Track Clickthroughs Using Your Own Domain

Update: This article was published a while ago, so it is a bit out of date. For up to date instructions, visit the email web analytics article in our Knowledge Base.

If you’re anything like me (like just about all email marketers, really), you want to know how effective your emails are at getting subscribers to open and read, click through to your site, and make purchases.

On the other hand, you may be concerned that your tracking links are getting fewer clicks than a link straight to your own domain would, because:

  • Links that go to a tracking domain, instead of to your own website directly, may cause some subscribers to not trust a link that doesn’t point straight your website, causing them to not click through.
  • If your readers are aware of (and sensitive to) the fact that their response is being measured, they may be less likely to click through.

So how do you get the best of both worlds? How do you track response while maintaining trust?

In this short video, I’ll show you how you can do just that with one feature of our new Email Web Analytics tools.

The Trouble With Old-School Click Tracking

Traditionally, tracking clicks involved a trade-off: you gain insight into what your subscribers are most interested in, and what they respond to, but your links point to a tracking site, which after recording the click, redirects the subscriber to your site.

For email marketers who send plain text messages, this is particularly noticeable, since you can’t link up text or images in a plain text email — you have to put the URL out there for all your readers to see.

If you weren’t comfortable doing that, you either didn’t track clickthroughs, or you did it using your website tracking software (which, while useful for getting aggregate information, didn’t allow you to do much with the data to target groups of subscribers).

It’s time to leave old-school click tracking behind. There’s a better way.

Track Clickthroughs Using Your Own Domain

You don’t want to send subscribers to a third-party site.

But giving up the tracking and segmentation opportunities that click tracking offers isn’t an option — not if you’re serious about creating relevant, focused campaigns.

While we were developing the new Email Web Analytics tools to track sales, page views and other subscriber activity, it occurred to us:

By tracking subscriber activity using some JavaScript that you place directly on your website, you eliminate the need for a tracking domain in your emails!

So we built own-domain click tracking into the new tools.

See how it works in the short video below:

This is just one of the benefits of using the Email Web Analytics tools we recently released.

All new users (since May 20th) can get started at the Reports > Settings page of their accounts, and older users can get started when they upgrade to Email Web Analytics.

You Can Use This With Your Plain Text Emails (HTML Ones, Too!)

One of the more interesting pieces of feedback we got when we initially released the Email Web Analytics tools was that it wasn’t obvious to our users who send plain text emails, that these tools would be of any use to them.

Apparently we made it sound like the benefits of these advanced segmenting and targeting tools were reserved for those who send HTML messages.

I want to point out right now: that’s not at all accurate. (And sorry if I made it sound that way before!)

You can use own-domain click tracking, along with the rest of the Email Web Analytics tools, with plain text emails too! It’s not just for HTML emails.

Hope that clears things up a bit 🙂

How to Start Tracking Clicks on Your Own Domain

40 Comments

  1. Aaron Abber

    6/5/2008 12:55 pm

    Oh, baby, I love you.

    I mean, um, not you Justin. I mean Aweber.

    I have never liked the ugly links Aweber uses to track, so I have always done it on my own site. When you came out with the pitch on the new analytics I decided to see what would happen when I used the ugly tracking aweber links.

    Click thrus dropped by 50%!

    I was thinking you might incorporate an on site JS, but I still figured I would have to use some sort of ugly Aweber link.

    Now it’s like Aweber had plastic surgery and lost a bunch of weight. She’s hot.

  2. Tom Kulzer (AWeber CEO)

    6/5/2008 1:36 pm

    Aaron wrote:
    "AWeber had plastic surgery and lost a bunch of weight. She

  3. Sean (If i put my last name here google will find me)

    6/5/2008 2:07 pm

    Tom Kulzer wrote
    "We took the natural approach to weight loss thru a regiment of hard work and watching what we eat. "

    Im imagining if you add exercise to the plan – your next update will be about how Aweber can now print money! 😉

  4. Karin H.

    6/6/2008 4:44 am

    Hi

    simple question – just upgraded and added java script to websites. Does it work automagically now with broadcasts already qeued or do I have to edit all links again?

  5. Charles Kirkland

    6/6/2008 8:28 am

    When AWeber siad they had some improvements they were wrong. The truth is this like a whole new system with all the extras I could has for and some I didn’t know could be done.

  6. Justin Premick

    6/6/2008 8:37 am

    Sean,

    I don’t know that we’ll be printing money – although with the new insights you’ll gain about your subscribers through the tracking, and the highly relevant and targeted emails you can send out using that insight, you might feel like YOU’RE able to do so 🙂

    Karin,

    It’ll work – you don’t need to make any changes to your already queued broadcasts.

    Charles,

    Thanks! We think that with these new tools, you and businesses everywhere have an opportunity to significantly change (for the better) your email marketing strategy and tactics.

  7. Karin H.

    6/6/2008 8:41 am

    That’s good news Justin, thanks for the quick reply.

    Looking forward to dive deep into the stats!

  8. Aaron Abber

    6/6/2008 10:03 am

    @Karin,

    "automagically"?

    I’m going to steal that, use it and take credit for it.

  9. Karin H.

    6/6/2008 10:49 am

    Well Aaron – I’ve stolen it years ago from one of the very first email mailing list – women on the web The Netherlands.
    So it’s old – wow was established mid 90’s 😉 (and evolved to websites, membersites and blogs of course.

    But, be my guest, many will know it’s just ‘double Dutch’ anyway 😉

  10. Phil

    6/6/2008 11:59 am

    Hi,

    Have never really noticed a negative effect when using aweber tracking links, but here’s hoping that this new system will increase my click through rate even more 🙂

    Any plans for multiple link stats? Not just percentage of clicks for all links combined?

  11. Aaron Abber

    6/6/2008 12:55 pm

    @Karin,

    Wait, I remember now…

    It was 1982…my wife and I were talking about a new pen I got that wrote in three colors of ink…and I said to her "it automagically changes ink when you press the clicker"…yeah, that’s it. I invented it. It’s all clear to me now.

    Those folks in the 90’s must have copied it from me.

  12. Justin Premick

    6/6/2008 1:19 pm

    Phil,

    You can already see click stats on individual links.

    View the "Follow Up Totals" or "Broadcast Totals" report. Choose the message you want to see stats for and click the number that appears in the "clicks" column to get a breakdown of click stats by link.

    Also, users of Email Web Analytics can view WHICH subscribers clicked each link, and can segment and email those subscribers based on their click activity.

  13. Angela

    6/6/2008 2:55 pm

    I’m assuming this is only going to work for one domain at a time, correct?

    I’ll use my own sites as an example (not to be promotional or anything, lol). I’m about to send out a newsletter to my list and my main site for that list is starva.com but I want to link over to another site I own at affiliatecommotion.com.

    If I have this set up with the code at StarVA.com can I also add the code to AffiliateCommotion.com and have it do nice tracking links for both sites or will it only work on one site at a time? Or should I do a redirect on StarVA sending it over to AC and then link to StarVA.com/ac or something like that?

    Hopefully the question makes sense and sorry for using my links everywhere!

    Thanks for providing such a wonderful service!

  14. Justin Premick

    6/6/2008 3:11 pm

    Angela,

    You can use the Analytics tracking with each of your websites (just like you can create and run email campaigns for each of your websites). No need to set up any funky redirecting 🙂

  15. Aaron Abber

    6/6/2008 3:29 pm

    Funky redirects were all the rage in the 70’s–ya know, redirects wearing platform shoes, big glasses, silk shirts. Studio 54 was full of them.

  16. Karin H.

    6/7/2008 3:28 am

    Aaron, LOL

    You’re so old that you’ve lost your memory a bit no doubt. Happens when you get over 60 😉

    It must have been your wife who spotted it on the WoW mailing list, like I did.

    It’s a great word not? Specially when it involves all things IT like AWeber: automagically your follow-up messages appear in your readers inbox.

  17. Karin H.

    6/7/2008 4:48 am

    "Karin,

    It

  18. Nick

    6/7/2008 11:40 am

    I don’t suppose it can be used to track clicks through to a PDF can it?

    Can that be done, or would I need to create something using PHP to display the page with the JS code, pause for a second or two and then do a redirect. Would that work? Any better way of doing it?

  19. Justin Premick

    6/7/2008 12:58 pm

    Nick,

    The best way to go about it for a PDF, or any other file download, is to link to a page of your site where someone can click to download the file. This is an email best practice – email users, as well as their ISPs, may be suspicious of links that attempt to go straight to a file download, so it’s better to send them first to a page.

    If you put the PDF download link on a page of your site, and link from your email to that page, you’ll be able to track the clicks using your own domain.

  20. Aaron Abber

    6/7/2008 2:35 pm

    @Justin,

    Working on Saturday? Man, that’s dedication.

    Can the new analytics tell me if the person who opens my email is wealthy or is a 42 year old living in his mother’s basement? I am thinking it would really help me target my email messages in the future.

    @Karin,

    I am not THAT old–just 44. Somehow my wife is only 28. Not sure how that happened.

    By the way, you owe me $5 for using the word "automagically". I had it copyrighted.

  21. Stephan Smith

    6/7/2008 8:59 pm

    That’s really cool.
    I’m going to use that!

  22. E

    6/9/2008 8:32 pm

    Makes me wonder why I haven’t signed up for an Aweber account yet? As soon as I have the all the bugs worked out of my money blog I’m jumping on the Aweber bandwagon.

  23. Carol Bentley

    6/10/2008 9:04 am

    OK – I was gonna ask a question – then I decided to check something and got my answer – but it might be worth mentioning anyway.

    I see you’ve added Click Tracking to the Blog Broadcast message. Great news, I guessed you might have because in the video you pasted the javascript into a blog page 😉

    Way to go you guys… now, could you just add a ‘test’ button to the blog broadcast so we can test what is going out to our readers before it goes live? That would be a nice touch 😉

  24. Paul Broni

    6/10/2008 10:32 am

    Unless I’m missing something, what’s really being suggested here is that you don’t track the click but instead track the arrival to the page itself. Of course, that’s not new, but it’s nice that this data is integrated with the email deployment platform.

    Doing this, however, means that you will not have dynamically generated tracking links that could allow you to track specifically who is clicking the links. If this information is not available or not useful to you, though, then there’s a good argument for tracking the clicks in this new manner.

    Nice integration of Web analytics with email.

  25. Justin Premick

    6/10/2008 10:44 am

    Paul,

    The tracking is done using the query string at the end of the URL (which is unique for each subscriber and each message) and the JavaScript placed on the website.

    When your subscriber clicks on the link and goes to your site, the JavaScript uses the query string to identify which subscriber is coming to that page, and from which link in which email.

    So yes, you are able to see which links in your emails subscribers are clicking – and you can segment subscribers for future messages based on those clicks.

  26. Paul Broni

    6/10/2008 10:57 am

    Hi, Justin –

    Very nice…I did not take note of the fact that the tracking codes were added to the client domain. I thought that the URL just had the client’s URL with nothing appended.

    Slick!

  27. Lorraine

    6/10/2008 2:51 pm

    Okay, I’d really like to watch the video but… where is it? I don’t see it anywhere on this page.

  28. Justin Premick

    6/10/2008 3:20 pm

    Lorraine,

    The video plays using Flash.

    If you don’t have the free Flash player on your browser, or if you need to upgrade, you can get the latest version of Flash player here.

  29. Paul Broni

    6/10/2008 3:21 pm

    It’s on this page. Go to the screen shot of the video and click the small arrow in the lower left hand corner.

  30. James Schramko

    6/11/2008 9:10 am

    What a great feature – I have been using my own linking domain for tracking until now.

    I like the new Aweber – keep em coming!

  31. Lorraine

    6/11/2008 11:41 am

    Thanks Justin.

    I downloaded Flash player, however I still can’t see the video. I believe the problem is with my computer. I’ve got Vista and have had grief with it since day one (grrrr!). I’ll have to try and view it on another computer.

  32. Keeton

    6/17/2008 11:14 pm

    That’s a nice tip. I’ve been using linktrack.info, but I’d like to see if I can improve clickthroughs with my domain. Thanks!

  33. Paul D. Guyon

    6/23/2008 1:00 pm

    It seems like the domain name goes with the list setttings for each list.

    So if I have have for instance a prospect list, customer list an affiliate list I can specify different domains for each of them. Is that correct?

    Thanks.

    Nice new features.

  34. Mark

    7/25/2008 4:34 pm

    Hi Justin

    This sounds like a great feature. I currently have Sales Tracking software in my website back-end system – it records the domain which someone clicked through from, and then lists all the conversions, sales amounts etc for each domain.

    The problem I have is when it comes to tracking e-mail click which lead to sales. As the email reader is clicking from an email and not clicking through from a domain, I get no data regarding the referrer, and just a bunch of ‘Unknown’ referrers.

    Would it be possible with this system to measure sales which have come from email readers? Using a code on the ‘thank you’ page after checkout etc?

    I really want to get on with my email marketing, but I need to know which how much in

  35. Jan

    8/3/2008 4:59 pm

    That’s a great feature, without that I wouldn’t use aweber.. But now you have one more nessecary thing I’m waiting for: when will we be aible to set our own unsubscribing links? It won’t be perfect until every aweber link in an email can be removed….

  36. cbpredator

    4/10/2010 12:46 am

    AWeber is worth every cent.
    Also ever improving.

    Thanks.

  37. Octa Rendra

    7/8/2010 3:30 pm

    It’s Really awesome..
    My investment in AWeber is worth every penny!
    It works just like Google Analytics and even better 😉
    Does AWeber has the option to have single opt in? that would be perfect.

  38. Aman Talwar

    7/7/2011 7:41 am

    Start tracking clicks on my own domain sounds schweeet. Just came accross this featured post. Will try it out.

    Aweber rocks…

  39. Are Blacklisted Link Shorteners Getting Your Emails Blocked?

    7/12/2011 1:33 pm

    […] That’s why with AWeber’ email analytics you can track clicks using your own domain. […]

  40. Patrick Batty

    3/21/2014 7:11 am

    Thanks for the tips Nick.
    I’m wondering, considering this is a relatively old article now,
    if there have been any significant revisions to this since it was originally published.
    Thanks very much
    Patrick