Social Media Tracking - The Onion Gets It Right (Ninja Style!)

So I was on digg the other day (working, honest!) when I came across this awesome video from the Onion:

Ninja Parade Slips Through Town Unnoticed Once Again

It hit the homepage rather predictably and received over 6000 diggs. After all, who doesn’t like a story about ninjas :-) . The thing that struck me however (being a social media and seo geek) is that the URL that had been submitted to digg was not this one:

But instead this one:

Now, as anyone who’s familiar with Google Analytics will tell you, that URL is designed to provide enhanced tracking of visitors from Digg. The question is, how did this URL get submitted? Are the Onion submitting the content themselves?

No, the answer is that they force whomever submits the content to use this URL, and here’s how: on their site they have a ‘share’ widget which gives quick links to all the top social media sites (many sites have these, including the BBC) but the difference is that the URLs that get submitted if you click on these links include the relevant tracking parameters to ensure that the Onion can track the visitors more accurately. Smooth work Onion.

##But the ninja skills don’t end there!

Oh no, because if you look at the code for the embedded video in this blog post you’ll notice something far more interesting, namely that the link back looks like this:

Notice how this enables them to combine all their traffic from embedded video referrals together? Imagine how powerful that is for them.

After all, you can always segment Google Analytics (or any other decent analytics package) by referring domain so it’s not too hard to find all the Digg or Reddit traffic but being able to segment your social media traffic to this level is very powerful.

Of course, the slightly less obvious outcome of this is that it also gives their content another chance to become popular with the social media sites in case it didn’t make it the first time round since users could still submit the original URL by editing the submission. Truly ninja! ;-)