Ascertaining the value of our marketing vehicles and campaigns is difficult enough as it is. Introducing offline marketing channels (broadcast, print, outdoor, etc.) can be especially befuddling. Here are three levels to mastering offline measurement that you can incorporate into your analytics program.
Level 1 – Direct Traffic & Branded Search
Analytics tools like Google Analytics rely on referral sources to tell us the channels from which site traffic originates. Visitors from search engines, social media venues and online advertising campaigns are typically labeled as such. If there is no referral source, clicks, behavior and conversion activity gets lumped into the “Direct” category. Since many visitors coming from an offline source arrive without a referral source, they are often labeled as Direct visitors.
no referral source = direct
However, this does not necessarily mean that all Direct visits come from offline channels. Some Direct visits occur when the visitor manually types in our website URL or clicks on a browser bookmark.
If we run our campaigns in flights we can monitor peaks in direct traffic that we can attribute to our offline campaigns. Google Analytics provides an annotations feature so we can mark our offline campaign flights accordingly.
It is also important to measure branded search during offline campaign flights. Many of our visitors will rely on Google and other search engines to ensure they arrive at the correct destination. As opposed to typing a URL, a prospect might google “your brand name”.
The following is an example of a Google Analytics advanced segment that we can use to pull new Direct visitors and new visitors that used a branded search.
Level 2 – Redirects
One level up from simply eyeballing peaks and valleys in direct and branded search activity is the utilization of redirects. There are typically three kinds of redirects marketers rely upon:
- Directories (yourwebsite.com/campaign) – This method requires the prospect to type in the full URL string, which is not always a reliable practice. The resulting page either brings the visitor right to the intended content or redirects her appropriately.
- SubDomains (campaign.yourwebsite.com) – Similarly, the subdomain approach requires the visitor to enter in the entire string of characters into her browser. These redirects are typically controlled at the domain level.
- Vanity URLs (yourcampaign.com) – These are domains separate from your primary website address that redirect to a campaign page. If available, vanity URLs can be a great way to introduce a campaign to an audience while still being able to track activity.
Each of these options allow marketers to point visitors to the correct content that aligns with the offline creative and messaging. The option you choose will depend upon your team’s technical capabilities and, in the case of the Vanity URL approach, the availability of the campaign-oriented domain.
Within analytics, simply pull a report for the page to which the visitor is redirected. This will provide some metrics that will allow you to gauge campaign success.
Note: you may want to create multiple redirects and corresponding landing pages for every offline campaign you are running to measure their effectiveness individually. If your various landing pages are similar in content and layout, be sure to “no index” these pages to avoid duplicate content penalties for SEO. To avoid such penalties, use the following meta tag on each identical landing page – )
Level 3 – Tracking Code-Appended Redirects
In my opinion, the best and most thorough method for measuring offline campaign activity involves a three-step approach.
A. Identify the offline channels and vehicles you will employ
B. Assign subdomains or vanity URLs to each
C. Enable redirects that have tracking code appended to each URL
In other words, here is one approach:
YourCampaign.com >>> redirects to >>> YourWebsite.com/CampaignPage
An improved method with tracking code follows:
YourCampaign.com >>> redirects to >>> YourWebsite.com/CampaignPage?utm_source=WSJ&utm_medium=print&utm_campaign=WallStreetJournal
Note: the tracking code-appended URL above can be built easily with this URL Builder tool from Google.
I personally like this approach best as it a) allows you to track each campaign as a standalone entity, b) does not require you to build multiple campaign landing pages, and c) ultimately saves time and effort while producing more accurate tracking results.
The time to execute this approach is primarily consumed in the setup. If you go this route, I recommend creating a matrix like the one that follows to organize and manage the tracking process.
Other Offline Measurement Considerations
- Promo Codes – Sales-oriented promotional codes can be used in offline campaigns and tracked through to purchase. However, they only provide information about the bottom of the funnel (action and conversion behaviors) and not attention and discovery behaviors at the top of the sales funnel.
- Dynamic Phone Number Insertion – Technology now allows for trackable phone numbers to be inserted on a page based on the source of traffic. If your primary call to action is “call us now”, consider using a dynamic phone number insertion service.
- Paid Search & Social Media – Just as users go directly to Google to search for “your brand name”, they might also rely on paid search and social media to discover more about your offering. If you have a significant offline media buy planned, ensure all your acquisition channels are properly equipped to point prospects in the right direction. In other words, update paid search and social media campaigns to reflect messaging and creative from offline campaigns to allow for a cohesive, integrated call to action.
- QR Codes – Although not as popular as they were a couple years ago, QR codes can be used effectively with the right audience in the proper scenario. Ensure your QR codes link to a tracking code-appended URL if possible.