Thursday, 26 February 2015

Track Visits to Unused Domains on Google Analytics

Every now and then I come up with a new idea of a website and brainstorm to find a good brand (domain) name for it that is not already taken. Then I buy it, get busy, and did not have the time after that to do it.

But anyways, what if I want to know how many type-in traffic I am receiving to all these domains?

Of course I could create a Google Analytics account and embed its tracking code and keep an eye on the traffic. However, that does not seem convenient if you do not have much traffic that worth monitoring them in a separate account. Or, if you have hundreds of these parked domains, and it would take forever to create (and keep an eye on) separate Google Accounts.

Creating a Google Analytics account for a parked domain is also impossible if there is no page at all, and the domain is 301 redirected from the DNS to another site.

So, I believe the easiest and fastest way to track all parked domains is to use DNS redirections and UTM tracking.

Here is how to do it: (This method requires that you redirect unused domains to tracked domain(s))

  1. Identify the destination page (It could be a used site that you want to redirect type-in traffic to it, or a sandbox site that you will use as a pool to collect all parked domains traffic stats. 
  2. Go to Google Campaign URL Builder (
  3. In the ‘website URL’ field put the URL of the destination domain (not the parked domain) 
  4. Fill in the ‘campaign source’, ‘campaign medium’, and ‘campaign name’ fields with whatever labels you prefer. I used ‘redirection’, ‘301’, and ‘forwarded_parked_domains’. 
  5. After you click submit you should see a URL like that:

Now, copy the generated URL and paste it in your DNS section of Domain forward.

Here is how I did it on Godaddy:

If you use otehr DNS provider, google “Domain forward + your DNS provider’ and you will find the how-to

P.S. Another way is to open your .htaccess file and paste the following 2 lines:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule ^$ [R=301,L]

Of course you will use your own campaign URL

To retrieve the stats on Google Analytics:

You can find the results under Acquisition > Campaigns (as illustrated below)