If you're just beginning to try your hand with the pay-per-click engines, one
thing you need to know is the importance of setting up tracking URL's so you're
better able to track click-throughs and sales.
Why go to the trouble? Because if you don't set up some sort of tracking system,
you'll never know if your keyword purchases are really working for you. And if
you don't know if they're working for you, you won't be able to make an educated
decision on whether or not to discard a keyword campaign, expand it, choose
different keywords, etc.
There are some excellent software programs and services on the market that will
track individual keyword purchases and determine your ROI (return on
investment), and we'll name some of them at the end of this article. For those
who purchase large numbers of keywords, such programs are crucial.
But this article is for those who are just getting started and who don't want to
invest in a software program yet - they just want to purchase a few keywords and
get their feet wet with the pay-per-click engines.
Using a Tracking URL to Track Traffic
Overture claims that 95 percent of all Overture traffic comes from their partner
sites, such as Yahoo and MSN. So, it's important to track your Overture traffic
so you can be sure how much traffic you're getting for each of your keyword
Let's say that your URL is http://www.english-bulldogs.com. To add tracking
capability to such a URL, you'd tack on:
...so your URL would look this:
If the keyword phrase you're tracking is english bulldog puppies, here�s the
tracking URL you would use:
Change the URL you have listed with Overture for that keyword phrase to the
tracking URL by going to Overture�s Managed Listing Section of the DirecTraffic
If the URL already has a question mark in it, you will have to add
&source=Overture to the end. For example:
If the URL has a # character, the ?source=Overture will need to be inserted
prior to the # sign. For example:
Be sure to test the new tracking URL to verify that the modified URL works as
well as the original, and don't use the tracking URL for anything other than
tracking your pay engine traffic.
After setting up the tracking URL�s, you should be able to look for
source=Overture in your server log files to see how much traffic you're getting
from Overture for each of your keyword phrases. Your log analysis software,
depending on which one you use, will be able to compile that information for
But How Do You Know Which Traffic Converts to Sales?
Determining your conversion rate is easier if your site supports some type of
user session tracking, such as cookies, server-side scripting, etc. If you
create a user session (or set a cookie) when someone visits your site, then you
can count how many user sessions contained a successful page view that will let
you know that a desired action has been completed, such as a receipt of goods
sold or signing up for your newsletter. You can then analyze the referral source
for each of your user sessions to count how many conversions came from Overture
based on each keyword phrase.
How Can You Set up User Session Tracking?
These instructions will apply to those of you already running your
web sites on Microsoft's IIS.
Dave Barry of SmartCertify
Session Tracking is made possible by using .asp
(active server pages) on your
Web site. There are several ways in which to accomplish this. One is by
assigning a query string value to your link or using the referrer information to
assign a proper code to track. In the asp environment, there is a large
collection of information that you have access to, including the exact page the
visitor came from, and if a search engine, the keywords used to find your site.
Let us look at these two options.
- Assigning a query string value to your link.
This method can work in pay-per-click engines, but when working with other
engines and links, it can become cumbersome and not always work. By assigning a
query string, you are adding a value to your URL that will appear in your server
log files allowing you to search for it to see how effective it is working.
Example line from log file:
2002-12-23 19:25:10 192.168.20.14 443 /Default.asp TrackingQueryString=TrackingCode
Please note that right after the page name, Default.asp is the query string that
was attached to the URL. Also note the browser type, time, and date are included
as well. You can set your logfiles to log the information you want. This is done
at the server level. If your ISP is in charge of your server, consult with them
to make the changes.
- Using the referrer information to code your visitors.
When a user clicks a link that leads to your site whether coming from a search
engine or not they arrive carrying luggage with them that you may not know
about. This luggage is called the Server Variables Collection. With this
information, you can track exactly where each visitor came from and what search
words they used to get there.
To find the Server Variables Collection enabling you to track where each visitor
comes from along with the search words they used, add the following code to an
asp page and view it in your browser:
<% For Each Item in Request.ServerVariables Response.Write(Item.Name & " -- " &
Request.ServerVariables(Item) & "<br>") Next %>
Dave has set up a video file that will help explain tracking in more detail.
The number of sales from Overture for a particular keyword phrase
divided by the number of visits from Overture (or its partners) for that keyword
phrase is what constitutes (equals) your conversion rate.
And, the profit generated from your Overture campaigns per keyword phrase
divided by the amount spent at Overture per keyword phrase is your
Using Your Affiliate Program to Track Sales
If you have an affiliate program, you can also track sales by using your
affiliate software. After all, most affiliate programs, such as
MyAffiliateProgram.com, will track your traffic as well as sales, which will
give you your conversion rate.
How does it work? Simply set up a new "affiliate" for each keyword you purchase
through the pay engines.
For example, you would create a short URL that you would list with Overture.
That URL would be nothing more than a redirect page that redirects to the
affiliate link you've assigned for the keyword.
...would only be a redirect page that takes your visitors to
...which is the real page of content. Affiliate ID #1925 would be set up
specifically to track traffic for the keyword phrase, english bulldog puppies,
that you've purchased through Overture. You wouldn't send any other traffic
through that page, and you would list the puppies.html page at Overture�s
Managed Listing Section of the DirecTraffic Center.
Other Benefits of Tracking Click Data
Though each of the pay engines do everything they can to prevent click fraud, it
does happen. By setting up a tracking system to track click data and monitoring
the click patterns carefully, you'll be able to spot any possible click fraud
and can report it immediately to the pay engine.
Helpful Software Programs and Services
KeywordTool's tracking service tracks the conversion or sales
performance of keywords on search and pay-per-click engines, showing which
keyword phrases are actually converting into customers and from which search
engines. It is not a visitor tracker; instead, it determines keyword
One of GO TOAST's components, ProfitBuilder, is a ROI service for any
advertising campaign. GO TOAST is an Overture approved bid management service.
WebTrends Reporting Center's Enterprise Edition:
Besides basic log analysis, the
Enterprise Edition will track users through your web site in order to pinpoint
visitor behavior through critical processes, such as checkout and registration.
It will also analyze marketing campaigns by determining how much revenue each
campaign is generating. http://www.netiq.com/products/wrc/enterprise.asp
Overture has an ROI Calculator and a CPM Calculator
that will help measure your
return on investment: http://www.overture.com/d/USm/adcenter/tools/index.jhtml
You'd be amazed at the number of people who set up keyword campaigns but have no
idea whether or not the campaigns are making them money because they don't have
tracking systems in place. So, regardless of whether you are just beginning or
even if you've been purchasing keywords for a while, be sure to set up tracking
for keywords and user sessions. Doing so will enable you to know for certain
which keywords are working. And, that's the best way to maximize the return on
your keyword investments.
July 22, 2003