Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Web Analytics in practice: Campaign tracking & offline advertising

[This post is the first post of a new series about Web analytics in practice. The idea is to write very practical posts on various topics based on my own daily experience – as a practitioner. It aims at providing simple tips, advices and examples that – I hope – may inspire and help you – whether you are a beginner or more experienced Web analyst]

We all know how to track online campaigns (banner, SEA, affiliates, social media...) – it has become quite a common practice (if not, you should better get started now!). It is really basic stuff.

However campaign tracking should not be limited to the online world. What about the offline activities that may drive traffic to the online channels? In this post I would like to cover two common offline sources that typically (should) bring traffic to your online properties: friendly  URL’s and Quick Response (QR) codes commonly used in offline ads.


Print ad's & short URL’s

It is very common to use short or dedicated URL’s in print ads (magazine, billboard, brochures...) that are (supposed to be) easy to type such as or (the latest was used in print ads in newspapers and displays). These short URL’s redirect you to specific online content (that often has a much “longer” not-so-friendly URLs).

But how effective are these URL’s?  Are they worth the space they use on the advertising space? Are people really typing these?  Everyone can start arguing – giving his own opinion but the only way to answer the question is of course to MEASURE IT.

It just works the same way as tagging any campaign URL – instead of using the plain URL as destination, configure your redirection using an appended URL with campaign parameters.

For example:
Let’s say I want to use a short URL such as that goes to a new product page Using Google Analytics (but it works just the same way with any other Web analytics tool), I would use the following URL as destination of my short URL:

The advantage of using such common method instead of relying on server stats (that are not always that easy to get) is quite obvious:

  • Availability & centralization: Everything is in one place with all your other online data.Iit gets in your Web analytics tool directly – not need to ask an external provider or IT to get redirect figures.
  • Consistency: it gets measured on same platform and same way as any other traffic sources - you are sure to compare apples with apples.
  • Segmentation: You can leverage the power of segmentation and isolate online behaviour, conversions for visitors coming via this source (and benchmark vs. other segments).
Quite simple and straightforward, isn’t it?


Quick Response codes

In this age of mobile – quick response codes (aka QR codes) are getting everywhere and replacing short URL’s in ads. After all it is much easier to scan a QR code(well, in theory :-)) than typing an URL no matter how short or friendly it is – as long as you have mobile device that can scan such code of course.

In most cases, the QR code is simply added somewhere on the ad or in the brochure for example. Sometimes, some brands are using these in a more creative ways. For example, Victoria Secret in the US leveraged its product “sex-appeal” (or should I the persons wearing the product :-)) and made an intelligent use of QR codes to “encourage” people (well, mostly men actually) to scan them.

Anyway – back to topic - whatever way you are using QR codes in your print material, in the end the important question is: are they driving traffic? Do people really take the time to scan the damned pixel thing or are they just skipping it?

Again the only way to find out is to measure. And it just works the same as short links. The URL that you use to generate the QR code should be a properly tagged URL.

If I want to generate a QR code that will redirect to my blog post on PDCA approach, I will use the following link:

The problem with tagged URL’s is that these can get pretty long and this has a drawback when used to generate QR code: it gets quite dense and may be therefore hard to scan. But there is way to solve this issue: once you have defined your tagged URL, use an URL shortener (such as to get a much shorter URL and then use this one in your QR code generator. You will get a much cleaner QR code – easier to scan  (kudos to Luna Metrics for providing such clever and simple tip!).

Again using such common method for QR codes presents the same advantages as cited previously: centralisation, consistency and segmentation.


Do the right people know about it?

To be honest, tracking such offsite sources is not rocket science and it is quite common sense for whoever has been doing Web analytics. I am certainly not the first one to write about it. But still – it is not something that is systematically done. Why? Because the main hurdle is not at all technical – it is somewhere else.

Most of the time the problem is more a lack of awareness and communication. In many organizations, offline marketing is often managed by different persons than the ones who manage online marketing. Most of the time offline marketing is not aware about the tracking possibilities (and how simple it is) while the Internet marketing is not always involved in the creation of offline content (until the moment they see it – but then it’s too late). So how can it be tracked if the right people don’t know about it?

So it is your role, as a super Web analytics evangelist to inform your marketing organization. Seek out the offline marketing team, explain them what can be done and – most important – the added-value it will bring. But don’t stop there – on the first times, guide them through the process (generate the links or QR codes), show them the results and bring insights until it becomes part of their normal content creation process.

It is not a matter of technology here – but more of process and communications. It’s all about teamwork!

To conclude regarding the use of friendly URL’s or QR code, based on my own experience, I would say that the results were not really impressive (to say the less) – at least as online traffic driver. Maybe you will get better results but then it is up to you to test different approaches, creatives, etc. Especially that as you can measure it – you have no excuse for not testing!

Now it’s your turn now: what is your experience with such offline techniques? What other offline techniques or channels are you also tracking online?

Do you want to start using web analytics. Or an analysis and optimization of your current web analytics set-up? You can always contact us

This is a repost and was originally posted on 

Related resources & posts:
    •    "Web Analytics in practice: your online analytics strategy – how to get started?" (Nov 2011)
    •    "Web Analytics in practice: Using segmentation to drive insights and actions!" (Oct 2011)
    •    "Victoria’s Secret Entices You To Scan Their QR Codes" by 708media (Aug 2011)
    •    "Tracking QR Codes in Google Analytics — Easy as Pie" by Luna Metrics (Aug 2011)
    •    "Tracking offline world using online tools" by Capstrat blog (Sept 2010)
    •    "Measuring the impact of offline events with Google Insights for Search" (Feb 2010)
    •    Example of online QR code generator


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