Once upon a time (let’s say, 8-10 years ago), link tracking was mostly a synonym for link redirection. The main goal was to have a way to shorten affiliate links and redirect them to the affiliate offer. If there was a bit of analytics, then that was a nice add-on.
Then, with the rise of many new traffic sources such as blogs, video networks, social networks, advertising networks, emails, as well the growth of mobile traffic, marketers started to need a lot more details on their traffic, to make sure they have a positive ROI. Or, to say it another way, the need for link analytics arose and would be the only way for marketers to analyze their traffic performance by source and device. Why invest in iOS Mobile traffic from Facebook if you find that it does not compare as well as Bing desktop traffic for your demographics.
Now, I’ve been helping internet marketers for 10 years, and even among the most advanced people out there, link tracking is mostly link redirection. They can’t be bothered most of the time. 2 reasons for this: they are either market with only one traffic source (so they know which traffic source their leads and sales are coming from… even if that’s far from being enough), or they don’t know/don’t want to do it (which is not a long term approach).
The most advanced in link tracking are CPA marketers who use a lot of different traffic sources to push affiliate offers. And, they make extensive use of Link tracking solutions. In a nutshell, it allows them to create a unique link per traffic source, so that they can measure its performance.
Of course, they can do many other things, such as offer rotation, geo-targeting, append dynamic parameters to further analyze the performance (for example: passing a keyword to your link so that you know which Google/Bing search generated the highest ROI and optimize from there). There would be no other way to optimize any campaign without proper link tracking. Link tracking is used to understand the performance of each traffic source and to allow for some deep analysis (which devices, which countries, which keywords, which target, at what part of the day… are generating the most conversion and the best ROI).
Nowadays, link tracking is a way to track conversions, more than just clicks. A click means nothing in fact. You advertise to generate conversions (be it a lead, a sale, a webinar registration, a form submission…). So, what was a way to simply redirect to a specific URL is now a way to understand where your conversions are coming from, at a highly granular level.
So, yes, you should take time to track all your links, even if you think it’s not worth it. It’s more than worth it. It’s critical. Without proper tracking, there’s simply no way to buy traffic.
We’ll discuss different solutions (free/paid, SaaS/Self Hosted), so that you can use them to start tracking your links the right way.