Measuring how offline marketing drives website traffic: The fundamentals
Looking to track your offline marketing campaigns? Contributor John Lincoln walks you through the process and the tools you'll need to help you determine which offline marketing channels are the most effective.
You may still favor “old school” methods to get the word out about your website. But how do you track this offline marketing?
If you don’t measure the success of your effort, you’ll never know if it’s giving you a positive return. Fortunately, there are cloud-based solutions to help you with that.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the ways you can track offline marketing with online tools.
Set up Google Analytics and Search Console
Before you can track your offline performance, you first need to set up a couple of online tools. Start with Google Analytics.
You can get Google Analytics set up by just installing the tracking code on your website. Google is happy to walk you through that process.
Also, you should set up your site with Google Search Console. That tool will give you important search analytics about your site.
Fortunately, Google offers a step-by-step tutorial on setting up your website with Search Console as well.
Once you’ve got your tools set up, it’s time to start looking at how to track offline marketing campaigns.
Use specific URLs
One of the best and easiest ways to track the success of your offline campaigns is with custom URLs.
How can you do that? By creating a separate landing page and URL for each offline channel.
Then, include the channel-specific URL in marketing literature.
Let’s look at an example. Suppose you’re running print ads in your town’s newspaper and also hand-distributing fliers at a local trade show.
You want to track the interest you get from the print ads and the fliers. So, you create two separate landing pages, each with its own unique URL.
Then, you put one URL on the print ad and another on the fliers. People who visit your website from the print ad will go to one URL, while people who visit it after looking at the flier will go to another URL.
After a while, check to see how much interest you got from the print ad versus the fliers.
To do that, fire up Google Analytics. Click on “Behavior” in the left-hand menu and select “Overview” from the drop-down menu that appears.
Scroll through your most popular URLs. You might have to click “view full report” on the lower right-hand side to see everything.
Look for the URLs that you included on the print ads and the fliers. Specifically, make a note of the number of visitors for each URL.
Click on the URL to get additional info about your visitors, such as the average time on page, bounce rate and unique page views (and, of course, conversions).
If you find that you’re attracting a lot of visitors with one type of promotion, it’s a good idea to invest more heavily in that promotion so that you can get even more visitors.
A word about custom URLs
It’s important to take a step back here and look at the types of custom URLs you should use in your marketing literature.
For starters, avoid really long URLs. That’s because you want your URL to be something that’s easy to memorize just in case the person you’re trying to reach loses the literature.
Also, long URLs are a pain to type out, even for people who haven’t lost your ad.
This is an example of a bad URL: http://xyz.com/landingPage/visitHere?from=flier&date=10-22-17
It’s not only too long, but it’s got too much punctuation, and it’s case-sensitive.
To get around the problem of using really long URLs, some marketers visit a URL shortener and create a much shorter URL. That’s usually not a good idea, either.
Why? Because shortened URLs typically aren’t branded.
For example, head over to the Google URL shortener and plug in the link to this article or some other site you’ve visited recently. Chances are, you’ll get a shortened URL that looks like this: goo.gl/rUdXr5.
As you can see, your domain name appears nowhere in that link. Also, it’s using mixed case that can easily confuse people who aren’t tech-savvy.
It’s usually best to use branded URLs. Take a look at these examples:
Both of those URLs include the domain name. Obviously, you’d substitute your own domain name for mycompany.com.
As the text implies, the first URL is the one you’d include on a flier. The second one is one that you would put on a print ad.
People who visit the first URL found out about your site from reading the flier. People who visit the second URL found out about it from reading the print ad.
The good news is that you can add as many different URLs after your domain as you want to. Your hosting provider might have some restrictions, but they’re probably fairly generous.
Some marketers also like to use “vanity URLs.” Those are separate domain names that you create just for marketing purposes.
For example, if your domain name is jessesbluejeans.com, you might create a vanity like jbjeans.com. Then, you’d use the vanity in your marketing literature.
From a technical perspective, you’d redirect the vanity URL to a landing page on your site with a much longer URL. Or you would have a rel=”canonical” in place.
Keep in mind, though, when you opt for a vanity URL with a separate domain, you’ll have to fork over some cash to keep that domain alive. It’s usually not that expensive, though.
Watch out for duplication!
When you use custom URLs with separate landing pages, you risk running afoul of Google’s good graces with duplicate content. That’s because each landing page will have much of the same content.
In some cases, they’ll have exactly the same content.
Fortunately, there’s a way around the duplicate content problem. Just tell Google not to index your landing pages.
How can you do that? With a meta tag.
It looks like this:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex">
Place that anywhere in the <head> section of your landing page and Google won’t index it.
A great way to tell if you have an increase in foot traffic after some type of online promotion is with the use of geofilters.
If you run a local radio spot and notice a surge in traffic shortly thereafter, that’s a pretty good sign that your ad was effective.
It’s an especially great idea to use geofilters if you have multiple locations. You can also make sure to mention a custom URL in your radio spot.
Check non-referral traffic analytics
Another way to track offline marketing is by looking at your non-referral traffic analytics.
Head over to Google Analytics and click on “Acquisition” on the left-hand toolbar. Then, select “Overview” from the drop-down menu that appears.
Select a timeline (in the upper right-hand corner) that begins with the date when you launched your latest offline marketing campaign. Then, take a look at “Direct” hits to your site.
Those are people who visited your site by typing the URL into a browser. In other words, they didn’t get there by clicking on a link somewhere else.
It’s likely those people saw the URL in your literature. That’s why they went to your site.
Use that metric to gauge the success of your recent offline venture.
Look for changes in brand name search volume
Next, check out changes in your brand name search volume. For that, you’ll have to use Google Search Console.
Launch Search Console and select your website property. Then, click on “Search Traffic” in the left-hand sidebar. Select “Search Analytics” from the drop-down menu that appears.
On the main screen, select a date range (with the “Dates” radio button). Specify a custom date range that begins when you started your offline marketing push.
Then, click on the “Queries” radio button. Take a look at your top queries for that date range.
If you see your brand name in the list of queries, that means people actually typed it into the search bar. It’s likely that those people learned about your brand name from your offline marketing literature.
Take note of the number of times people searched for your brand name. You can even check it on a day-by-day basis and create some comparisons.
Another way to track offline sales is with the use of discount codes. That’s an especially great idea if your offline marketing is advertising an online sale.
Just include a channel-specific discount code with each of your different marketing efforts. Again, though, make sure the discount code is memorable.
For example, in a radio ad, you might use the discount code “RADIO20.” In hand-distributed fliers, you would use something like “FLIER30.”
After a while, simply check your e-commerce analytics (with whatever tool you use for that purpose) to see how many people used the various discount codes. That will give you some insight as to which offline marketing channel is the most effective.
Wrapping it up
Yes, you can use the wonders of modern technology to track offline marketing. First, though, you have to set up your website with a couple of popular (and free) tools: Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Then, use those tools to determine which channels are giving you the best bang for your buck.