Facebook Page Posts: To Bitly or Not to Bitly

Optional URL parameters for Facebook page posts are very handy. These work great, but you have to add them in the following way, without a question mark:
utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=my-campaign

Once you start using these optional parameters, you will begin to see visits in Google Analytics. I use a custom GA report with source=facebook, a campaign drilldown, and all the metrics I need  (conversions, revenue, visits).

Here’s the tricky part. You will start to see more and more visits coming from the generic referral “facebook . com / referral”  which means folks are clicking your page post’s photo and then clicking the link to your website. Facebook’s ad unit automatically appends url parameters when serving the ad, but those parameters are lost on the photo page. In other words, the photo page is technically not an ad unit, but merely a component of the ad unit.

Remember: URL parameters are lost on the photo page!

This is not a bad thing. If you advertise a product or service that lends well to commentary and sharing, the facebook photo is a great place for everyone to chime in with their opinion and questions. But be careful to monitor these comments regularly. Some folks have an axe to grind, and one bad slur leads to another which can lead to a message hijack.
(Note to page admins: use the “hide” and (if necessary) “delete” features available to page admins to sweep posts and photos regularly.)Now you are measuring facebook referrals and facebook campaign visits. Tidy up your custom report with source “contains” facebook instead of source equals facebook. This serves as a wild card and will track traffic originating from your facebook campaigns as well as generic referrals.

Some folks might ask, isn’t there a workaround to all this by using Bitly links? Sure you can wrap your parameters into a shortened URL and preserve perfect tracking whether clicks originate from the ad unit or the photo page. But at my agency we have tested this and the results are very compelling: Bitly links receive much lower CTRs, which kills your campaigns’ performance. As you know, CTR decides CPC in Facebook, which in turn decides your CPA. The lower your CTR, the higher your CPC and the higher your CPA.

My advice: don’t use url shorteners. Instead, use your own domain in the link. Not only will your campaign perform better, but you’ll gain a branding opportunity to show off your great domain name in the link everyone clicks.

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