Referrers and Search Engines tracking
Learn how to detect all referrals to your web site
Referrer tracking is probably the most important function of CounterCentral. It allows you to know precisely where your traffic comes from, in what quantities, and along what trends. This knowledge is essential if you are actively marketing and promoting your web site as it allows you to calculate your return on investment for every single referencing or pay-per-click campaign that you undertake.
When properly installed and configured, CounterCentral will:
- Identify each and every referrer to your site, whether it is:
- a regular search engine or directory
- a pay-per-click search engine
- a banner advertisement
- another site
- a link in an email or a newsgroup
- a link in a print advertisement
- Tell you how many visitors each referrer sends to your site each week.
- Graph the referrers against one another so that trends can be easily spotted.
- In the case of search engines, gather all the keywords used to find your site (when available) and classify them, globally or by search engine.
The purpose of this page is to review installation and configuration procedures that will allow you to benefit from the full power of CounterCentral referrer tracking
For precise referrer tracking it is important that the CounterCentral code be properly installed. You need to verify that:
- the code is installed on every possible entrance page into your site, so that CounterCentral gets loaded immediately upon entering your site and not two or three clicks later.
- you have installed the standard or advanced code (the simplified code is not capable of referrer tracking)
- the code on your site is exactly identical to the code we issued
If needed, installation instructions and the code for your account can be found in the FAQ
The default installation above will correctly monitor every 'classic' referrer like search engines, directories and any site that links to you with direct HTTP links. It requires further configuration in the following cases:
- pay-per-click advertisements (such as Google AdWords):
Pay-per-click companies such as Adwords or Yahoo PPC sell you keyword-triggered listings on their search results pages ; each time someone clicks on a link to your site you get charged a predefined amount. Because of the way pay-per-click visitors are routed, these referrals can not be detected by default. Instead you need to make a small adjustment to the target URL for your link:
Instead of sending visitors to your default address (http://www.my_site.com) you need to slightly modify that target and add to it the name of the advertiser as you would like to see it appear in your stats:
For instance, if you buy keywords on Adwords, you need to have your links point to:
This will ensure that the original referrer (adwords) be recorded every time someone reaches your site from your Adwords link (your visitors will still see the exact same page, so nothing changes for them).
Note that if more detailed data is needed you can also record the pay-per-click keyword that triggered your ad by adding a second parameter to the target URL as below:
- special links (for instance a paying advert in an online directory)
Sometimes a referrer will use non-standard links (called 'redirects') to bring visitors to your site. The easiest way to detect the fact that an advertisement you bought is handled by a redirect is to hover your mouse over the advertisement and look at the browser's status bar. If your URL is not shown then the link does not point directly to your site and a redirect is being used (usually the URL shown on the status bar will be a script on the advertiser's server responsible for recording the visitor's click and forwarding him to your site).
These types of links can still be tracked by CounterCentral. All that is needed is a slight adjustement to the URL in the link:
Instead of using your site's default URL (http://www.my_site.com) as the target in your advertisement, modify it to include the name of the referrer that you wish to track:
This will cause the string placed after 'source=' to be recorded as the referrer in your stats. In our example, you would see my_referrer appear as the referrer in the CounterCentral reports.
- links in email, newsgroup or print advertisement
Links placed in emails, newgroups or other types of media can easily be tracked by CounterCentral. All that is needed is a slight adjustement to your site's address:
Instead of using your site's default URL (http://www.my_site.com) as the target in your advertisement, modify it to include the name of the referrer that you wish to track
This will cause the string placed after 'source=' to be recorded as the referrer in your stats. In our example, you would see email_campaign1, magazine1 or newsgroup1 appear as referrers in the CounterCentral reports.