Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why Tracking External Links Can Help You Improve Website Traffic

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Tracking and monitoring your incoming links can provide you with great and valuable insight into which sites, social media and other web traffic sources are sending you the best and most qualified visitors for your web site. But how do you go about analyzing those incoming links in an effective way? Which one of those traffic sources is better? Social media, search engines, organic links on other sites and blogs?

Photo credit: hypermania

To evaluate the effective traffic potential of most of the typical web traffic sources, Pavel Israelsky, a young web publisher from Israel, has taken the time to systematically analyze the main traffic sources sending people to his site, including forums, blogs, web directories, instant messengers, social media sites and even emails.

The goal for Israel was the one of understanding which one of these traffic sources brings in more traffic and consequently which should be the traffic source on which to spend the greatest amount of energies. Though these results do not represent general trends and data applicable to all types of sites or blogs, the story of how this analysis was setup and run can help those with less experience in tracking online data in getting a glimpse of how you can actually go about collecting such data and make that information help you understand better how and where to focus to increase your web traffic.

Can you get relatively more traffic from Twitter or from your signature at the end of your emails?


The Great Traffic Experiment


by Pavel Israelsky

Who wouldn't want to increase the incoming traffic to his website by knowing which traffic source to focus on?

How can we evaluate the potential of all traffic sources we use on a daily basis?

With the recent development of social networking and the various media tools, the number of traffic sources has increased dramatically. As a result, tracking of traffic to our websites became a tougher task.

For the last two months I've been conducting an experiment (quite secretive), intended to evaluate the potential of all the standard sources of traffic in the Internet, which I use regularly. Forums, blogs, social networks, web directories, instant messaging software applications, Twitter and even Gmail (patience, all will become clear shortly).

It is true that there are quite a lot of great statistical applications supplying the goods, such as Google Analytics, but still, at the end of the day, me and many others go to sleep with many unanswered questions and wonders.

Questions like:

  • How many got into my website through my Gmail signature?
  • How many clicked on the link in my blog in my Facebook profile?
  • Did anyone click the link of my website in my Skype status line?

  • Does anyone click on my URLs in articles talkbacks? Etc.


Preliminary Preparations: Mapping Sources and Setting Up Tracking Links


This kind of questions has always bothered me and I came to the conclusion that I just have to check it out. So I decided to conduct an experiment which includes the following steps:

  1. Map all the sources at which I am active,
  2. Group the sources (blogs, forums etc.),
  3. Create a designated link to count clicks for each group and lastly,
  4. Place the designated link in any of the source sites (usually the link was "Websites Promotion Blog" and not the URL address).

For example: Facebook, TheMarker Café (popular social network in Israel) and LinkedIn are part of the "social networking" group, so I dedicated a designated link to these three sites.

There are two reasons why I decided to track only the sources I use on a regular basis:

  1. In the other sources I do not have a profile so there are no outbound links to my blog.
  2. I wanted to evaluate the potential of the sources I use based on my browsing habits so I can learn how much energy I should invest in them (if at all).

In order to create tracking links I chose a URL shrinking service, which supplies me with detailed statistics of the number of clicks on any link I create through it. So I created an account in the popular service and began with creating designated inbound links for every traffic source group.

Below you can find all the tracking links I created:

You can check and see that each such URL leads to my blog's home page.


The Course of the Traffic Experiment: Dividing the Links into Groups and Collecting Data

So there are designated links, groups and sources - now all that is left to do is integrate them.

Here is a reference to every group of sources including the final results based on readings made over a period of two months.

Group 1: Social Networks


Designated link:

Traffic sources (these links lead to my profile pages): Facebook, Linkedin, TheMarker Cafe

The position of the link in every source: In the three sources the link appears first and foremost in the profile page in the field "personal site".

In addition, it appeared in my Facebook's SEO Group and my other SEO Group in LinkedIn.

Location in Facebook:


Location in LinkedIn:


Location in TheMarker Café (it's under "expanded about page in my blog:"):


Conditions for exposure: The exposure to a link is directly dependent on the number of activities I do at each of the sites (If I am inactive no one will be exposed to it), number of friends, my involvement in the network and the number of searches leading to my profile.

During the experiment, in order to maintain the objectivity of the results and to ensure they truly reflect the potential of each group, I did not act in an extraordinary way.

The activities I did (which made people become exposed to the link) are:

  • Talkbacks in the relevant discussions,
  • adding new friends,
  • sending messages to existing friends,
  • uploading pictures and videos,
  • updating my status line and comment to my friends status changes,
  • joining communities and groups which interest me,
  • use of several social applications etc.

All the activities can be grouped under "Internet Personal Branding".

My social parameters in this channel (influencing on the level of exposure):

Unfortunately I cannot measure the number of searches leading to my profile, or the number of activities I have done in each network.

The only estimate is the number of friends in every network:

  • 605 friends in Facebook (217 friends in the SEO group in Facebook),
  • 190 in LinkedIn (11 friends in the SEO group in LinkedIn) and
  • 186 friends in TheMarker Café.

The overall number of participants coming from this group: 55


Group 2: Comments in Blogs


Designated link:

Traffic sources: I read a lot of blogs (Israeli and foreign) on a regular basis. The very partial list can be found at Websites Promotion Recommended Resources I have written before.

Additional blogs I read can be found here, a collection of the world's top 25 most recommended blogs about SEO.

The link's location in each source: In the "Full name" field in the talkbacks themselves


Conditions for exposure: The people exposed to the comment link are the blog's editor and the other readers of the same post. The exposure is dependent on the number of comments I make and the number of readers exposed to those comments.

In addition, it could be said there is a direct connection between the traffic of the blog in which I am commenting and the traffic I will get from the link inside the comment. Hence the recommendation to try to comment in those blogs popular in the area you are interested in.

My social parameters in this channel (influencing on the level of exposure): During the term of the experiment (2 months) I commented 40 times in about 20 different blogs.

The overall number of participants coming from this group: 46


Group 3: Discussion Groups and Forums


Designated link:

Traffic sources: K Forum (K Forum is an Israeli popular SEO forum), Tapuz SEO Community (Tapuz is a popular Israeli forum-based community), Commercial Internet Community (In TheMarker Café).

The link's location in each source: In the signature at the end of the comments. In some of them there is just an URL and not a clickable link so this source contributes less to the overall number of clicks of the designated link (people usually are too lazy to copy a link into their browser and prefer something clickable).

In K forum:


In TheMarker Café forum:


Conditions for exposure: Only those reading my comment in the body of the discussion were exposed to the link.

In addition, the forum's reputation and popularity are important factors - the more popular it is, the more traffic goes through it and so there is a greater chance people will click on the link in the signature.

My social parameters in this channel (influencing on the level of exposure): In forum K I commented in 35 different threads (1-3 times in average per thread), in the commercial forum I reacted to 5 threads (1-3 times in average per thread) and in the Tapuz community I commented in one thread once.

The overall number of participants coming from this group: 79


Group 4: Instant Messages


Designated link:

Traffic sources: All the various instant messaging applications and services - ICQ, Skype, MSN messenger, Google Talk.

The link's location in each source: In each application there's that status line where you can write whatever you want, sort of "status".

The link on Google Talk (the link looks pretty much the same in the other instant messaging applications):


Conditions for exposure: The exposure depends on 2 factors: The number of people in my friends list with which I talk on a regular basis and the frequency of the correspondence.

The more a person corresponds the longer the "stage time" of the link in the status line becomes (for the person with which we correspond at the moment).

In addition, the more friends a person has on his friends list, the bigger is his link's exposure even if he is not corresponding at that minute (since when he is online all his friends see his status line).

My social parameters in this channel (influencing on the level of exposure): 126 friends on Google Talk and 53 on Skype (out of which 5% are inactive).

The overall number of participants coming from this group: 40


Group 5: E-Mail Service


Designated link:

Traffic sources: This item focuses only on the e-mail service I use - Gmail.

The link's location in each source: At the end of the e-mails I sent (in my signature).


Conditions for exposure: In principle, every person who receives an e-mail from me should be exposed to the link. This, of course, depends on how long the e-mail is (who has the energy to scroll the whole way through?) and the size and color of the font of the signature (Gmail left me very little choice), but my basic assumption is that anyone who got an e-mail from me saw the link. The click on it depends on my relationship with that person, if we do not know one another there is a high chance this person will click and if we correspond on a regular basis, the chance is that he will not.

My social parameters in this channel (influencing on the level of exposure): In the last couple of months I have sent an average number of 11 e-mails per day and a total of 684 e-mails. Out of which, 45 e-mails were sent to new people (people I approached for the first time).

The overall number of participants coming from this group: 33


Group 6: Twitter


Designated link:

Traffic sources: Twitter. Not enough?

The link's location in each source: The bio field in the personal profile.


Conditions for exposure: Twitter is a powerful tool deserving a post of its own and this is why I decided to create for it a category of its own.

The exposure of your profile depends on the number of people following you, the number of tweets, the number of searches leading to your profile and the number of retweets you get.

The rule valid here is very common to all social networks - the more popular you are, the more people will be exposed to your profile.

My social parameters in this channel (influencing on the level of exposure): 171 people following me and during the period of the experiment I sent only 16 tweets (because of the low number, it does not reflect the normal usage and the power you can extract out of the tool).

The overall number of participants coming from this group: 37

Here is a final concentration of the figures:

  • Social networks: 55
  • Blog comments: 64
  • Discussion groups and forums: 79
  • Instant messages: 40
  • E-mail service: 33
  • Twitter: 37


Results and Conclusions of the Experiment


I have learned a lot from this experiment, both about me as a user and about the potential of external links from the different sources.

In addition, a lot can be understood from the statistics about the users habits in every channel (where do people click more on links etc.).

It is worth mentioning that these findings are subjective and depend on any person's habits. Nevertheless, a few insights would fit all.

Here are the experiment's findings (not in any order):

  1. Although I wasn't a hardcore user of Twitter (and it's a shame I wasn't), the number of hits I got from there is more than those coming from e-mails.
  2. Homework to myself (urgent): "Start investing in Twitter!"
  3. Second chore for homework (less urgent): "Start commenting in popular blogs!"
  4. The forums yielded the most entries and the least came from the e-mails.
  5. At the beginning I created designated links that did not include my blog name in the URL, but they hardly got clicked upon. During the experiment I did decide to include my blog name, because it gives the reader a hint where the link leads to.
  6. Although I send a lot of e-mails, relatively very few people clicked on the link in the signature.
  7. Although I am pretty active user in social networks and do not tend to comment a lot in blogs, I got more entries from the blog comments.

What are your favorite traffic sources?

So I conducted an experiment and I learned a lot about the traffic I get into my blog, but that only reflects my case. What about you? What are your favorite sources? Where do you think it would be worthwhile to invest your time to attract maximum visitors?


This post was translated from Hebrew using OneHourTranslation Translation Service.

Originally written by Pavel Israelsky for MasterNewMedia and first published on May 6th, 2009 as "Why Tracking External Links Can Help You Improve Website Traffic".

About the author


Pavel Israelsky is an SEO consultant, professional blogger and online marketing expert based in Israel. He writes in Hebrew about SEO techniques in his blog Askpavel and works for as SEO manager. You can follow him on Twitter or contact him via Linkedin.

Photo credits:
Preliminary Preparations: Mapping Sources and Setting Up Tracking Links - Helder Almeida
Group 1: Social Networks - Eric Isselée
Group 2: Comments in Blogs - Khaled Benseguenia
Group 3: Discussion Groups and Forums - Konstantinos Kokkinis
Group 4: Instant Messages - juliengron
Group 5: E-Mail Service - mipan
Results and Conclusions of the Experiment - artzone

Pavel Israelsky -
Reference: Nana10 [ Read more ]
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Wednesday, May 6 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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