Published June 3, 2016
Tracking offline marketing in Google Analytics can be straightforward if it is considered early enough in the campaign development stages. Traditional advertising can be a powerful tool for online exposure if executed and tracked effectively.
Here are some methods you can use to measure the effectiveness of offline advertising and its online impact with Google Analytics:
Like any digital campaign, creating bespoke landing pages for your marketing efforts can improve user experience and increase conversion rates. When creating a landing page, make sure that the URL is short and simple as people will be typing it into browsers.
You don’t want search engines indexing this page on their results pages, so ensure that there is a noindex meta tag in the <head> of the page:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
If search engines do index the page it could skew your data and reduce the accuracy of tracking offline traffic. If you will be running multiple campaigns in a short period of time, and wish to use the same landing page, make annotations in Google Analytics of when the different campaigns are running in order to assess individual performance.
Don’t have the time or budget to create custom landing pages? Shortened URLs can help drive users to existing landing pages whilst tracking offline efforts.
Before shortening your URLs, use Google’s URL builder to add UTM parameters to your URLs. This will make them visible in Google Analytics. Campaigns will be in the Campaign report in Google Analytics, this can be found under Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns.
Generic shortened links, like those of Google URL Shortener and Bitly can appear spammy. It may be worthwhile investing in a branded short domain (such as Virgin’s virg.in) in order to add authenticity to your links. Learn how to set up a custom domain on Bitly.
If you want to use shortened URLs but don’t want to invest in a branded short domain or can’t find one that you are happy with then 301 redirects work just as well.
Firstly, you will need to create a page on your current domain or buy a vanity domain that incentivises users to type the full URL. This is what will be redirected to a bespoke landing page (or an existing page).
Once you have set up your page/ vanity domain (vanity URL) and created a landing page you will need to set up a 301 redirect for your vanity URL to the bespoke landing page. Ensure that the landing page URL you are redirecting to has UTM parameters to be able to track offline users.
Once the 301s have been set up, start directing offline users to your vanity URLs.
An alternative to shortened URLs and domain/ page redirects is to encourage online searches. Many radio advertisers are now using call-to-actions such as “search [keyword]” or “Google [keyword]”.
There are two types of searches you can encourage users to look for:
Encouraging users to search for branded search terms is a good way of ensuring they find your brand. If appropriate, change your page titles and meta descriptions to have some continuity with your marketing.
However, the downside is that branded searches tend to drive a significant amount of traffic to your website already. Measuring the reach of your offline marketing would mean comparing branded search volumes for the period before, during, and after the activity. This may not be accurate as there could be other factors that would cause fluctuations in branded search terms.
Encouraging users to search for queries describing the product or service you want them to look for could be easier to measure. You may not be ranking highly for these terms so using PPC advertising is advised.
When setting up a paid search campaign, target phrase or exact match keywords to ensure you are not spending your budget unnecessarily.
The downside of this method is that you will paying on a cost per click basis to measure offline marketing sessions. Depending of the search terms that you are targeting it may become expensive so it is a good idea to research keywords before proceeding down this route.
If you are selling products or services online, you can use promotional codes to track offline users. You can offer exclusive promotions on flyers or coupons that can be tracked as custom variables in Google Analytics.
If using a global promotional code (such as “happyhour2016”), consider that websites such as Groupon and Voucher Codes may list these promotions on their websites. This will skew your data in Google Analytics, making it unreliable for tracking.
All the methods discussed above are solutions to be implemented prior to launching an offline marketing campaign. However, what if you have already launched an offline campaign and you want to analyse its results?
If you ran campaigns in particular cities, you can use the Location report under Audience > Geo > Location to compare change in traffic for that particular location before, during, and after your campaign ran.
If you ran a nationwide campaign, use the Channels report under Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels to compare changes in traffic between periods. You want to particularly focus on changes to direct and organic traffic as these are likely to be the most effected. There may be significant changes in paid search performance if you are targeting branded search terms.
When analysing changes to traffic it is important to be aware of other factors that could have affected fluctuations in traffic, not all the changes will be from your offline campaigns.
There are multiple ways to track offline marketing in Google Analytics, but it is important to know the strengths and weaknesses of each one before implementing them.
Each method is suited to different traditional marketing mediums so you may not need to use all of them at once, but you can use more than one.
For example, if you are running radio or TV ads then a shortened URL or referring URL may not be the best choice as your audience will not have time to absorb that information. However, a short, memorable phrase for them to search will help them to find you.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or get in touch.
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