@Posterous: I have a feature request for you. Please add a Google Analytics query string to all URLs before you shorten them

Dear Posterous,

Google analytics can’t tell me where a lot of my traffic is originating with any accuracy because of you. Since any traffic coming in through a shortened URL being categorized as ‘direct traffic’, all of my social media traffic is in the wrong bucket. Obviously, it would be great if we could measure this traffic accurately. As a service that makes posting to social media sites so easy and so fun, improved tracking should be core to your mission statement.

This is a known problem with URL shorteners and not unique to you.

The following articles demonstrate that the problem is well understood:

The Suggestion

I have a relatively simple suggestion to help all your users. Before you autopost anything through the post.ly URL shortener, please add the relevant tracking variables. An explanation of how to build a tracking URL for Google Analytics can be found here and here.

I would suggest populating the tracking parameters as follows:

  • Source (utm_source) = Posterous

  • Medium (utm_medium) = The social medium the URL is posted to. This variable will let user tell if Linkedin is driving more traffic than Twitter for example.

  • Campaign(utm_campaign) = date and time of post – Obviously, we already know the destination URL so there is no point in including that information in the tracking string.

All of the non-required parameters, I would ignore.

The objections

I know that not all your users have Google Analytics installed but what is the harm to them of a few spurious query strings on the end of their social media entry URLs? If they were web-saavy enough to know what the query strings mean, they would probably have web analytics installed on their site. If you want to get clever, you can only add the query strings for users that have activated Google Analytics but it seems like extra complexity for little reward.

I also realize that some of your users will want to configure their own query strings but that can always be a phase two feature. Anyone that is worried about handcrafting query strings will be happy that you are doing anything to help make their analytics more accurate.

Please be brave overrule the objections and make our tracking better!

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