Tracking Your Offline Advertising with Google Analytics
Have you ever wondered how well that advertisement in the local newspaper is doing driving traffic to your website or what the success rate is of the expensive business brochure you mail out each year? You needn’t wonder any more: you can track your offline advertising using Google Analytics.
Many businesses are still using a mix of online and offline advertising in their marketing efforts. The good thing about online advertising is that you are able to track how well you are doing because this referral traffic is reported in your analytics (Fig 1), simply because it's a website linking to another website.
Fig 1: Referral Traffic in Google Analytics
The problem with print (offline) advertising is that when your web address is displayed on a printed source, you don't know how many people saw that advertisement and then typed your address into a web browser to visit your site for more information. In Google Analytics, you will see a “Direct” visit (Fig 2), and that visit could have come from anywhere — from someone who has bookmarked your website before or from any of the various print ads you have published.
Fig 2: View Direct traffic in Google Analytics
This can be frustrating, because you want to know if those print ads work. The good news is that Google Analytics offers a way to track your web address used in a print ad. But you have to set it up properly, using a unique web address or vanity URL, shown below, so that when the visitor types it in and comes to your website, it can be tracked.
Example 1: Let's say you advertised in the printed version of the East Valley Tribune.
In the past, the firm's web address you would advertise and print was:
The traffic from this link in Google Analytics would be recorded as Direct traffic; there would be no other way of knowing how much traffic came from your ad in the East Valley Tribune.
However, if you used a vanity URL such as:
Any traffic coming to the site from this address would be recorded in Google Analytics under its Campaigns tab (Fig 3).
Fig 3: View your Campaigns in Google Analytics
This means that anyone who types in the address above will be tracked when they visit your website. It’s possible that not everyone will type in the full address, but many will. You will at least have an idea of how many visitors came to your website from the ad printed in the East Valley Tribune, which is much better than not knowing whether that advertising campaign was successful.
Example 2: You’ve just spent several hundred dollars on your new company brochure and you want to measure how successful it is in bringing new traffic and inquiries to your website. The brochure below uses a vanity URL in its printed promotional material.
The vanity URL /brochure can be tracked in Google Analytics
Suggested uses for vanity URLs are:
- TV ads
- Radio ads
- Business cards
- Direct mail
It’s important to remember, however, that every web address (URL) has to be unique in relation to the printed source. You can always use the same URL for a particular printed advertisement with the same company, so the first example above of “/evtribune” would only be for ads printed in the East Valley Tribune.
These vanity URLs can link through to any page on your website, but you must let your SEO Specialist /webmaster know if you want to set up this link so that it will work and can be tracked.
The next time you have a reprint of your business card or even a banner ad that is on display at an event or show, remember to use your own vanity URL so that you can track online the effectiveness of your offline marketing.