How to Tag & Track Referral Traffic from YouTube Description Links [TUTORIAL]

How to Tag & Track Referral Traffic from YouTube Description Links [TUTORIAL]

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A few days ago we brought you the news that YouTube had expanded the amount of snippet space given to creators in the description box. Now, viewers will see five lines of text rather than three and this presents an excellent opportunity for channel owners to entice a viewer into a) watching the video because they’ve been told a little about it, and b) following any link back to the landing page you have provided. You did provide a link, right?

tagged urls youtube descriptionsUnless there is a very good reason why (there isn’t a website to link to, for instance), providing a link to an appropriate landing page, which isn’t always the home page, is one of the best Call to Actions you can optimize your video for. And, if you are going to point viewers to a web page, then you may as well track it so you can see how much traffic a YouTube link can drive. For this, you’ll need to do four things:

  • Identify the URL you want to use (product page, blog page etc)
  • Tag that page using Google Custom Campaign parameters
  • Run the tagged URL through (or another URL shortener). Optimize it for keywords at the same time
  • Add the tagged but shortened URL to your YouTube description

Tagging a URL using Google’s Custom Campaign Parameters

We’re assuming you have identified the page (or pages) you want to track from within a YouTube video description so now let’s now add some extras to that URL so Google Analytics knows exactly what to track. If you’re not familiar with tagging a URL it’s a very, very simple process and Google has provided a user-friendly tool that takes all the work out of it – the URL Builder Tool.

To demonstrate the process, I’m going to tag the URL created for last week’s Creator’s Tip. As we’re ReelSEO, we take full advantage of the YouTube description box to give our viewers on YouTube as much information about the website as we can, without overloading them.

The URL for the landing page on the website that accompanies the video is so we add that to the first box on the builder – ‘Website URL’. Now we need to confirm the Campaign Source, Campaign Medium and the Campaign Name:

Campaign Parameters

infoCampaign Source:  Every referral to a web site comes from another source. Possible sources include the name of a search engine, i.e. “google”, the name of a referring site, i.e. “”, the name of a newsletter, i.e., “april_newsletter”, and “direct” (from users that typed your URL directly into their browser, or who had previously bookmarked your site because they visit it so regularly). For our purposes, our source is ‘youtube’.

infoCampaign Medium: Every referral visit  to a website also has to have a medium. According to Google, possible mediums include: “organic” (unpaid search), “cpc” (cost per click, i.e. paid search), “referral” (referral), “email” (the name of a custom medium you have created), or “none” (direct traffic has a medium of “none”). For our purposes, our medium is ‘referral’.

infoCampaign Name: To keep track of campaigns, you need to give them a name, whether it be the referring Adwords group or any other custom campaign. For our purposes, our name is ‘creatorstip’.

google url builder

Clicking on the submit button generates the following tagged URL for our YouTube link to our landing page:

Using a URL Shortener the Smart Way

Hurrah! We’ve tagged our URL the right way so we know exactly what we need to track, but, and there’s no way of saying this politely, it looks a mess. So, the next step is to tidy it up a little so it looks presentable, and also optimize it so it’s working as hard as it can for us. This process will work with most of the URL shortening sites out there, but we use so we’ll take you through the stages for that.

Sign in, or sign up and copy and paste your URL in the box provided:

bitly url box

You’ll get a little pop-up screen that confirms the shortened URL and gives you a few options for the next step. We have configured with our own custom shortened link ( but the default option is absolutely fine to use.

bitly saved url

We have a shortened URL but the process of shortening has stripped out the keywords that we used in the title tag. We spend a lot of time on our titles, both on the site and on YouTube because we want the viewer to know what they are about to click on. Also, keywords in the URL are still one of the many ranking factors that Google takes into consideration so it’s important that we find a way of including at least one or two of them. The title of our landing page, and video is:

How To Create a Video Content Marketing Strategy for YouTube

Let’s pull out a couple of the most important keywords (I’m going with video and strategy) and amend the shortened URL to reflect the change. Just click on the little gray pencil next to the URL and add your keywords. Now the URL will look something like this:

Test this URL in your browser to make sure it opens the tagged URL. If it doesn’t, then start the process again. Also, remember that each shortened URL is unique so someone else may have got there first in terms of keywords. Keep trying until you find a combination that hasn’t been used before.

Add the New Shortened URL to Your YouTube Description

OK, we’re on the last stage. Sign into your YouTube Video Manager and select the video you want to update the description for. Pop the new URL in at the very top so you get the viewers attention:

youtube description

You can see the URL now in place. It’s short and to the point, and more importantly, it can be tracked through Google Analytics via the Acquisition > Campaigns report.

We’ve kept this tutorial short and simple but for some really indepth instructions regarding tagging and tracking, Annielytics has one of the best overviews we’ve seen – check it out. Happy tagging!


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