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How to use a TRACKER - for beginners (with diagrams)

Updated on April 19, 2013
It might seem tough or confusing. But I'm happy to show you EXACTLY what is going on.
It might seem tough or confusing. But I'm happy to show you EXACTLY what is going on.

How to use Trackers, and an explanation of HTML Links - for Beginners!

When you do something everyday, for a living, as a professional, it becomes second-nature. It becomes easy. In fact sometimes you get so used to your skills that you don't realize (forget) they are valuable, and complicated. I want to take the time to share what a Hubpages "Tracker" is, and what an "HTML Link" is on a level where a true beginner can understand it, and benefit from it.

Hubpages attracts a wide variety of users. One subset of users tends to be the middle-aged, and older crowd who have not been trained, or aptly exposed to the fundamentals of a tool we all now use everyday - the Internet. It gets frustrating because much of where we are on the net "assumes" basic knowledge like tags, html, links, hrefs, cookies, and so on.

I'll help you. Read on.

What exactly is a URL Tracker?

In the simplest way, a URL Tracker is a small piece of code inserted into a link that ties itself back to your personal HubPages account. You should be using these trackers to link your friends, family, and social-networking friends (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, etc ...) back to your profile, or articles that you want to promote.

The URL Tracker gives you a way to see where your traffic is coming from, and if they sign up for HubPages, gives you a little piece of the pie when ads are displayed on the new user's articles. We'll talk about how to make custom Trackers at a later time, but for now, let's get you up and running using the "Default Tracker" which comes with every new HubPages account automatically.

The easiest way to use a Tracker

Look at the image directly below. I will describe this image in the paragraph underneath the image.

Find this at the bottom of any article.
Find this at the bottom of any article.

At the bottom of each article on HubPages you will see this section. Take your mouse and click "share it", just like in the graphic. Once you've done this the screen will change into the next graphic (below).

This appears after your click "share this"
This appears after your click "share this"

Once you are on this section, you have a lot of options, but all you need to do is press "Link to this page" with your mouse.

Once you do that, you will be taken to a screen that looks like the one below. But I have marked that graphic up with "green highlighter" so you can see what I'm talking about.

Understanding the Above Image

This page has everything you need to link somebody back to the article you were just on.

The very first thing you see, item number 1, is a header that says "HubPages Referral Tracker" and a dropdown box with a crazy looking string of letters (1vtsc6g ... or something crazy like that) and then next to it, in parenthesis, it says "Default Tracker". In this example, you don't need to do anything with this section. Just leave it as it is.

Section 2 says "HTML Link Text" - Now this is where it could get confusing for someone, especially if they don't know what HTML means, or exactly what a link really is. So, for now, I want you to leave this section alone also. After this quick example, I'm going to explain and dissect exactly what a HTML Link really is, so you have a solid understand of how to change these options.

Section 3 gives a brief snippet of instructions, and then has two sections called "URL" and "HTML". This section could be incredibly confusing for someone not familiar with this terminology! But, section three is actually important, because there is a big difference between the two (URL and HTML).

Here is the simplest way to link back to your article, with a tracker.

With your mouse, or your keyboard, highlight everything in the URL field. Once all of the text in that little box is highlighted, right click on it with your mouse, and select "copy".

Then, in a different window or tab, log into one of your other sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, or you email. Get to the section where you want to post the link back to your article. Right click with your mouse when your cursor is where you want it, and select "paste". You will see the text you copied from the URL on the other page appear. Now your friends can get to your article, and they will be tagged with the HubPages "URL Tracker", and you're on your way to utilizing more of HubPages!

So. Are you ready to learn what an HTML Link really is?

Okay then. Let's get started.

First, let's get some terminology out of the way so you are no longer wondering what these things mean. If you already know this, awesome, you're ahead of the game.

HTML - This is the basic language of the internet. It is an acronym that stands for "Hyper Text Markup Language". Generally, when you're writing an email, or editing your Facebook or MySpace page you will have the option to edit or read in "Plain Text" or "HTML Mode".

URL - This acronym stands for "Uniform Resource Locator", and this term is used interchangeably with "web address", "website", "link" and some people even like to pronounce it like the name "Earl" (hint: nobody in the industry pronounces it like that. We just say the letters URL.). The URL is the precise address of a specific document on the internet, most commonly a web page or image.

Link - A link is an interactive line of text that directs your browser to a specific document (webpage, image, file, etc.) on the internet. A link is an HTML element that uses the URL to direct the user to the right location. We've all seen and used these. When you click a link with your mouse, it takes you to where you want to go.

So now that we have some of the basic terminology down, let's get into the next diagram (below).

Let's make sense of all that wild "code"

It is inevitable that by now, whether it be here, Facebook, MySpace, or wherever you play online, that you've run into HTML code, and were thoroughly baffled. You've probably managed to stumble your way through it and make it "kinda work" but I'm going to take some of the mystery out of it right now for you.

I have the image above labeled to make this description easier.

A.) This is a "tag". Tags are used to write HTML. Tags start with this character "<" and end with this character ">". Everything in between defines what that tag does. So in this case, our tag defines an HTML link. The name of the tag used to create a link is called an "Anchor Tag". It's most basic form is this: <a>

This tag wraps around regular text, so you will usually see it like this: <a> text </a>

The second tag, </a>, is just used to "close the tag".

B.) This is the part of the Anchor tag that defines it as a Link. This section of the Anchor tag is called an "href". The way to write an href is like this: href="type URL here". Remember, there must be a space after the "a" in an anchor tag before the href. So, an example looks like this: <a href="type URL here"> text </a>

C.) This part of the URL is called the domain: is the domain. Anything after this is helping to describe the exact page or place on that domain you'd like to go. When linking from one site to another, you must always put "http://" in front of the URL.

D.) This part of the URL is the actual HubPages Tracker. it goes in between two forward slashes ( / ). HubPages has decided that each tracker must be unique. So, in this example it is just called "tracker". HubPages requires an underscore character ( _ ) to be placed directly before the Tracker in the URL. So if your tracker is called "myhubpagestracker" then to place it in a URL you would need to type it like this "_myhubpagestracker"

E.) This is the text that you see on the webpage that acts as the link. You can see it is wrapped by the anchor tag ( <a> text </a> ). That text will show up on a webpage as a link. Here is an example: The Name of the Page or the Link. This corresponds exactly with section two (2) on the graphic above called "Link to HubPages".

F.) While a small little guy, this </a> is what completes the anchor tag, and turn the text into a functional link.

Great! So when do I use just the URL or the entire HTML code?

Remember the graphic above that says "Link to HubPages"? Remember how it has two options, URL or HTML?

That will take some getting used to.

In many cases you will just use the URL. And generally, it will tell you if the place your editing can accept HTML. If it can, I highly recommend you use the HTML code. So you might be asking, is there any benefit to using the HTML code over just pasting the URL? And yes, there is.

Just using the URL look like this:

Using HTML Look Like This: Click Here to read my article!

Wrapping it up

I will likely edit this as time goes on, or questions come in (feel free to ask). But I really hope this gets you on your way!

Be peaceful on your way,

"I am Another You"

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    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 4 years ago from Florida


      It appears that HP has changed the interface since I wrote this article. I may need to do some research and revise. Thanks for the comments.

    • Monis Mas profile image

      Aga 4 years ago

      I just can locate anywhere the part that you said is on the bottom of any hub (PRINT, SHARE etc.) It isn't under this article either...

      HELP! I just can't figure this out!


    • smcopywrite profile image

      smcopywrite 6 years ago from all over the web

      wonderful hub. great content, visual displays and wonderfully useful information. thanks for sharing

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks, Faceless!

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Rated up, awesome, interesting, useful. Best article I've come across on this subject--By FAR! Thanks! :)

    • swb78 profile image

      Scott Biddulph 6 years ago from Gainesville Georgia

      thank s much !! great hub !!

    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 6 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      Hey, TS,

      This is the absolute best hub I've seen on this. I haven't read your profile yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if you are a teacher. In this hub you certainly are here. Thanks. And, I will be reading it again and certainly sending it to the couple of newbies I've referred, who've joined.

      Thanks again

    • cceerpp profile image

      cceerpp 6 years ago from Ghana

      This was very helpful. Thanks.

    • pocketaus profile image

      pocketaus 7 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for the informative tutorial. I have been stuck on this and had no idea how to do it.

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Thank for helping me with this. The diagrams were just the thing I needed. I am going to bookmark it and read it again!

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      I am a very slow learner, but when I make progress I rarely go backwards after that. Ain't that special! Anyway your hub helped me make a couple of baby steps in the right direction. Thanks

    • mjane24 profile image

      mjane24 7 years ago from panabo city

      Ok thanks i got it...............

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 7 years ago from Florida


      If someone clicks on a link that contains one of your trackers, and then signs up for a HubPages account, then you will permanently get a small percentage of their "Impressions". So, if you have AdSense or other affiliate programs that benefit you, then this could potentially be advantageous.

    • Lynda Gary profile image

      Lynda Gary 7 years ago


      I can't tell you how often I've wanted/ needed things explained in a simple, layman's way, and been unable to get it. (See my hub about Choosing a Website server: A critique of JustHost, for example. Exasperating!)

      Question: Do we earn more by people reading our things via a tracker link vs. a direct link? Or is it just so we can get a more definite idea of where our traffic is coming from?

      (Sorry if you answered this alread. I only skimmed the comments)

    • bodylevive profile image

      BODYLEVIVE 7 years ago from Alabama, USA

      Thank you so much because I saw my tracker but I did not know how to use it. I'm still not quite sure of one thing; when I share with Face Book or some of the others, is the tracker not included automatically when I share? There is so much to learn but I'm getting it slowly with the help of persons like you. Again, thanks so much.

    • rmcrayne profile image

      rmcrayne 7 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      I think I have successfully used the tracker for links on my hubs, when I am listing other hubbers' hubs with related content. Now if I can master the referral tracker. My brother wants to sign up, and I will be doing a lot of ghost writing. I should benefit from that!

    • Grant's World profile image

      Grant Handford 7 years ago from Canada

      This article has helped me undertand a bit better about using trackers. Thanks.

    • peggypat profile image

      Peggy Patrick Medberry 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      I think I understand this.. Thank you for so carefully explaining it. I guess my confusion is where do you put this link. Can you add it to you signature. Or how do you use it?

    • DFW TEEN VOICE profile image

      DFW TEEN VOICE 7 years ago from Richardson, Texas

      Great, article to understand better about referral trackers to enhance one knowledge on hubpages.

    • janiek13 profile image

      Mary Krenz 8 years ago from Florida's Space Coast

      Thank you for the informative article.

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 8 years ago from Florida

      @PK Jones,

      You are very welcome.

      Now you can go spit some of that 'code jargon' your web guy uses to drape his veil of job security with, knock his socks off, and keep him shakin' for that paycheck! j/k

      I'm glad this article has been so useful.

    • PK Jones profile image

      PK Jones 8 years ago

      This is a great article. I'm quite the mechanic, but when it comes to these infernal contraptions here, I'm generally ready to smash things. Even though I've owned a professionally built website and relied on it for income, I never really understood all this HTML and such until now. You are very correct when you state that it's easy for professionals to forget that not everybody understands what they're talking about, sometimes I wanted to step on my web designer's big toe I would get so frustrated. You've explained something that no one else has to me and for that I say Thanks!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 8 years ago from Florida


      When using the share-it functions, the tracker is automatically inserted. If you have multiple trackers, you can choose from a list. The detailed explanation is so you understand what and where the tracker is so you can build trackable links with and without the Hubpages functions.

    • profile image

      Shazwellyn 8 years ago

      Thanks, I will give it another read. However, I thought that the insert of the tracker (ie, when the hub is being shared after publishing) was automatically inserted in the 'share it' part of a hub via email, myspace, blog it links. Are you saying that isn't the case and we have to do this manually?

    • sunforged profile image

      sunforged 8 years ago from

      Very well designed page, your use of custom graphics is quite a welcome change, and very well explained!..rate it UP!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 8 years ago from Florida


      You're very welcome. Let me know if you have any questions.

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thank you for taking me to the next level in my journey to understand HTML and the Hubpages tracking system. Very well written and easy to understand!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 8 years ago from Florida


      That is the exact purpose of this article. By no means is it comprehensive, but it certainly helps explain the basics on a level that can be comprehended by most. It is also designed to be a practical guide or walk through so someone can actually perform the task, by referring to the article, until they learn it.

      Thanks for the kind words!

    • earner profile image

      Dedicated Content Curator 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Brilliant. I came here as I am looking for a way to explain it to my friends, rather than having to write it out myself.

      A brilliant piece of writing.

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 8 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks for an informative article, in simple language. the diagrams help. I know I'm still learning, especially when trying to track a specific hub. keep up the good work!