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You Ask, I Answer: Tracking Clicks in a PDF?

Robbie asks, “I’m wondering if you have a solution to go one step further and track hyperlink clicks within the PDF itself? What I’m trying to do is find out which links my email subscribers are clicking on within a PDF, after I email them a link to a hosted version of the PDF.”

There are a number of ways to do this; the simplest is to use a URL shortener with appropriately UTM-tagged custom URLs in the PDF. As long as those clicks go back to a tracking system you have access to, like Google Analytics, you can easily see what’s happening. Kick it up a notch and use your own URL shortener for everything.

You Ask, I Answer: Tracking Clicks in a PDF?

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In today’s episode, Robbie asks, I’m wondering if you have a solution to go one step further in your Google Analytics, tracking and track hyperlink clicks within a PDF itself.

What I’m trying to do is find out which links my email subscribers are clicking on within a PDF.

After I email the link to a hosted version of the PDF, yes, there are a number of ways to do this is a very common thing, it’s a very good thing to do, because you want to know what’s getting clicked on.

The easiest way, the easiest way to do this is with a URL shortener.

And appropriately UTM tagged links within the PDF.

So you would generate a link like Trust insights.ai, right, and you would add your UTM codes source would probably be PDF, right? Medium would be email, because you’re emailing this PDF to people, and then the campaign and content and the keywords would be things that you would set appropriately for that, that PDF, I would suggest that you use the UTM content tag as a way to distinguish like if the same destination is in the PDF, but multiple places, use your UTM content tag to denote those places within the PDF.

Now, that’s straightforward, right? So you tag the URL with all the tracking tags you want, and then you use a shortener.

Bitly, for example, would be one shortener.

And you would put those links in your PDF, and then in your dashboard, you can track them.

When you do it this way, you will see, as long as they are links to your site, you will see the traffic from that PDF, just by going into Google Analytics and seeing you know, source, medium campaign, etc.

all that stuff, that’s the most straight for way to accomplish what you’re asking.

Now, if you want to kick it up a notch, and really who doesn’t want to kick it up a notch these days, if you have the means to do so it will cost you about like five bucks a month.

You can run your own custom URL shortener, there are services that do it.

Most of them cost more than five bucks a month, or there’s an open source package called the your URLs that’s iyourls.org.

And you can download this open source package that runs on your server, you put on either your website server you make, you can build a custom server, I think I host mine where I host mine online owed for five bucks a month, right.

And in this, you then put all of your custom URLs, in fact, bring up a screenshot of the control panel here.

What’s nice about this service is that you can see all of the links that I put in here and in my instance, I’m tracking 326,000 links, and 107,000 clicks.

This is why if you have a lot of stuff to track or you want to track clicks to sites that are not yours, you would want to do something like this, because this allows you to track any click on links that you share anywhere, regardless of whether you own the site or not.

You can see this is the Trust Insights, news, our news sharing service and the all these links just run and and go out to different services got different places for tracking.

Now the advantage of this was two advantages one, it’s got a really nice dashboard.

that lets you see how many clicks any link has gotten.

And to become because it’s your shortener, you can do more than just last link tracking right you could prepare and link retargeting, that’s what we do a link retargeting where if you click on a link any link, you are enrolled your cookie into a retargeting audience in which I can then show you ads.

Now if you are really lucky up another notch, you could create links that are tagged by category like these are healthcare links of sharing a b2b links or it links and have different retargeting audiences.

That’s what we do.

retargeting audiences based on the links, so that you can then show relevant ads to those audiences.

Now for just a PDF or a set of PDFs, this is probably overkill, right, you probably want to stick with the first solution in the beginning.

But if you unless you’re generating a lot of content, or you want to track a lot of links in a PDF, if that’s the case, you may want to look into a solution like this that has all the IT infrastructure in place, so that you can do mass reporting very, very quickly.

You know, one of the problems with some of the SAS based systems is that the reporting is not great.

By the by having your own server, you can have total control over the data collection, and the data reporting.

The other thing I think is important, and this is more if you are an enterprise rather than a small business or midsize business, if you want to be doing this kind of link tracking and link retargeting.

And you have compliance requirements like GDPR, or CPA, or whatever.

running your own service on your servers, whether they’re in house on premises or or private cloud allows you to meet compliance guidelines a little more easily because you don’t have to wait for the vendor to certify that, you know, the servers ISO, 2701 compliant, PCI compliant, whatever, you can use this with the help of your IT department, and run those same benefits.

Get those same benefits of like a commercial link shortener, but be compliant with the regulations that you have to meet.

especially true if like you dealing with stuff like HIPAA or SPI or PHI.

You want to make sure that information is not leaking anywhere out.

So a custom URL shortener may be the way to go for you as well for compliance purposes while still achieving your marketing goals.

So something to think about something to check with it and legal to see if it’s a good fit for you.

So lots of different options, choose the option that best matches your regulatory requirements, your technical skills, your budget, and, and the level of complexity of the implementation from simple UTM tagging and an URL shortener, off the shelf URL shortener all the way to a custom built solution for total control over compliance.

All of them will get the job done reporting on those clicks within a PDF it’s a great question.

It’s a great idea, something you should definitely be doing.

As always, please leave your comments below.

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