Here at Marketing Land we are a big fan of tracking links. We have a specific UTM codes we use across all of our marketing channels, and have had great results measuring and understanding where our traffic is coming from. (Caveat: Except for LinkedIn, they strip the UTM codes, more on that another day.) We just like clean data.
Today Matt Lambert emailed us, asking if we have noticed that the links from Google+ using the iPhone app don’t link anywhere. Personally, although I’ve been a fan of Google+, the iPhone is app is something I wish Google would put higher on the priority list. Sure enough, I checked:
I did a bit of digging – the links operated fine on multiple browsers as well as mobile browsers. The Google+ Android app rendered the links as well. Apparently the problem was limited to the iPhone and iPad, and seemed to be not publishing link using UTM parameters. So a bit more digging followed, checking major brands and publishers active on Google+: CNET, Chicago Tribune, AllThingsD, Mashable, WWE, TNW, Bloomberg News, BBC, Coca Cola, Technorati. All of them were using plain links without tracking codes. However while checking I did notice how a few major brands were tacking links.
The New York Times
The NYT is using a consistent parameter across all links posted: ?smid=gp-nytimes. Interestingly, these posts don’t link to the mobile site. At least from the iPhone app they don’t. (Another observation – they don’t publish much at all. The latest post was 2 days old.)
Wall Street Journal
WSJ is using a bit.ly link, but what they have been taking advantage of is using the “post a photo” feature. They post a photo, write a caption, and embed the bit.ly within the caption. This also points to a link using a tracking parameter of ?mod=e2gp. They seem to use a combination of posting methods, but the tracking is consistent.
Time posts links as bit.ly links. To be completely frank, I’m not a fan of the bit.ly link on Google+. The fish favicon shows up next to the headline on a regular browser and makes the branding look odd.
The Washington Post
The Washington Post also uses bit.ly, but embeds it right in the status update. They have also used the same approach as WSJ using photos instead of adding a link, as well just posting the bit.ly link, resulting in the fish favicon.
So the question remains: how do you effectively track links posted on Google+? Have you used UTM tracking parameters to track links from Google+? Google has trained us to use UTM codes, and although they work most of the time, there’s a big glitch, especially with the increased use of mobile devices and the amount of iPhones sold in the last quarter alone.