How to Use Google Analytics to Improve Your Social Media Marketing

social media how toHave you ever wanted to know which of your links are driving more traffic?

Seeing referral traffic from Facebook is great, but which wall post drove the traffic?

Do visitors who come from Twitter tend to spend more time on the site than visitors coming from a banner campaign?

This article shows you how to take your social analytics strategy to the next level.

About Google Analytics Custom Campaigns

You can assign a custom campaign tag to the links you share on social networking sites. This enables you to fully use Google Analytics to gain valuable insights into how well your various social networking site presences are working for you.

Google Analytics makes custom campaigns incredibly easy to work with. By using their Custom URL Builder, you can create specific links for each of your campaigns and use these to share online.

Google Analytics can then give you much more information based on how people use your custom links. And you can use this information to gain a better understanding of your referral traffic and adjust your social media marketing for optimum results.

google analytics

Google Analytics not only lets you measure sales and conversions, but also gives you fresh insights into how visitors use your site, how they arrived on your site and how you can keep them coming back.


Before you dive in and attempt to create your first custom campaign link with Google Analytics’ Custom Campaign Parameters, it’s important to learn about the various ways you’ll need to categorize your links.

Google Analytics Custom Campaign Parameters

There are five parameters that can be added to a URL:

set parameters

You need to set parameters for your custom campaign.

Before providing step-by-step instructions below for assigning Google Analytics Custom Campaign Parameters to create the URL link you’ll want to use, here’s a look at how one company harnessed the power of custom campaigns.

NUK-USA Measures the Effectiveness of Social With Google Analytics Custom Campaigns

NUK-USA, a popular brand of pacifiers and sippy-cups in North America, is leveraging the power of Google Analytics. NUK-USA currently amends their URLs with campaign tags to measure the effectiveness of the various media they use: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email blasts, etc.

nuk usa

Many of the links used by NUK-USA leverage Google Analytics Custom Campaigns, which allow them to see which digital media are working hardest for them.

Below is a Facebook post that brought in 49 likes and 51 comments. How many users clicked through? How many pages on average were viewed once there, how much time did users spend on the website once there and how many new visits were produced?

All of these questions and more are answered when links are tagged correctly.

nuk likes

49 likes and 51 comments is impressive. Having tagged their wall post link correctly for Google Analytics Custom Campaigns, NUK-USA was able to see that 64 Facebook fans clicked through the link within the post onto the website.

Let’s analyze the link they used

Before we analyze anything, let’s note that NUK-USA uses bitly, a popular link shortening service, to shorten the links they use online.

When URLs are amended with custom campaign parameters, they become lengthy. To avoid the clutter, many marketers will take their long links and run them through a URL shortening service to make them more consumer-friendly.

Once the bitly link is clicked within the wall post, the link is presented in the browser and it’s definitely long. Here it is.

http://www.nuk-usa.com/all-products/pacifiers.aspx?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Facebook_Post&utm_campaign
=Facebook_Post_Pacifiers_9.27

Let’s dissect the different portions of this link:

  • utm_source: Facebook
  • utm_medium: Facebook_Post
  • utm:_campaign: Facebook_Post_Pacifiers_9.27

Let’s break this link down to understand it further:

  1. The utm_source value is ‘Facebook’. The traffic coming from this link originates on Facebook.
  2. The utm_medium value is ‘Facebook_Post’. The traffic coming to this link originated on Facebook and was shared within a Facebook wall post.
  3. The utm_campaign value is ‘Facebook_Post_Pacifiers_9.27′, which helps to further categorize the referral traffic. If there are multiple posts implemented in one day, providing a utm_campaign value helps to roll up all post data into one campaign value.

It’s not just about likes, comments and shares

By implementing custom tagging within Google Analytics, NUK-USA is able to see several data points that they wouldn’t have otherwise, unless they spent the extra time tagging the URL. Here’s what their Google Analytics showed them:

  • 64 users clicked from the Facebook post onto the website. Compared to the 49 likes and 51 comments, the click-through on this post is incredibly high.
  • 4.09 pages were viewed on average per visit. The content on the site is sticky and successfully brings users to other parts of the website.
  • The user spends, on average, 00:01:57 on the site, navigating through the 4.09 pages.
  • 75% of the users clicking through the Facebook wall post are new visitors. Bringing new visitors to a website is always a plus!

Here’s how to interpret this information

It’s important to look beyond the vanity metrics that the social networks provide—likes, comments, shares, retweets, etc.—and see how effective these media are for driving traffic to your site.

Is the traffic coming to your site valuable? Which times of the day and days of the week bring the most quality traffic to your site? Are you spending a lot of time on Facebook and not seeing the click-throughs you want to see? Maybe using Twitter or Pinterest is a better way to entice your target audience.

Seven Steps to Getting Started With Google Analytics Custom Campaigns

Are you interested in setting up your custom campaign? Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Visit the Google Analytics Custom URL Builder.
  2. In the Website URL field, enter the destination page you plan to send users to.

    website url

    Enter the URL of the website for which you plan to generate a link. Be sure to write out the full version, starting with "http".

  1. Fill in the Campaign Source to identify the origin of the visit (Facebook, Twitter, email blast, etc.).

    campaign source

    Enter the location where you plan to use the URL. Is it with a search engine? Is it on Facebook? Email marketing platform?

  1. Fill in the Campaign Medium to identify the vehicle for link delivery (wall post, tweet, etc.).

    campaign medium

    Enter the location where the URL will be placed. Will it be within a wall post, tweet, paid search listing or banner ad? This is where you will fill out that information.

  1. Fill in the Campaign Name to identify the campaign that the link is associated with. There can be many links rolled up under one campaign.

    campaign name

    Enter the name of the campaign or promotion that this link supports. Is it supporting a new product launch, a holiday sale or is it intended to simply drive traffic from a source and medium? Be sure to list that out here—this field is mandatory!

  1. Click the Generate URL button to assemble the URL based on all of the campaign parameters specified.

    generate url

    Once Generate URL is clicked, all parameters are compiled into one URL. Before using this URL, be sure to log the URL into a spreadsheet so you can keep track of all URLs that have been generated. You may need to use this URL again, or you may want to reference how you decided to name your various campaigns, sources and media. Putting in extra effort to keep your links organized will go a long way!

  1. Log the URL in a spreadsheet. It’s very important to keep track of the campaigns and be able to see how the various parameters are named.

After you create your custom campaign link with the Google Analytics URL Builder as outlined in these 7 steps, you are ready to use this custom URL when sharing links for your campaigns.

Six Steps for Analyzing Campaign Effectiveness

When you are ready to see how your campaign is doing, follow these steps for the valuable data you can now get from Google Analytics.

  1. Log into Google Analytics.
  2. Click on Traffic Sources.
  3. Click on Traffic Sources > Sources.
  4. Click on Traffic Sources > Sources > Campaigns.

    campaign report

    Drilling down into the Campaigns report will allow you to see how well all campaigns are working for you. A campaign listing here can represent one URL or many URLs. This depends on how the URL parameters were assigned.

  1. Locate the campaign you wish to analyze and click on it to drill deeper.
  2. Review Visits, Pages/Visit, Avg. Time Spent on Site, %New vs. %Returning and Bounce Rate to make informed decisions about each social network driving people to your website.

Helpful Hints

Are you doing this for the first time? Have you done this before and want to hone your skills? You don’t have to learn the hard way! Here are some useful tips to follow.

  • It’s important to keep and maintain an organized spreadsheet with all custom campaign URLs.
  • If you’re tracking Facebook wall posts, it’s important to pick whether you will designate the Campaign Source as, for example, ‘Facebook’, ‘facebook’, ‘FB’ or ‘fb’, to maintain consistency.
  • When assigning parameters, it’s important to use an underscore to separate multiple words in a string. Instead of inputting ‘wall post’, you’d want to enter ‘wall_post’. If a space is entered, the URL Builder will enter in ‘%2b’, which is its text translation of a space.
  • When creating social media reports that summarize the value of Facebook wall posts, tweets, etc., it’s important to merge those metrics with the Google Analytics metrics (see the NUK-USA example above) for a more holistic and informed analysis of how the various social media platforms are working.

Have fun with it!

There’s never been a better time to immerse yourself into the world of web analytics. Start small, amend a few URLs and track the results closely, then develop a custom plan for how to use them moving forward!

What do you think? Have you worked with Google Analytics to create custom campaigns? Do you plan on giving it a try? Drop a comment below if you’d like me to provide feedback on your custom campaign tagging!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author, Brian Reilly

Brian Reilly is an Account Manager and Social Media Lead at Revolution Digital, a full-service digital marketing shop in Morristown, NJ. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn! Other posts by »




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  • http://www.socialbakers.com/ Michal Smetana

    Wow! Just wow… I have to say that this is really exhaustive and very insightful article. I’m not a regular user of Google Analytics but once in a while I check it, so I was glad that I could have read your article about it used for custom campaigns. As I was reading through your article, I realized that I can use the benefits it can bring me as well. Thanks for this post, Brian.

  • http://www.kaushalam.com/ Kaushalam

    Yet having a tab for social results tracking, this is more exciting way to track some more or specific social media, or even the offline campaign.

  • Gilberto Gil

    That was incredibly helpful. I have not been using GA to track social media engagement but this article has really encouraged me to experiment.  The step by step guide was also very clear and concise!

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  • http://www.EntrepreneurOnFire.com/ John Lee Dumas

    Awesome post Brian! The tips you included here will be very useful to improve social media marketing through the use of Google analytics. I just want to know if using a shortened URL is better than posting the entire link, because according to one article I read, some people hesitate to click on a shortened link since they really do not have an idea where it will lead them. Your thoughts?

    Thanks in advanced. Have a wonderful Wednesday SME peeps!

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  • Christine McDermott

    I agree. Shortened URLs can sometimes scare people off. 

    I have another question to add to John’s…I know that once you post a link on Facebook, you can delete the actual URL before posting and the page will save as an attachment without the visible URL. Will the tracking still work in this case?

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    John, of course, it depends on your particular audience and how you use it. There are definitely times and places where shortened URLs work well. (I sometimes see that blanket “rules” like this can leave opportunities for others to jump in.) You really should get to know what your audience responds best to. It all comes down to your particular business and how well you know what it is you’re doing.   Test it and get it and get to know your audience. You might find that mile long links are off-putting for some people.

    Having said that the Pretty Link plugin is a great way to get around this: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/pretty-link/ (With a little thought into how you use it, you can get a lot of mileage out of it.)

  • Allie Simpson

    This is a great article! Thank you. I have a question: once you use the Google Analytics Custom URL builder, can you shorten that link in bitly? Additionally, if you do use the Google URL in Facebook, delete the URL once the link is attached and displayed with a thumbnail and meta-text, will Google still track all of the data? Thanks!

  • esoza

    Thanks for that article.It was the first time to get  aglimpse of how it works for me as I have not spent much time on it. I am still struggling with  my SEO. But using Google Analytics does only make sense when you can plan how to change or improve your social media. If you still lack these skill you will not know to use the data you gained there. And how much time you want to spend on that is also important. As far as I know you have to pay for Google analytics? So, if I have to pay and can’t use it to it’s full content. it’s a waste. I also need to learn what are the next steps are. I definitely need that, beieng a newbie…

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Gilberto and Peter – Glad you both enjoyed the article! Drop me a line and show me how you begin experimenting with it. Always curious. Shoot me a request on LinkedIn!

  • Brian_C_Reilly

    Hey Allie – yes, you can shorten the link in Bitly. Ultimately Bitly is storing your full URL within their databases. All your tracking parameters will be kept in tact. Check out the NUK example, they take a Google Analytics amended URL and flow it through Bitly. Depending on how many (and how long) paramters are within the link, it’s often more user-friendly to shorten it.

  • Mike

    Thanks for sharing. Can anyone else confirm that when using this method Facebook does not show the accurate number of ‘Likes’ on the page when landed on?  I don’t think Facebook is seeing this as the same URL. For example, I have a page with 34 Facebook Likes. When landing on this page using the Google generated tracking URL, it shows zero Facebook Likes. Twitter seems to recognize the page however. Anyone else have this problem?

  • http://influitive.com/ Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Great article Brian. I was looking into this a few weeks ago and this post reminded about it. One question – do you need to introduce a an html code to your site so that it accepts the metrics coming from the campaign traffic OR would that automatically happen once you use the custom URL. My site is already collecting analytics from Google analytics.

  • http://influitive.com/ Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I just realized that campaign tracking is automatically turned on for Google analytics! You can ignore my previous question Brian but thanks again for an extremely useful article :)

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  • http://www.lucrazon.com/blog Alice Ly | Lucrazon

    I can help answer the first question :) In the tan box where he talked about analyzing the link, the company DID use bitly to shorten the long link from the custom URL builder. 

    I’m curious about the answer to your second question too!

  • Joe Mueller

    What are some ways that using a custom campaign is preferable to tracking traffic over against tracking it as a referral or in the social tab in GA?

    The only one I can currently think of is that it will help you differentiate ‘natural shares’ from visitors to the site from ‘viral/sponsored’ shares initiated by your brand.  Is this the main use on social networks or is there some more that I just can’t think of?

  • http://influitive.com/ Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I agree with @ADonkus:disqus - there are a tremendous amount of excellent resources about Google Analytics on the web. Here is a circle on G+ that I follow and has many experts on GA and analytics in general. https://plus.google.com/circles/analytics_resources-p6a26b53689f2c875

  • Sandra

    I’m guessing you have to create a new custom url in GA for each link you wish to post on FB?  For instance, I share my blog posts (all different url’s) on my social media page every week.  It seems tedious to have to create a new campaign in GA every week to track that specific post.  It is rare that I ever post the same link on my FB page, so in that regards it seems like I’d have a ton of custom url’s/campaigns in GA.

  • http://sandrostudio.com/ Alessandro Brunelli

    It seems you are reading in my mind. I was checking with GA and wondering things…and, bang, this great article! Excellent timing and lesson! 

  • Wendy_McClelland

    Excellent article – will be utilizing it for my own campaigns as well as my clients. Just love Social Media Examiner – truly one of the best sources online for practical tips. thanks!

  • http://aremorch.com/ Are Morch

    Hi Brian.

    This must be one of the most valuable articles I have ever read on how to build an Google Campaign that rocks.

    Thanks for taking time to share this incredible info. Just have to sit down here and digest.

    I just have say one thing that sums this for me. And that is WOW.. :)

    Cheers..

    Are Morch
    Hotel Blogger

  • Katie Paterson

    This article could not have had better timing! I was just diving into Google Analytics with my works Online Marketing team since I am new to this This post answered all the questioned I had in my head and even went into detail and broke it down. There are so many posts that gloss over metrics and throw around big buzz works but you hit it dead on. Thanks you for sharing this tremendous value!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=519322381 Eliana Posada

    Great article and great way to explain a non easy topic for those who are not very familiar with it! 

    Thank you very much

    From Colombia, South América. 

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  • http://www.marketpla.it/ MarketPla

    Great, great article. This is what i was looking for a while. I’ve got just one question. When I use a link shortening service as showed, what happens to the url of my site? I mean, does my destination url get the link juice? I know, I know, the facebook urls are nofollow, but what happens if the source has dofollow links? Thank you very much in advance.

  • disqus_SfanuQG0gQ

    Really have great and very informative article this is.  It seems tedious to have to create a new campaign in GA every week to track that specific post.  It is rare that I ever post the same link on my FB page, so in that regards it seems like I’d have a ton of custom url’s/campaigns in GA.

  • Britta

    Another great article. I can’t wait to try it out for our next important Facebook campaign. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/john8954 chandan kumar singh

     Yes, we need another one. From some day i was thinking  to buy any tool to track my social media campaigns but this article has save me from ruin my money.Thanks a lot.

    I request  from admin ,

    if you have any other information like how to boost  social media campaigns,so please share that one also.

  • http://twitter.com/robertillidge Rob Illidge

    An excellent in depth article Brian, thank you. More please!

  • http://www.wisestep.com/ Anderson

    Outstanding article ! Explained well here i became the fan of your blog after reading this article. I can’t imagine that i will get chance to read like this article. Many of my campaigns are  wasted by disapproved like that error …. Thanks Brian !

  • Dommmmmmw

    can anybody help me? I followed this step-by-step guide and everything worked fine, except for the fact that when I go to analytics and try to see how the campaign is doing, these custom ones that I created with the google url tool are not appearing..i already checked the links and they are working..what is wrong?

  • Anne

    Thank you! Very good instruction! I’ve been wondering how to use that feature.

  • Leah

    There’s a great chrome extension that helps take some of the work out of shortening these links. GA Url Builder: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/google-analytics-url-buil/gaidpiakchgkapdgbnoglpnbccdepnpk

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  • jonathan92591

    This is a neat feature. I used it before and it is really simple; especially, if you are familiar with Google Analytics. Thanks for the reminder about this powerful and free tool.

  • http://onixmediadesign.com/ Victor Valencia

    Great post implementing in 1….2…..3

  • https://twitter.com/#!/CGarafola Chris Garafola

    Are you able to shorten this custom url when you post to Facebook, or will this mess up the tracking? I just don’t wanna post this long, ugly looking url in my post. Thanks for the great article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/affiliatevideoblogging JR Picklo

    Wow! I didn’t know that you could do this with Google analytics. Very Cool. I definitely plan on giving this a whirl. Thanks. 

  • Martin

    Hi Chris – yes, these ugly urls can be shortened. For instance, our unified-dialog.com (publishing tool for Twitter/Facebook) first adds the GA parameters and then shortens the resulting url.

  • http://myuntangledlife.com/ Jacob Clayton

    This is something I’ve been experimenting with lately and have to agree with many other comments here, this is an invaluable and comprehensive breakdown of how and why to put the expanded analytics to use. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Thanks so much, Jacob! Best of luck experimenting with it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Yes – it’s available. I don’t think marketers use this to it’s full potential – it really helps int he process of understanding channel effectiveness and gets us a little closer to wrapping an ROI around various social media platforms, etc. I have extensive experience using Adobe Omniture Site Catalyst CID tags for custom tracking as well – it’s great that GA is as comprehensive as it is for a free product!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    No worries, glad you liked it. Let me know how it goes. Shoot me a request to connect on LI. Definitely want to hear about it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Liftoff? Let me know how it goes, Victor!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Agreed! Depending on how much you’re cramming into a custom url, you will want to do this. Maybe you don’t want to give away the proverbial farm to the consumer too – if they see the link, they may gain an understanding into how you name your campaigns on the back-end. Say you’re ChapStick and have a new flavor coming out – and you plan to tease it first. Naming your campaign by the flavor, and having it come across in the post link could definitely be a spoiler! :) Like where you’re both headed though! Best of luck..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    No worries, Anne. Glad you liked it. If you ever want to bounce any ideas off me, conenct with me on LI and we can discuss more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Wasn’t aware. Definitely taking your tip. Love it. Thanks so much for sharing, Leah!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Thanks Anderson. If you ever need a hand, let me know!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Have the links been clicked on? They won’t begin to populate until they have been actively engaged with. Did that fix it? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Thanks for the feedback! Hoping to write a few more articles for SME! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Thanks Rob! It was my first for SME and I am hoping I get to write a few more. It’s been a great experience. Glad you found it useful!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Link should stay in tact on the link shortener’s side of things..Destination URL does get the link juice. When you do this, take a look at the URL you end up on. It reveals all the custom parameters. Let me know how it goes!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    It is tedious, sure. Keep in mind though, it helps to connect everything together a bit better. Once you begin incorporating other channels, this will become a tool that you will need!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Thanks so much! Feel free to connect with me on LI if you ever need someone to bounce an idea off of!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read it, Katie! I’d leverage custom tagging to help you from day one. if you ever want to bounce some ideas off of me, be my guest. Connect with me on LI!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Thanks so much, Are. Would love to hear more about your Hotel Blogging endeavors. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. If you ever want to bounce some ideas off of me, go for it! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    It is tedious – but the learnings are going to be very valuable!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Nice! Glad this article was there for you. Let me know how it goes!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Love SME too. Have been a loyal reader for a few years now. Have wanted to write for them from day 1!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Awesome. Glad to hear it’s sorted out!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    That and also keep in mind that these links can be created for anything! So if you do email marketing, you can include these links within the email. Banner ads? You’ll want to create links for each banner (so you can measure which campaign, size, type (rich or standard) do the best. The possibilities are endless and transcend way past the realm of social.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    I’ve never seen this as an issue. Hm..Feel free to connect with me on LI and we can discuss further. Would love to see what you’re seeing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Couldn’t agree more, Cindy. The success of shortened links does depend on your audience. Do they trust what is behind the shortened link? Monitor click-throughs closely once you begin to implement to ensure that you’re not seeing a dip.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Nice thought! Love the idea of tracking offline. You’d want to keep the URL short though, otherwise users may not want to type it (especially if it’s a mobile visit at the point of sale). I’d say, if you’re doing that, work with your web team to develop custom shortened urls for your company, so it’s quick and easy to type in while still giving you the tracking benefits!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34805076 Brian Reilly

    Thanks Peter! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • http://aremorch.com/ Are Morch

    Thanks Brian. I will send you a connection invite via LinkedIn.

    Have an awesome week.

    Cheers…

    Are Morch
    Hotel Blogger

  • Dommmmmmw

    Yes I just had to wait 1 hour or something and all the stats appeared, thanks! :)

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  • http://twitter.com/smsLilak Steph Synoracki

    Wow! This is a wonderfully written and very informative article. I plan to use this as a reference in creating Google Analytics campaigns for my organization! Thanks!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.gregoriou.7 Alex Gregoriou

    or you can use a QR code to get around having a really long URL in your offline material right?

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  • http://www.itfreelancing.net/ Pankaj

    Hey Brian, Really amazing post.

    Though I have one confusion here, hope you would help me out. Let’s suppose I shared an content on my FB account from someone else site. So can I use same tactics to see track all essential data in Google analytics.

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  • SouthSixth

    Is it possible to use custom campaigns in Pinterest?

  • Victor Ramirez

    Awesome article Brian, I have a question! In this case I suppose that once that google URL builder provides you the URL, you set a new page with the content and with the URL that you want to have isnt it?? so, my url’s and you cannot modify it, how can i do it then??

    (maybe I am mixing HTML concepts) jejeje

  • James Page

    You’re a god!







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