How To Track Pay-Per-Click Keywords

In order to optimize your PPC ad spend you need to track every single keyword you bid on. Fortunately ClickMagick and other good tracking systems make this easy to do.

Say I set up a tracking link in ClickMagick for my Google ads, and it looks like this:

To instruct Google to append the exact keyword that generated the click to the end of my tracking link as a Sub-ID, I just add {KeyWord} to the end like this:{KeyWord}

Once I do this, if a web surfer searches for "best tracking system" on Google and then clicked on my ad for ClickMagick, the user would be redirected to:

ClickMagick will record the Sub-ID "best+tracking+system" with the click ...

... and then from this point on I can simply click the number in the "TC" column on my main links page in ClickMagick to see all my stats broken down by keyword.

And yes, this works exactly the same with Bing Ads. You'd just enter your tracking link with the {KeyWord} token at the end in the Destination URL field and you're all set.

Bing's {QueryString} Token

Bing actually also has another token called {QueryString} you can experiment with ...

{KeyWord} will return the keyword that generated the click, while {QueryString} will return the exact search phrase entered by the user, which is not always the same.

The {KeyWord} token is what most people have been using for years, but we've noticed it's no longer listed in Bing's documentation. It does still seem to work as it always has, but we don't know if it's being "phased out" or if it's now "unsupported".

So with Bing try using whichever token returns the exact data you want, but if you ever have problems using the {KeyWord} token we'd suggest switching to {QueryString}.

Additional Tokens You Might Want To Use

Both Google and Bing offer a few additional tokens that you may want to use as well, for example, to help you identify the ad or match type that generated the click.

Here are the additional tokens that are available ...

Google AdWords

{adgroupid} - the ID of the ad group that served the ad
{campaignid} - the ID of the campaign that served the ad
{creative} - the ID of your ad creative
{device} - returns "m" for mobile, "t" for tablet or "c" for computer
{matchtype} - will return "e" for exact, "p" for phrase, or "b" for broad
{network} - returns "g" for Google search, "s" for search partner or "d" for display
{placement} - the site your ad was clicked on
{target} - the category of the placement

Bing Ads

{AdGroupID} - the ID of the ad group that triggered the ad
{AdGroup} - the name of the ad group that triggered the ad
{AdID} - the numeric ID of your ad creative
{CampaignID} - the ID of the campaign that triggered the ad
{Campaign} - the name of the campaign that triggered the ad
{Device} - returns "m" for mobile, "t" for tablet or "c" for computer
{MatchType} - will return "e" for exact, "p" for phrase, or "b" for broad
{Network} - returns "o" for Bing and AOL or "s" for syndicated ads

You have two options if you want to use these additional tokens ...

ClickMagick supports up to 5 Sub-IDs, so to add additional Sub-IDs to the end of your tracking link you can simply keep adding /some_value to the end of your link.

For example earlier we talked about adding the {KeyWord} token to the end like this:{KeyWord}

If you wanted to add {matchtype} as a second Sub-ID, you'd do it like this:{KeyWord}/{matchtype}

You can add up to 5 Sub-IDs in this way, but please keep in mind that currently only the first Sub-ID will show up in your ClickMagick stats and in order to see the additional Sub-IDs you'll need to download your data and view it that way.

The other option is to simply combine the two tokens into one Sub-ID value, so you can see both in ClickMagick, by simply separating them with a hyphen like this:{KeyWord}-{matchtype}

In this case the Sub-ID in your stats will appear as "some+keyword-e" which in this case would mean the keyword was "some keyword" and the match type was exact.

Adding Your Tracking Link In Google AdWords

Google introduced something called "Upgraded URLs" in May of 2015.

There's no longer a Destination URL field, and you need to specify both your Final URL (the URL of the page the user actually ends up on) and your tracking link separately.

The upside is that you can now change your tracking links in AdWords any time without it triggering a manual review and pausing your ads which used to be a real pain.

So to enter your tracking link in AdWords just click on "Ad URL options (advanced)" and then enter it in the "Tracking template" field there.

If you're using ClickMagick and you need more help, there's also a video walkthrough titled "How To Set Up Tracking Links in AdWords" on the video tutorials page.

Adding Your Tracking Link In Bing Ads

As of August 16th, 2016 Bing Ads now supports Upgraded URLs, just like Google.

This has all of the same benefits, like more consistent ad approvals and the ability to make changes to your tracking links without triggering a manual review once you've switched over to using this new method.

For all the details, including instructions on how to use Bing Ads Editor to export your entire account to make bulk changes to all of your existing ads, please see this page.

If you prefer to use the Bing Ads web-based editor, here's all you need to do:

Step 1 - Enter your Display URL. This should match the domain that the user will see in their browser when they arrive at the final landing page.

Step 2 - You'll no longer be using "Destination URL" (Bing is getting rid of this at the end of the year), so in the Landing Page section you'll want to select the option that says "Final URL (recommended)" and enter the actual destination URL here.

Step 3 - Enter your ClickMagick tracking link in the Tracking Template field.

Note: If you don't see the Tracking Template field, just click the link that says "Ad URL Options" which will reveal the Tracking Template field and other advanced options.

If you're using ClickMagick and you need more help, check out the video walkthrough titled "How To Setup Tracking Links in Bing" on the video tutorials page.

If you want you can get even fancier and enter a separate mobile URL, and enter custom tracking parameters, which you can learn about by clicking the "Learn more" link in the screenshot below ...

Pay-Per-Click Tracking Strategy

So that's the technical side of it, but let's also talk a tiny bit about strategy.

This obviously isn't a detailed Pay-Per-Click Advertising course, but I do have a few tips I can share based on my experience that might be helpful.

The biggest problem I see when it comes to PPC is advertisers simply not tracking things at all. But the next biggest problem is almost the opposite - micromanaging.

Now I'm not trying to tell you how to set up and run your PPC campaigns because there are a million different variables and every business is different ...

But in my 18 years of experience, the overwhelming majority of PPC advertisers tend to micromanage their campaigns and end up wasting a ton of time.

(And yes, I've been doing PPC since "invented" it in 1998.)

While it's important to set up your tracking like we've just discussed so you can track your results down to the keyword level, when it comes to analyzing your results and optimizing your campaigns don't waste time on keywords with hardly any clicks.

If you're like most PPC advertisers, the majority of your clicks will come from a relatively small percentage of your keywords. It's the whole 80/20 thing again.

These are really the keywords that you need to focus on tracking and optimizing.

In a perfect world I recommend that you actually set up a separate tracking link for every "important" keyword that generates a meaningful number of clicks.

You'll need to decide what that number is for you, but normally it's just not worth spending much time on a keyword that only gets a handful of clicks a week.

Setting up a separate tracking link for each important keyword does a few things ...

First of all, this will allow you to easily send visitors for different keywords to different landing pages and conduct split tests on individual keywords.

Matching your message to what the user is looking for, specifically based on the exact search term they entered, is one of the few "secrets" to PPC success - and creating and optimizing individual landing pages for your important keywords is the way to go.

Sure it's more work, but at the end of the day it's also the key to being able to spend more than your competitors - which means you can grab a bigger share of the clicks.

The other thing this will do is make it easier for you to see the exact ROI for individual keywords in your tracking system.

See, Google and Bing don't provide any way to pass click costs to your tracking links.

I imagine this is because they often don't know exactly how much you'll end up getting charged until after the click actually happens, combined with the fact that they also sometimes make "adjustments" to your click costs after the fact.

This is less than ideal from a tracking standpoint ...

... but if you're using a separate link for each of your important keywords at least you'll be able to periodically enter your actual click costs into your tracking system to see exact ROIs on individual important keywords.

Now with all of that being said, I'll also add this:

If you have a very simple funnel you may want to also track ROIs in your AdWords or Bing Ads account by adding their tracking pixels to your "thank you" pages.

This only really works if you have a very simple funnel without OTOs, upsells and downsells and things like that, but if you can you'll be able to easily and automatically see ROIs for individual keywords within your Google or Bing Ads account, while at the same time using your tracking system to track and optimize everything else.

Whatever you do, just remember the 80/20 rule ...

You'll be MUCH better off spending your time split testing and optimizing for your top 10 or 20 "money" keywords than you'll be micromanaging 100s or 1,000s of keywords.

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