One of the problems with marketing online, whether you’re promoting affiliate products, your own products, or a website, is knowing which promotional efforts are attracting traffic.

After all, you put a link out onto safe lists, traffic exchanges, PPC ads, forum signatures, basically anywhere you can think of to get exposure. And you start getting traffic. But which of those links is attracting the most traffic? Which promotions should you ditch, and which should you expand?

If you’re running a website and promoting it, you can use various analytics tools to know where your visitors are coming from. But if you’re promoting an affiliate program, you’re probably sending people directly to the merchant site. You don’t have access to the analytics there.

You’ve probably seen services like TinyURL. Services like this are used to transform a long web address into, well, a tiny one. Many people use this for hiding affiliate links, which is a big mistake, since TinyURLdoesn’t track clicks.

An ad tracker is a way of knowing how many people are clicking on which link you’ve placed out into the wild. An ad tracker is similar to services like TinyURL, in that you replace your normal link with a link to the ad tracker site. When people click that link, they’re taken to the site you want them to go to, but the ad tracker site records the click. Later, you can know exactly how many people clicked that particular link.

Using different ad tracker URLs to send people to the same location lets you know which promotional methods are working best. For example, if you use free classifieds for advertising, use a different ad tracker URL in each classified ad you post. That lets you know which ones are most effective at getting people to click. You might also discover that certain ads work best in certain classified sites.

If you already have access to a set of tools such as the Traffic Wave tools, then you have access to ad trackers. If you don’t currently have access to a set of Internet marketing tools, you can get free ad trackers from URLFreeze.com.

You’ll need to signup for free to URLFreeze.com to get ad tracking capabilities. After that, you can add as many URLs as you want, and see how many clicks each has received. An ad tracking URL looks similar to a TinyURL one. For example, this one from URLFreeze.com, http://urlfreeze.com/jshaffstall/L-1c90/ , just takes you to this blog. But I’ll be able to know how many people click on it.

Clicking the above link you can see that URLFreeze.com puts a small bar across the bottom of the screen. That’s the price you pay for getting an ad tracker for free. If you want to remove that bar, you can upgrade to a pro membership for a one-time $27 fee. That’s actually a good value, given that other sites charge monthly fees for ad trackers. But the advertising bar in the free ad trackers is not at all intrusive.

While ad tracker technology is simple, using them requires some planning. The basic idea is to use a different ad tracker URL every time you place a link.

For example, say you promote an affiliate link on your website by writing a couple of articles and placing a banner. Create a separate ad tracker URL for each article and the banner, for a total of three ad trackers. This lets you know which article is doing better at getting people to click the link, and how the banner compares to the articles. If the articles do great, you’ll know to put some effort into writing more of them. If the articles don’t do well, you can save that effort and put it into something else.

The same strategy applies to every link you place throughout the Internet. Use a different ad tracker URL every time you place a link.

While going through the stats for all these ad trackers can be time consuming, the insight you gain into what advertising efforts are getting people to click will be worth it.

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