Tracking More Than Just Sales

For a long time I've been thinking that it would be a good idea to have tracking stats available to developers that sell stuff in the concrete5 marketplace.

This weekend I started tracking links between my own add-ons and page views for each one. Actually, a couple of other marketplace developers and I have all started tracking the page views together. So we can see what things are popular. How many more hits for free items? Image galleries vs applications? Stuff like that. Keep reading to learn how I'm doing everything so you can do it for your own software.

"Check Out My Other Addons"

This was the first thing that I set up. You can see the results here, or really on any of my addons.

I've been developing for awhile, so there were a bunch of different package icons that I was using. First off, I needed to make all of the icons match. I came up with the design style awhile ago, but had not updated all of my older stuff. It took quite awhile getting it all done, then updating the files in the marketplace. Saving any add-on or theme page takes literally MINUTES to load. And locks up every other page on concrete5.org at the same time. It's a bit annoying.

It really does make a big difference to have consistency in your designs. It shows a higher level of concern with the products that you are selling. 

After I had all of the files updated, I went to work on setting up the internal links. The HTML on the bottom is pretty basic, but tinymce strips out a lot of code. It's kind of like writing html for an email, you have to be pretty simple. 

I've been a big fan of using link sharing services for things. It was a big help when I was doing the work on BikeLove, really. When I sent out an email, I would have different, but readable shortened URL for each link. Often for social media posts, too. Then I could see exactly how many times that a link was followed. There are several different shorteners that you can use. I personally kind of like the is.gd service. I think that several services are doing things like tracking your clicks for other people that might be wanting information. Really not what you want.

First off, I created a Google Drive Spreadsheet with several columns:

  • Add On(s) : The name of the addon I'm linking to
  • Target URL : What I'm linking to
  • Shared URL : The is.gd link that I'm using
  • Tracking URL : This is the url that is.gd gives you to see statistics
  • Shared Locations : Where I've posted the link

It took a couple hours worth of pageloads, but I eventually got all the links created.  The process was a bit like this:

  1. Open the marketplace page I want to track, copy the URL to the spreadsheet
  2. Visit the is.gd home page, and enter the url you want to shorten.
  3. Click "Further options/custom URL"
  4. Make a readable url for the page you are linking to instead of the random one. I'm not 100% sure, but it seems like that will help get more people to click. Not everyone pays attention to the url displayed at the bottom when they hover over a link, but it could instill a bit more confidence in clicking, especially when being shared in twitter or facebook.
  5. Click the "Log statistics for this link" checkbox
  6. Copy the shortened URL to the spreadsheet
  7. Follow the link to the 'preview page' for the link, which is the same as the URL with a - at the end
  8. Right click the "I want to see statistics for this URL' and copy that to the spreadsheet

Really, that's a pretty simple process. It's the kind of thing that almost anyone trying to keep track of links can do. I'm sure it's possible to do more by paying money, but if you are willing to do a bit of work, you can get a fair amount of information. If you do something like _tw or _fb at the end of links that are the same to differentiate clicks between those different services. If you are a small business, band, non-profit, anarchist collective  or really any other group that doesn't have money and needs to get out a message or promote something... It can really help you focus your limited resources.

How Busy Is The Marketplace?

This is another thing that has been on my mind for awhile. Several other marketplace developers and I have compared our sales statistics in bulk, but that's not really the whole story.

What you really need to know is how many times the add-on is being sold relative to how many times it is viewed.

This is something that none of the developers really know. There are some kind of vague numbers about the overall sales, but how many people browse per day? Average sales? 

A total mystery.

I was mentioning that I had seen a few (like 3-5) click throughs on my internal links in the IRC today, and a couple people chimed in asking how I could know that. I described what I was doing above, and they all thought it was a good idea. We started talking about wanting to keep better track, and jshannon suggested that you could use an image as a link to a php page on your site and keep stats going. We all agreed that it would work, but I wondered if there was a service. Scottc5 suggested maybe the pikwik site analytics software might be a good fit. 

After working on some code for a probono project today, I took some time to look into pikwik. It was really easy to install, maybe 10-15 min. I won't go into it here, but the instructions are in my link above.

Once I had it installed, I went to set up a second site for the concrete5 marketplace.

Here's the process:

  1. Click the "All Websites" link in the top nav
  2. Click "(+) Add a new website"
  3. Enter the information that you need. I entered concrete5.org for urls, turned off search tracking and that was pretty much it. 
  4. Save, scroll all the way to the right, and click the "View Tracking Code" link
  5. Scroll down to the "Image Tracking Link" and copy the img html tag 
  6. Put it somewhere in your add-on's description
  7. Profit!

Ok, I'm not sure how much of #7 will happen, but it seems to be working great. There's not really a _ton_ of information that I can track, but I can see unique pageloads and some limited visitor demographics. It's a lot more than what I did have. 

Some of the report panels look like this: 

 pages_report.png

visitors_preview_pane.png

vistor_detail.png

It's not google analytics, but it's still a lot of information. I'm not really sure what the not-defined are, but I can see what pages are being listed and which users are viewing them.

Bringing in More Developers

Obviously, it's something that I could use to target my own addons better. What is being viewed? How do those views and page paths line up with actual sales? 

But if you know me, you know that I'm not first focused on maximizing my own profits over everyone elses. I want to try and empower everyone to make better things that sell more. That's why I've compared sales statistics with other developers in the past, trying to understand the common threads in our software sales. 

One nice thing about pikwik is that it allows you to create multiple different users that can view the statistics for a site. All of them can use the same image embed to update the statistics for everyone. Suddenly, the information is a lot more informative. 

I shared the tracking image tag and stats login (shared, we'll set up individual ones later) and we all included it on several different add-ons and themes that we had. It worked to allow us all to view, and all the pages linked showed up fine. 

Of course, this kind of information could be damaging if you have unscrupulous people working with this data. We were going to make it open to everyone, but after some reflection, decided that it should be invite-only, with the people that are already members having veto rights over new members. 

Do You Want In?

Send me an email at jeremy.werst@gmail.com and let me know if you'd like to join. That's really all you need to do.

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