I’ve written before about the benefits of ad tracking.
I figured it was about time to talk about what to look for in an ad tracking service. After all, if you’re going to use ad tracking, you need some software that will actually track the ads. Every service seems to have slightly different features, and how do you choose?
You can get ad tracking from paid services, like Hits Connect and Traffic Wave, or you can get some software to install on your own hosting, or you can use the built in tracking that comes with whatever product you’re promoting.
Price And Number Of Links
Let’s get this one out of the way first.
Price is certainly a factor in any decision you make about your Internet Marketing efforts. When you first start out, you probably don’t have much money to invest, and aren’t really sure how to make money online yet.
So it doesn’t make sense to pay money for something you can get for free. Free ad tracking generally is limited in its features, though, or puts other people’s links on your page. Later, as you start to make money, you can reinvest some of those profits into ad tracking that provides more features.
A very nice free ad tracking service is URLFreeze.com. Hits Connect has a $11.97 a month membership, and a $19.97 a month membership. The main difference is the number of ad tracking links you can create (15 for $11.97, 100 for $19.97). Traffic Wave allows unlimited ad tracking links for $17.95 a month (that also includes unlimited autoresponders).
Some ad trackers allow you to use one ad tracking link to distinguish from different click sources. For example, when I link to Hits Connect, I use a base tracking link that looks like this: http://www.trker.com/go/16626 . By adding a campaign to that link, I can use something like this: http://www.trker.com/go/16626/campaign .
Campaign tracking allows the use of a single link per destination, but to differentiate the sources of the clicks. So I’ll know if the first link in a post does better than the last link in a post, if the call to action anchor text does better than the program name anchor text, etc.
You can do all that without campaigns, but it requires creating multiple ad tracking links, and is generally more of a pain.
Hits Connect does campaigns very well. Traffic Wave does not do campaigns, but I’ve seen new features added regularly to their autoresponders, so hopefully campaign tracking will be added to the ad trackers.
Tracking To Sales
An especially useful feature for ad trackers is the ability to track a click all the way to a sale, so you know exactly which ad tracking link resulted in the sale. This is a rare feature, since it requires some cooperation on the part of the merchant. Their sales page has to include appropriate code to notify the ad tracking service of the sale.
Hits Connect has this feature available. It seems to be primarily integrated into traffic exchanges, so you’ll know where your referrals come from. But if you are writing your own sales page, or having it written, you could also integrate the sales tracking into your site so you could benefit from this sort of tracking.
Traffic Wave does not do this sort of tracking.
The place that you’ll usually find tracking to sale is in the tracking links embedded into various programs. For example, Project Payday provides excellent ad tracking services built into the affiliate link, and tracks to the sale (as well as doing campaign tracking). SiteSell.com is another one that has tracking to sale built into their links.
Purchasing software is attractive, because for a one-time fee you can get an ad tracking package that runs on your own server. You manage everything, and generally you can get whatever features you want by paying for them.
The downside to this is that all the ad tracking traffic comes through your own server, using your bandwidth. If you have cheap hosting, this might affect the performance of your website.
A popular ad tracking package is Ad Trackz.
There’s certainly no clear winner when it comes to ad tracking solutions.
Hits Connect is a very polished offering, but has that limit of 15 or 100 links, depending on your membership level. 100 is a lot of links, but you generally cannot delete a link once it’s in the wild, so eventually you’ll run up against it.
Traffic Wave offers unlimited ad tracking links, plus unlimited autoresponders, so is a great deal, but lacks many of the more advanced ad tracking features you might like.
Ad Trackz allows unlimited links and is completely under your control, but will use bandwidth from your server.
The only common strength among all the ad trackers is that you really can’t afford to not use them. Being able to know which of your advertising is most effective is the only way to improve your Internet Marketing efforts.