Tracking Social Links On Google+: How Do You Do it?

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 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 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 Magazine

Time posts links as links. To be completely frank, I’m not a fan of the 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, 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 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.

Related Topics: Analytics | Channel: Social Media Marketing | Features & Analysis | Google: Google+ | Social Media Marketing | Top News


About The Author: Monica Wright serves as Director of Audience Engagement for and, two of the leading trade publications for the digital marketing industry. With over 15 years of experience in online publishing, content marketing and audience development for media companies, she is focused on content consumption and measuring user engagement on both sites across multiple platforms including desktop, mobile, social and email. In addition, she serves as a program coordinator for the SMX conference series, produced by parent company Third Door Media, publisher of Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. You can find Monica on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

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  • Jill Whalen

    Monica, I’ve found that you can track a lot of the Google Plus links by setting up an advanced segment to look at referrers from 

  • Anonymous

    Minor correction, Jill: It should be See here for details:

  • Anonymous

    Minor correction, Jill: It should be See here for details:

  • John Lawlor

    Please clarify: WSJ “embed the within the caption”

    What form are they using?
    1) with <a href
    2) just http://
    3) domain only (including www.)
    4) domain only

    I have tested all of the above but none generate a link.

  • Matt

    If you happen to use Yahoo Web Analytics, having a UTM parameter in the URL is not a requirement (though if you do have UTM parameters, you can leverage those also).  With YWA, you just tell the system what to look for in the URL no matter what naming convention you use in the URL.   

    After you’ve set up a new Campaign in YWA called Google Plus (let’s say you’re the New York Times that is already leveraging the ?smid=gp-nytimes parameter in your URLs) then simply tell YWA that landing page URL Contains: gp-nytimes  

    Now, each time a visitor clicks on the link and reaches the landing page, the new Google Plus campaign will get credited with the visit. 

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