Getting a basic website on the Internet gets easier every day, but the real art is analyzing who is visiting your site and how they are getting there. Usually, this can be achieved easily with Google Analytics—but occasionally something throws a monkey wrench in your works and you start losing visitor information.
Case in point: recently we noticed a drop in reported referral traffic from the popular legal directory Avvo. We knew that something odd was happening, as the links back to the respective websites hadn’t disappeared. It was unlikely that people stopped visiting Avvo all together. Puzzling out the solution had to wait until we could identify the precise nature of the problem.
Why Tracking Visitors Is Essential
Before we reveal the solution to restoring your Avvo referral traffic in Google Analytics, we should have a little discussion about marketing strategy.
As we’ve said before, legal directories are a valuable source of web traffic for attorneys. Most people visiting legal directories are in need of a lawyer, and if they’ve clicked to your website from your profile, there is a good chance they are curious about your services. Additionally, these directories also tend to rank highly for many keywords your potential clients use when looking for legal information and advice.
The strategy for competing with legal directories is: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em (and beat everyone else).” You can increase your odds of being seen on these directories by ensuring your profile is complete and also by purchasing profile upgrades when they are offered. Many legal directories—Avvo included—will let you pay a fee to be positioned in front of everyone else’s profile within your practice areas or locations. But after committing to an upgraded profile, tracking the visits as a result of your purchase is necessary for determining ROI.
Restore Lost Avvo Traffic With Tracking Parameters
As we noted, visits from Avvo have recently become slightly more difficult to track. This is due to Avvo implementing a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate for its website. You may occasionally notice a small padlock icon in front of the URL in the address bar of your browser, a simple visual cue that your actions on that site are being encrypted. You will also notice the full URL in the address bar has “https” instead of “http”—the ‘s’ meaning secure. Now that Avvo is on https because of this security inconsistency if your website is on http, referral information is being lost in Google Analytics. But there is a solution. Google Analytics accepts and logs tracking parameters at the end of a URL in order to give us some control of how you track visits from other sites. If you pay attention close enough, you will occasionally notice these parameters on the links you click on.
Appending the query string “?utm_source=avvo&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=avvo_click” to the link to your website will allow you to see these visits in Google Analytics. These parameters in no way change your website or direct visitors to a different page; they simply pass along a bit more information about how they arrived there.
After adding the tracking parameters, you should see visits from Avvo returning to the referral section. You can apply the same technique to other links to your site from other sources. Google has a support page with a URL building tool to help format your parameters properly.