A cool, pretty easy, and free trick you can use for better lead attribution (Yes, even on Craigslist)

Trying to reach perfect lead attribution is like trying to learn to fly with a pair of chopsticks and chewing gum. People just use way too many websites to get all the information they need to make the best choice. All we can do as marketers is simply the best we can.

When going over our reports last year and discovering that our website had turned into a source code catch-all, we decided to try something different.

Create sub-domains for your marketing.

Here’s what I mean. Click on this link: http://iamanerd.bsitko.com. The iamanerd is the subdomain here. Do you notice when you click on this link it redirects you to a blog post I wrote? Notice the Google Analytics code in the address bar? These Google codes can help you figure out where people are really coming from to get to your website. Now that you see how it works, let’s do. Don’t be afraid, it won’t bite.

Setting up subdomains is easy.

To illustrate, I’ll show you using one of our properties:
http://americanasouthdaleapts.com.

These directions for setting up your own subdomain are for GoDaddy, which is who we use for our domain name hosting. If you have questions about your domain name provider, feel free to send me an email and I’ll try to help you out.

Anyway, log into your domain host account and click on your domain settings. Scroll down and find the forwarding section:

Domain Forwarding

You can click manage and you’ll see this:

Subdomain Forwarding

We chose a simple naming convention; aptguide for ApartmentGuide and so forth but you can certainly set this up how you’d like. The next step is to build the url you need this subdomain to redirect to. In our case, it’s just the property’s default site.

Go to Google Analytics url builder which is here.

  • First, you’ll enter your website url. This is the site you want this subdomain to redirect to.
  • Next, you’ll select the campaign source. For this we inserted our actual source code from our accounting system. This helps us in other ways whose scope is outside of this post.
  • Third, enter the Campaign Medium. We just used web here but certainly you can enter whatever type is applicable.
  • Fourthly, and this one is optional, use Campaign Content to segment your properties.
  • Fifthly, Campaign Name, which is used to specify the exact campaign. In this case, it’s Apartmentguide.

Now click Submit. Google will spit out a URL. Here’s our finished one:

http://marylandmanagement.com/Apartments/Maryland/Glen-Burnie/Americana-Southdale?utm_source=apartm&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=apartmentguide

Now paste that url into the box labelled “Forward To” over on GoDaddy and hit Save.

Edit your Subdomain Forward

Wait 10 minutes to allow the settings to take affect and BOOM! You now have a method of tracking leads to your website from ApartmentGuide.com better using Google Analytics:

http://aptguide.americanasouthdaleapts.com

Make sure you update all of your ILS’s and other web sites with your new fancy urls.

Cool Tip!

Want to track individual Craigslist ads? Setup custom subdomains for your ad types. Insert those url’s in your ads.

We took things a step further here.

We capture the Google Campaign Source code on our website and when a prospect fills out a guest card, we auto populate it with the correct source. I won’t go into how because showing you how to program in php would put far too many of you to sleep.

Do you have a better way? Do you have any suggestions? What is good or bad about this approach?

See? You did it! I told you you'd be able to! Isn't Google Analytics great?

See? You did it! I told you you’d be able to! Isn’t Google Analytics great?

Happy renting everyone.

Thanks go out, as always, to Mike Whaling of 30 lines for the initial inspiration.

Image courtesy of FreeStockPhotos and author Renjith Krishnan

About the author

bsitko
  • Brilliant, Bill! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • No problem, @jgerberrpm:disqus ! Glad you liked it!

  • Love it, Bill … I’m so happy to see you implementing this. We’re even using this approach to track traffic from property banners, so it adds some level of tracking for offline sources.

    I can see why you’d enter the Source the way you outline here — it’s always interesting to see how others approach this. We’ve found that clients want to see the direct source, and that it can get confusing if we start creating new mediums, so we usually follow a format that automatically organizes everything how the client might want to see the report directly in GA. Then we take all the similar ad sources and combine them under a main “Campaign”. So for your example, our links might look something like this: ?utm_source=ApartmentGuide.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ILS. Same result, different approach.

    Thanks for sharing this, and keep the good stuff coming!

    • I’d be curious to see what it looks like in GA when you set it up this way. I wanted a quick way to capture the source code so was a bit literal in my use.

      • When you’re in GA, head over to Acquisition > All Traffic. Everything there is organized by source and medium. So we just use this as our guide when we’re building these links.

        If we want to show the actual source in GA, the customized URL would include ?utm_source=apartmentguide.com – the recorded source shows as apartmentguide.com.

        Then we want all of these redirects to get recorded under the “referral” medium, so we use &utm_medium=referral … this keeps everything together if we want these visits to show up under Acquisition > All Referrals.

        Finally, under Acquisition > Campaigns, we might want to see how all of our ILSs are doing collectively, so we could use &utm_campaign=ILS, which would organize all the traffic from ILSs under one umbrella. (You could do &utm_campaign=Craigslist for all your CL posts, &utm_campaign=Outdoor for billboards, etc.) It just keeps everything organized based on how GA already tracks the Source/Medium for each visit … in this case, we would end up with a Source/Medium like this: “apartmentguide.com / referral”.

        What you’re doing works; no need to mess with it … like I said, it’s interesting to see how others set this up for their own needs.

  • Sarah Greenough

    Great share Bill! Really good stuff. What kind of time investment are we talking?

    • I can do one property spread over 9 ILS’s in about 5 minutes once I get rolling. Not too bad.

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