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 purchases.
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 Center.
If the URL already has a question mark in it, you will have to
add &source=Overture to the end. For
If the URL has a #
character, the ?source=Overture will need
to be inserted prior to the # sign. For
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 you.
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?
Editors note: These instructions will
apply to those of you already running your web sites on Microsoft's IIS.
Dave Barry, creator of
Site Search Architect explains:
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:
192.168.20.14 443 /Default.asp TrackingQueryString=TrackingCode 32
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
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 %>
Remember: 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
And, the profit generated from your Overture campaigns per
keyword phrase divided by the amount spent at Overture per keyword phrase is
your return-on-investment (ROI).
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
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
Keyword Tool: 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 performance. http://www.keywordtool.net/
GO TOAST: 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.
Overture has an ROI Calculator and a CPM
Calculator that will help measure your return on investment:
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.
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