Tips / Tricks / Tools for Testing Links

Testing

Image courtesy of flic.kr/p/9UnRWS by “albertogp123.”

One of the most important steps of any online marketing campaign is testing the links powering the campaign. If you are using an intelligent link this means not just testing that the page loads after your link is clicked, but whether or not it works from different countries, different devices, that your tracking pixels are being fired correctly, etc.

If you are using Geniuslink as your intelligent link management platform, then testing your links is a cinch. You already have access to a bunch of great testing tools that allow you to see how your links are working from different countries, devices, operating systems, etc. This is a great way to ensure that your links will work correctly for your entire audience, well before you have released them out into the wild. If you are not already taking advantage of this, you should be!

Link Targeting

But what about your other links that don’t have this built in testing capability? Are you inadvertently providing a broken user experience to large portion of your audience? How do your links work for people coming from an Android device versus an iPhone? Are your retargeting pixels being set? Does the link work for people coming from Paris? How do you even begin to test this? Most people can’t afford a plane ticket to France, just to test out their site!

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few awesome tools that we use here at Geniuslink to do competitive intelligence on links, confirm our tools and service are in tip top shape and conduct in depth analysis for our clients to make sure everything is working perfectly.

TESTING A LINK’S REDIRECTION.

Testing a link’s what!?

Don’t worry, this isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds. Basically link redirection is simply the events that happen in between the time someone clicks your link, and when the final destination is loaded. For example, if you are using the following geni.us link, http://geni.us/Redirection, you will be “redirected” to Adele’s new album within the iTunes Store as soon as you click. This happens in the blink of an eye ensuring the consumer never notices the redirect, but if you want to take a closer look, you can see exactly what is going on behind the scenes. Below are a few great tools that help us discover exactly what steps happen.

1. Redirect Detective / WhereGoes

Redirect Detective and WhereGoes are very similar tools that can give you insight into what is happening when you click on a link. These allow you to see the individual steps of a redirect, showing exactly what happens behind the scenes when that link is clicked. When looking at a normal shortlink such as the geni.us link mentioned above, you will see one of two redirects: a 301 “permanent redirect”, or a 200 “meta refresh” redirect.

What the heck is a 301 or 200 redirect?

  • A 301 redirect, is simply the end destination where the customer will be sent after the link has loaded completely. In the geni.us link example above, the 301 redirect is what sends that user to Adele’s newest Album on the iTunes Store. Note that you may also see a “302” redirect in your investigations as well, for this conversation they can be treated the same (more details here).
  • A 200 meta refresh, will normally occur after a tracking pixel has been fired. For example, a Google Remarketing Pixel was attached to the link above, so you will see an orange “meta refresh” (200 redirect) just before the final 301 redirect when the link is clicked. This simply shows that the tracking pixel was set on that customer’s browser before they were redirected to the final iTunes destination.
Redirect Detective in action.

Redirect Detective in action.

In addition, if you are using affiliate links, you can ensure that your links are being properly affiliated with either of these tools. In the example above, you will notice that just after the “meta refresh,” there is a longer iTunes link displayed that includes an “at=” value. This is your unique affiliate token, that will ensure you earn the affiliate commissions you deserve.

Performance Horizon Affiliate Token.

Performance Horizon Affiliate Token.

2. Charles

If you really want to do a deep dive into how your links are resolving, check out Charles Web Proxy. Although this is mainly designed for web developers and offers way more features than I could possibly write about in this blog, it does have a few that are incredibly useful for testing out your links.

One of these great features in particular is the ability to monitor and record the redirects that occur within a mobile device. This helps to ensure that your links are working correctly not only on the web, but behind the scenes in a mobile app as well. I will discuss Charles a bit more below, but I would highly recommend checking it out to see all of the other great features it has to offer!

 

TESTING A LINK BY GEOGRAPHY.
GlobalTesting

If you are like me, you don’t have time to take a quick trip around the world just to test out your links from various different countries. Luckily, there are some great tools out there that allow you to bounce through different “proxy servers.” This allows you to “pretend” like you are in another country, even while you are sitting at your desk at home. Although it may not be as fun as traveling to France, or Japan to test your link, it is definitely much easier!

1. Browser Based

One of the easiest ways to get around this is to update the “proxy settings” within your browser. This too is much easier than it sounds, especially with tools such as Hide My Ass or Wonderproxy.

Hide My Ass! is a cheaper monthly subscription service that allows you to “proxy” or route your traffic through the service’s servers located around the world in order to trick websites into thinking that you are actually visiting from a different country. This is a very lightweight and easy to use solution to test your links from around the world, but can sometimes be inconsistent. Make sure to test that it is working by going to WhatisMyIpAddress.com before testing out your links.

A more robust solution, and the one that we use here at Geniuslink is WonderProxy. This service provides you with a huge number of servers all around the world to route your traffic through, and has always worked great for us. The one drawback, however, is that you will need to actually set up the proxies within your browser yourself, which makes it a bit more complicated than Hide My Ass. Luckily, they provide lots of great help documentation in order to make this process as simplistic as possible. In addition, they too have a great tool, to test that you are proxying through the correct country before testing your links: https://wondernetwork.com/geotest.

2. Charles Based

Charles can do this as well?

That’s right, Charles can do it all! Similar to setting up the proxies within your web browser as discussed above, you can actually do the same thing within the Charles tool as well. This is incredibly helpful, because it allows you to test your links from not only multiple countries, but multiple browsers as well, all while viewing the exact redirects that happen. Here at Geniuslink, we use Charles in conjunction with the Wonder Proxy service mentioned above, which allows us to easily monitor and test all of our links to ensure that everything is working properly.

 

TESTING A LINK BY DEVICE

Finally, what if you want to see how your links are working across different devices? It’s not feasible to manually do this with every type of device, so how do you test to ensure that everything works as it should for each individual device? Well thankfully there are a lot of nerds out there, that have found ways to test exactly this right within your favorite browser.

While Safari does this, the best tool that we have found lies within the Google Chrome browser. To do this, simply select View → Developer → Developer Tools.

GoogleDevoloperTools

Once the Developer Tools page loads, click on the “device” icon, and you will then be able to select from a list of multiple different devices in the upper left hand corner.

ChromeUserAgent

From here, you will be able to test out how your links will work from any of the common devices listed. In addition, this is a great way to test the responsiveness of your website from each of these devices.

Another great tool is the User Agent Switcher plugin for Google Chrome. This is very similar to the tools above, but makes it very easy to switch between various browsers on each device on the fly. In addition, you are not limited to just the devices and browsers that are listed here. If you want to get much deeper insight, you can add your own “User Agents” to test from any device you can think of.

UserAgentSwitcher

In the end, no matter which tools you use, we strongly recommend that you always test your links before you release them out into the wild. The tools listed above are only a handful of the numerous link testing tools available.

We always love to hear about new tools, so let us know in the comments what your personal favorites are!

Cheers,
Team Geniuslink.