plenty of online tracking servcices around - just search Google - but I'm not in a position to recommend any of them.

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