Google Analytics

Tracking Offline Advertising Campaigns With Google Analytics

In today’s highly competitive online world, most marketers are familiar with how to monitor and measure the performance of anything they do on the web, from PPC to social media ads. The tricky part about tracking results is usually found when it’s time to measure the activity generated by offline advertising campaigns. Direct mail, TV and radio placements, print ads – all of these activities can make up a very large chunk of your marketing budget every year and you need to be able to report your ROI. Which is why it is essential that you have a strong handle on how you are tracking and measuring the results of all your offline ad campaigns.

The key to measuring your online and offline ad campaigns is to use the link tagging tools and web page redirects in Google Analytics.

Get Familiar with Google Analytics Campaign Tracking

We all know that Google Analytics is a great website analytics tool for tracking website activity. But what most people don’t know is that you can also use Google Analytics to track the results of your traditional, offline ad campaigns. If you’re not familiar with Google Analytics’ campaign tracking abilities, they’re pretty straightforward. Using the Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder, you can track links for your various online campaigns, from banner ads to email newsletters, with custom campaign parameters.

You can also use campaign tracking to track visits/conversions to your website from your traditional ad campaigns.

 

1. Start with the Google Analytics URL Builder

Let’s say that you are working for a local flower company (with a website www.localflowers.com) and they want to run a newspaper ad campaign for a Valentine’s Day sale promotion. Using the Google Analytics URL Builder, you would create a URL like this:

http://www.localflowers.com/?utm_source=houston_sun&utm_medium=newspaper&utm_campaign=valentines_sale

You’ll notice that the URL contains your website address in addition to some values starting with a question mark. The information after your website address is referred to as a query string, and lists some variables along with their associated values:

  • utm_source – this is GA’s variable for your campaign source, or where that visit is coming from. In online terms, this is comparable to the referrer. In this case, ‘vancouver_sun’ represents the Houston Sun (a local newspaper).
  • utm_medium – you can think of the medium as how the message is delivered. In this example, the medium is ‘newspaper’. Other examples would be ‘postcard’ for a direct mail postcard, ‘tv’ for television, ‘radio’ for a radio ad, ’email’ for an email campaign, or ‘cpc’ for a paid search campaign.
  • utm_campaign – this is the name of your campaign. In this example, ‘valentines_sale’ is pretty straightforward. If you were running a variety of different promotions for your Valentine’s Day sale, you’d want to use this same variable in all of your campaigns (ex. if you were running tv, radio, and paid search ads as well) so that you could group the results together in Google Analytics.

If you were running concurrent ads on television and radio, you would also create the following tracking URLs:

http://www.localflowers.com/?utm_source=fox&utm_medium=tv&utm_campaign=valentines_sale

http://www.localflowers.com/?utm_source=pbs&utm_medium=radio&utm_campaign=valentines_sale

NOTE: The utm_campaign variable is the same for each to allow you to view the results of your campaign across all your channels inside of Google Analytics easily.

2. Create a Custom URL That’s Easy to Remember

Now here’s the problem. Using a URL like the one above is impractical (not to mention, ugly) in any kind of advertising. If you are running a TV or radio ad, you are asking your audience to take an extra step to enter your URL in their browser and visit your website. That means your URL needs to be simple and memorable.

The easy way around this is to use custom pages and redirects. When a person sees your ad and goes to this custom page, they can get redirected to a real page that includes the campaign tracking variables. There are several ways that you can set up your custom URL. You could:

  1. Register a new domain (www.valentinesflowers.com)
  2. Create a subdomain for your site (valentines.localflowers.com)
  3. Use a subfolder (www.localflowers.com/valentines or www.localflowers.com/sale)

TIP: If you’re running concurrent ads on TV and radio, or maybe in other print media, you will want to use different custom URLs for each source so that you can segment the results by specific channel. You can even measure and split test the results of individual ads by creating a different custom url for each ad and adding a unique “utm_content” variable to each url.

Create a Separate Domain for Your Website for Offline Tracking

If you wanted to use separate domains, you need to register a unique domain for each ad campaign. In this case, you can simply use the Domain Forwarding function (if provided in your registrar’s domain control panel), and forward visitors to your tracking URL.

Now, when a visitor goes to the unique domain in your ad, they will automatically be redirected to the tracking URL you created in the Campaign URL Builder tool. They see the right page and you get to accurately track the ROI generated by your offline ads. In your Google Analytics reports, you’ll be able to see your campaign results, visitor stats, and conversions.

Use a Subfolder

Using subfolders, you could setup the following:

  • www.localflowers.com/npr
  • www.localflowers.com/fox
  • www.localflowers.com/sun

For each custom URL, you could then simply specify a HTTACCES “redirect” or a PHP “redirect” command in the code for that page using the campaign tracking URLs we created above:

www.localflowers.com/sun
<?php
header( 'Location: http://www.localflowers.com/?utm_source=houston_sun&utm_medium=newspaper&utm_campaign=valentines_sale' ) ;
?>

www.localflowers.com/fox
<?php
header( 'Location: http://www.localflowers.com/?utm_source=fox&utm_medium=tv
&utm_campaign=valentines_sale ' ) ;
?>

www.localflowers.com/npr
<?php
header( 'Location: http://www.localflowers.com/?utm_source=npr&utm_medium=radio&utm_campaign=valentines_sale ' ) ;
?>

If your site is hosted on a Windows server, you can do the same thing in ASP:

www.localflowers.com/npr
<%@ Language=VBScript %>
<%
Response.Status="301 Moved Permanently"
Response.AddHeader "Location", "http://www.localflowers.com/?utm_source=npr&utm_medium=radio&utm_campaign=valentines_sale"
%>

If you can’t use redirects as described above, you could alternatively use a meta refresh code in the <HEAD> of your page:
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0" url="http://www.localflowers.com/?utm_source=houston_sun&utm_medium=newspaper&utm_campaign=valentines_sale">

Measure Campaign Performance and ROI of Your Complete Marketing Program

The breadth and depth of our marketing programs depend on a lot of factors, from the size and marketing sophistication of a company to its industry and budget. We all run a different mix of online campaigns and offline advertising to drive leads and generate sales and that is why it is essential that you can track your entire marketing program – not just the online activities. Using Google Analytics tools for campaign tracking, you can finally get an accurate picture of your full marketing program, both online and offline.

The success of your marketing activities relies on campaign performance and being able to draw actionable insights from the data you collect. It starts with tracking all of your campaigns with the right technology and equipping yourself with the tools to analyze those efforts.

Is campaign tracking holding you back from reaching your marketing goals? Have you reached a plateau in generating leads? Find out how we can help!

We hope you learned something from this insight. If you have any questions about measuring campaign performance, feel free to reach out to one of the experts on our marketing team. Until then, happy tracking!

– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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Insight written by lrucinski@randgroup.com

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  • Thanks John, you explained this waaaaay better than Googles help guides! Much appreciated

  • Brilliant and coherent article that explained what I was looking for. Thank you

  • Can the php redirect be done in wordpress ? Great article by the way !

  • johncallery

    Thanks Colin – this was very helpful!

  • Subhendu Bappa

    Hi, Nice article and it is really helpful to me. I want to know, can I track offline promo code through GA for sales?

    • Hi, I know its very late to respond now.Think it may help other readers. You can track coupon/promo code usage on Google Analytics by enabling Advanced eCommerce settings.