How to Track Instagram Referrals in Google Analytics

How to track Instagram referrals in Google Analytics

How to Track Instagram Referrals in Google Analytics

How to track Instagram referrals in Google Analytics

Update! Google is now tracking Instagram referrals in Google Analytics (hooray!!). To see your referrals from Instagram, sign into your Google Analytics account, go to Aquisition (in the left sidebar), All Traffic, then Referrals.

If you’d like alternative ways for tracking Instagram referrals, keep reading…

If you’re following along with my Understanding Analytics series, you’ll remember that a couple weeks ago I mentioned in the Acquisition portion of Google Analytics that Instagram is left out as a referral source in social traffic.

Seems silly, right? I completely agree. Instagram is a huge referrer for many websites out there, yet that metric doesn’t show up in Google Analytics even though other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) do.

If you go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium and search for Instagram, you may see some traffic recorded, but it isn’t everything.

Why Doesn’t Instagram Show Up in Google Analytics?

How to Track Instagram Referrals Google Analytics

Have you ever noticed that when you click a link in an Instagram user’s profile, a popup window comes up that asks if you want to open the link in your browser?

When the link opens in your browser, it is tracked in Google as a direct referral (the same classification given to a visit that is from someone just typing your address in their browser or arriving from a bookmark…aka NOT HELPFUL, INSTAGRAM!!). Instagram wants to work as a self contained medium, keeping users within the app. This is why you can’t add a link to a status or tag and why everyone adds “(link in profile)” when promoting a site or blog post (no, that’s not because it’s a cool trend, it’s actually really tedious and not ideal for conversions).

This is something that I’m sure the team at Google is working on fixing (they hear your complaints, they know that this is important…Google knows EVERYTHING), but in the meantime, here are a couple workarounds that will help you track your Instagram traffic.

Setup a Google Campaign URL for Your Instagram Profile

google analytics campaign url instagram

Use Google’s URL Builder (bookmark that page, it’s useful) to create a unique link that will help you track users who only click that link from your Instagram profile. Fill in…

  • Website URL: Your website
  • Campaign Source: Instagram (this is your preference)
  • Campaign Medium: Social (this is your preference)
  • Campaign Name: Profile (this is your preference)

The downside to this method is that you end up with a really long URL that isn’t as pretty on a profile. You could use a link shortener, but often this is associated with spam accounts so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that.

Edit: The lovely Becky of Becky Kinkead Designs brought to my attention the Pretty Link WordPress Plugin which basically acts as a fancy redirect (same concept at bit.ly) but allows you to use your domain as a base so it looks less spammy. Use a 301 redirect to redirect a URL like yourwebsite.com/hi to yourwebsite.com/?utm_source=instagram&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=profile so that users still arrive at your homepage, but you’re still tracking that Google campaign URL.

Add an Instagram-Specific Landing Page

Big brands do this all the time for various paid campaigns to direct traffic from specific sources more accurately toward the area that will result in the highest conversion. In this case, you can use it as a way to specifically greet Instagram users AND track the specific page. Example: yourwebsite.com/instagram

If you do create an Instagram-specific landing page for your website, you’ll want to make sure you noindex the page so that search engines will not list it in search results (if people arrive at that page in any way other than via Instagram, there’s no point of the page). To do this, add the following code into the <head> tag of the single page or post you wish to noindex:

squarespace noindex

In Squarespace that’s Page Settings > Advanced > Add the code to the Page Header Code Injection: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

wordpress post number

Yes, I do have a million tabs open. Deal with it.

In WordPress (this is the technical version, I have a simpler example next), go to your editor screen for your post or page and note the post or page number. Then, in Appearance > Editor > header.php, add the following code between the <head> and </head> tags:

<?php if ($post->ID == POSTNUMBER) { echo ‘<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>’; } ?> Replacing POSTNUMBER with the number of your post. So in my example, it would be $post->ID == 11443).

If you have more than one post to noindex, add each one like so: <?php if ($post->ID == POSTNUMBER || $post->ID == POSTNUMBER2 || $post->ID == POSTNUMBER3) { echo ‘<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>’; } ?>

noindex a page with yoast

OR, if you’re using the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast (my favorite), simply scroll to the bottom of your post/page to the Yoast editor, click the “Advanced” tab, and select “Noindex” from the dropdown menu of the Meta Robots index menu.

*Note: This does not prevent people from arriving at the page if they have bookmarked it or if they know about it otherwise, it just prevents Google from listing it in search results.

The downside is that it forces your users to click through another page before they arrive at the content you want them to see, which might not seem like that big of a deal, but it can (and will) cause many users to give up and drop off before they arrive at the good stuff.

Don’t Do Anything Special, but Be Mindful of Your Other Analytics

Does all that sound like more trouble than it’s worth? Maybe it is, depending on your website, how much traffic you get, and how big of a deal Instagram is to your marketing efforts.

If you don’t want to use either of the above methods to track Instagram referrals in Google Analytics, that’s okay. Like I said, I’m sure Google is on it and this will be a moot point soon. So, you can also use the guessing method to track your Instagram referral traffic.

Be mindful of how often your posting and how many people like/comment on your Instagram photos to guess how many people might be clicking through to your site.

Google Analytics direct mobile traffic

Then compare that to how much traffic Google Analytics is actually picking up in Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals and how that compares to the number of mobile users that arrive via direct referral on your homepage.

Google Analytics direct mobile traffic

Go toAcquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Direct, then select Mobile (including tablet) as a secondary dimension and click the “mobile” column to sort by mobile traffic. “/” is your homepage, so if that is the URL you have listed in your Instagram profile, it’s likely that a portion of that traffic came from Instagram since, let’s face it, almost all Instagram traffic is mobile, and most people do not bookmark blogs on their phones. So really, the only direct traffic you’re competing with here is if people type in your blog address just to browse (but mostly mobile traffic is referred from another medium).

In conclusion, this has ultimately just been a huge ploy to entice you to follow me on Instagram. Please and thank you :)

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