Identifying Referrals and Links

Over the last couple of weeks I discussed selling advertising on
your site and analyzing your stats in order to determine your
options. These articles are posted on the Web Tips site at:
issue44top2 and issue45top2 I published a third article related to
this topic "Using your stats to assess your promotion" a few
months ago so I will not republish it now. It can be viewed at:

To conclude this series I have adapted an article from last year
on tracking the source of your visitors. This is important in order
to determine the effectiveness of an advertising campaign
regardless of whether you are buying or selling ads.

Most good 'Stat' Analysis programs will identify the visitor
Referral. That is to say, where did they come from to get to your
site and how did they get there. Referrals are one of your best
ways to access your marketing and promotion campaigns. You
can use them to identify other web sites that are sending you
visitors. Do they have a link or banner ad for your site? Why
does one site send you more visitors than another? Maybe it is a
more popular site but maybe the link is better placed or the
description is more effective.

The point is, unless you know where your visitors are coming
from you have no way to determine how your promotion efforts
are doing.

One of the best uses for the visitor referral stats is to identify
links originating from Search Engines. In several past issues I
described how to set up your
Meta tags for the Search Engines.
Unless you check your referrals you will not know if your site
has been listed and how well it is doing. Checking your Ranking
under a search word or phrase on a search engine will only tell
you how your site ranks compared to other sites. You may be
number #1 under "
numnut" but if it is not getting you any
visitors it is hardly a useful ranking to have. You need to know
what people are searching for that you can offer them and then
emphasize it.

In addition to listing the referrals, a good Stats Analysis program
will actually identify and compare the various Search Engines. It
will tell you which ones are sending the most visitors and the
search phrases and keywords that those visitors entered to make
their search. This can be especially helpful to you in setting up
Meta Tags and descriptions. If you use different keywords
and phrases for different pages on your site, you will know
which ones are being linked to and which ones are not.

The majority of visitor Referrals may be "Unknown". A user that
types your URL or selects it from their 'Favorites List' will
generate an "Unknown" referral. Unless you are Disney, it is
unlikely that a significant number of your visitors will be typing
your URL. Another possible reason for generating an "Unknown"
referral is because the user selected a link in an
email. Which e-
mails contain your URL?

This e-mail contains many links. How would you know that a
link was generated by this
email? If you use newsletters to
promote your site, which ones are successfully generating
referrals and which ones are duds?

There are ways to help resolve where many "Unknown" referrals
are coming from. One option may be to create a separate web
page for the ads you place in different newsletter or publication.
You could then compare the number of visitors going to
"mysiteAd1.htm" from one ad to the visitors going to
"mysiteAd2.htm" from another. Creating separate web pages for
each promotion campaign can be cumbersome, time consuming
and error prone. There is however, a much simpler solution.

Did you know that any text following a question mark "?" in a
URL will be ignored by your browser? The following two links
will consequently take you to the VM home page despite the
additional text.
These links however, will be listed separately in our log file.

Knowing that a "?" question mark and the following text will be
ignored by a Browser but listed separately in you log files, gives
you a phenomenal tool for tracking and assessing your
promotional efforts. Every time you place an ad in a newsletter,
purchase a banner or exchange a link, add a "?" with a code to
identify the source of the link. When you check your stats, these
links will be listed separately with the more successful ones
listed with greater numbers. If these are paid promotions, the
higher ranking ones could be rerun while the lower ranking links
should be reassessed or dropped.

The ads in this newsletter are a good example. Most of them will
contain a link to the advertiser's site followed by a question mark
"?"  and an ID code. The code is used to identify this newsletter
as the source of the link. When a reader clicks on the ad we will
either get a small
payout if it is a "Pay per Click" ad or an
improved ranking if it is a fixed rate ad. In either case it is a
banner ad or newsletter equivalent of a
Nielson rating that will
determine how much money the seller will make.

I have concluded this article with a list of links to sources of Site
Analysis software. If you look at the URL's you will see that
each of them has a "?VirtualMechanics.com" appended to the
end. No! We do not have any special relationship with these
companies so why add our URL to the link? The links do not go
to our site so they will not be listed in our stats. The reason is
marketing! When these companies check their stats they may see
a lot of links with the Virtual Mechanics URL included. They
may ignore it or they may return the favor some day. In any
case, our URL is a small ad that will help promote our site.

So click away and help sell our ads and promote our business.
And the next time you add someone's link to your e-mail,
promote your own.

Log Analysis Programs (check with your Hosting Company.
They may already provide access to a free analysis program)

FastStats             $99.00
WebTrends        $499.00
WebSuccess      $90 - $450.00
FlashStats           $99.00
Analog                freeware

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 2000 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.

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