I love Google Analytics (GA). It allows me to segment different traffic source easily and answers most of the important traffic related questions I throw at it.
- Which pages on my site are people landing when they are coming in from search engines?
- Did the social media campaign that we just launched bring in any traffic?
- We just optimized a bunch of pages, did people reaching to our site from organic channel (only US) stay longer now?
So why is Google Analytics not good enough then?
When it comes to tracking affiliate links, it is just hopeless. This could just be my lack of GA knowledge or maybe GA really does suck at this. Let me explain.
As you might know, the way to track outbound links is to use event tracking by manually adding “onclick” to each URL as shown below.
Yes, you read it right. Manually, adding it to EVERY SINGLE link.
<a href="http://outgoinglink.com" onclick="ga('send','event','Outgoing Links','outgoinglink.com')" target="_blank">Link Text</a>
I have never tried this automation method but there is another automatic way to track, which is to use Google Tag Manager. It has a pretty steep learning curve (in my opinion). The idea is to use click listener and record the outbound URLs in Events.
After spending few hours searching on Google, watching YouTube videos, then playing around with it, I managed to get it work. The obvious next step was to set up a goal so I could track Amazon links only……Guess what, this is where it went down hill.
There was a HUGE discrepancies between the report that Amazon Associates account tells me and what GA tells me. GA’s number was way too low.
I played around with the Goal setting, went back to do more Google search, tweaked more things. Nothing helped.
There is more!
I also found out the Free GA actually does is sampling traffic rather than give us everything beyond certain threshold. This post I found explains this issue pretty well even though it was published a while ago (2013).
Clicky to the rescue!
After spending hours and hours troubleshooting GA, I started to think maybe FREE analytics is not the answer. This is also when I came across to Clicky.
I signed up for a Free account to test it out. It was just a simple few lines of code to add to the site. They do include a small banner in the code but that was pretty easy to remove it (banner code shown below).
<a title="Google Analytics Alternative" href="http://clicky.com/100915780"><img alt="Google Analytics Alternative" src="//static.getclicky.com/media/links/badge.gif" border="0" /></a>
To my surprise, it was super easy to set up Goal tracking. Just input the URL you want to track and use a wildcard sign (*) where necessary.
I then compared the “Clicks” in Amazon Associates account and the number of Goals completed for each site for several days. They were pretty close (only off by a few clicks).
In addition to the easy to use Goal tracking, Clicky also comes with heatmap feature that allows me to see how users are interacting with the site.
I decided to go for the paid version. It’s not cheap (the plan I chose was about $14/month) but compare to hiring someone specialized in Google Analytics / Google Tag Manager then spend additional few more weeks of troubleshooting, I figured paying $14/month was not too bad.
Why do I need to track Amazon clicks?
You are probably wondering why I really want to track Amazon clicks this way since I can get the “clicks” data from reporting in Amazon Associates account.
The main reason is to carry out page group tracking. I could in theory use different Amazon affiliate tracking code for different page groups but the process is not very versatile. It also won’t allow me to track at individual page level unless I start creating individual Amazon affiliate code for each page.
Since we are producing articles in batches, it is critical for us to know the performance of a page group so we can trace it back to what we did that made it a success or a bust.
I will share more about page group performance in the coming posts.