Tracking offline campaigns in Google Analytics

Vlad and Gus, forensic web analysts from the Website Detective Agency, are flicking through one of their clients’ catalogues. Their client has asked them to recommend ways to track the impact of offline campaigns in Google Analytics.

Gus: Check out their range of jeans, they’ve been clever with the photos – using models instead of just laying them on the table at the back of a warehouse. That’s no way to photograph jeans, or anything for that matter. Give me models anytime – look at ASOS they use models throughout their site – and it’s no coincidence how well they’re doing.

Vlad: I hadn’t really thought about it. The last time I bought clothes were three pairs of black jeans at Albert Heijn.

Gus: I would never have guessed that you buy your jeans at the same place as your fruit and veg.

Vlad: Never mind criticising my taste in clothes ..

Gus: Or lack of.

Vlad: Gus, concentrate. We need to think about this client and how we can improve their tracking.

Gus: You mean what return on investment they get from the offline campaigns

Vlad: Exactly. They do different forms of marketing – catalogue, TV, print, off the page, even radio sometimes. Plus they have got about 5 shops throughout Holland.

Gus: Well, they can do matchback analysis to tie up those they sent catalogues to and those that ordered via the website, look at the source of the traffic on their ‘best’ customers and job done.

Vlad: That’s fine for customers, but what about visitors to the site that may not convert into a customer streight away. If they have been using the same website address in all their communications, then these visitors will be found under the direct traffic or branded search terms.

And since they are spending huge amounts of money on both offline and online, they aren’t sure what media is driving the traffic.

They are looking to us to come up with answers.

Gus: Vanity URLs can work well.

Vlad: What are they ? This is not more fashion-speak, is it ?

Gus: Sometimes they are called ‘friendly URLs’. Sometimes you see them on TV. Dell uses them. You see a Dell ad on TV and they tell you about some great deals they’ve got and then the call to action is to go to

Vlad: Call to what ?

Gus: I suppose your degree in stats didn’t cover AIDA. You use it to construct any piece of marketing, and it’s proven to work

So A is for Attention, you know, starting with a bold claim or at least something that’s likely to grab your attention. I for Interest, information on the benefits of the product or service, D – more convincing and persuasive copy so that you just *have* to buy this one item, and A – Action – telling you what action you need to take, you know, call this number, visit this website, complete this coupon, etc etc.

Vlad: Very useful. But back to our topic. What if someone doesn’t remember to type in the “/tv” bit – then we are back to square one.

Gus: For bigger brands, people are better at remembering to do it. But the most important thing is that they has to be a special offer or at least an incentive for the visitor to use this URL over the standard one. Things like 10% off or two for one, that should be a good enough reason for visitors to enter the ‘friendly’ URL.

Or you could go further and have a completely different URL that doesn’t refer to the brand name, like This could be a URL for a special landing page dedicated to stuff kids need for going back to school. You might decide to promote this URL on your TVs ads, and then another one like you would promote on your radio spots.

But what I don’t get is how you redirect the traffic from the friendly URL to an actual page on your website.

Vlad: It will be a 301 redirect, taking the initial request and then translating it into a request for the landing page that exists on the current website. The redirect is set up on the Web server – it’s very easy – even you could do it.

Gus: But say you you have got your special promotion with its own friendly URL and landing page, how do you then report on it within Google Analytics ?

Vlad: You use something called URL Builder that appends ..

Gus: Appends?

Vlad: ..adds parameters to the landing page’s URL based on the Campaign Name, source. Here, I’ll show you on the screen.


Google Analytics URL builder

So Google generates a special URL, that you can then track visits and visitors based on the parameters.

Gus: Parameters?

Vlad: Bits of information about the campaign, so for example.

Campaign Source – parameter name is utm_source
Obviously, the source is required to identify where the traffic is coming from such as Email Newletter-May2008, AdWords_PPC, etc.

Medium – parameter name is utm_medium
Medium is used to identify the medium of the campaign that it being used e.g. E-mail, CPC (cost-per-click), Banner

Campaign Name – the parameter name is utm_campaign
campaign name is often used to identify a specific promotion or strategic campaign like Summer sale, BOGOF, Free Beanie Campaign

Content – this optional parameter name is utm_content)
Used to differentiate ads or links that point to the same URL, ie. When split testing is used Likely used for A/B testing, for example,: image link, text link

Term – this optional parameter name is utm_term
Used for paid search and will identify the keywords used for the PPC ad.

So then a complete URL would look something like this

Gus: No way. That’s way too long for anyone to remember.

Vlad: And that’s why you put this really ugly URL behind a friendly URL like you, and use the 301 redirects to the point to the landing page on the site you have created just for this campaign.

Then you have got all that data into Google Analytics and you can segment it by Campaign Name, or Source, or Medium, and compare this campaign against other campaigns. Plus if you know how much the campaign cost, then you can compare it against the revenue it’s brought in, and you’ve got ROI figures.

Depending on how many visitors this offline campaign brought you, it might be a good idea to set up a separate profile just to look at these visitors and their activity.

Gus: I have got a few more ideas. Not original I’m afraid. But you know you forced me to read that Advanced Google Analytics book by the weightlifter, you know whathisname.

Vlad: Brian Clifton, and he was a weightlifter, not is.

Gus: Anyway, he suggested choosing some unique campaign names and then use Adwords to push people to the landing page.

So in your radio adverts you might say ‘go online and find our ad by searching for “back to school this year” and get 15% off your first order’. So the people who heard it through the radio will search on ‘back to school’, and on printed ad you would say the same thing but search for “school starts in September”.

Vlad: But wouldn’t that cost quite a lot in expenditure on PPC ads

Gus: Not if you choose your search terms that you were bidding on carefully, ensured there wasn’t much competition for them. Plus – you would get good quality data on the performance of this campaign online, because each media would get a different search term for them to go online and search for.

Vlad: And each media could have its own special landing page – one for TV, one for print, one for radio and so on.

I like it.

Gus: But there’s one thing we haven’t thought of. What happens if visitors pick up the phone to place their order? All our tracking is useless.

Vlad: Gus, unlike you to get downcast like this.

You’re right, telephone orders do make a things a bit trickier. One sensible thing to do is put a different telephone number on the website, so you can track the number of calls coming in from that source.

Plus you can put different telephone numbers on printed ads, radio messages, TV – all of these help – but it would be useful if the information was available within Google Analytics.

I have come across a way of getting telephone calls data into Google Analytics. Basically, those clever people at FreshEgg have developed an application that changes the phone number on the website depending on whether your visitors are coming from.


Telephone call tracking within Google Analytics

Gus:Well, I think if we presented all those different tracking techniques to the client, we move them much closer to having a clear idea as to what media is driving what activity on the website.

Vlad: Yup. One thing we will need to cover with them at some point is tracking of people using mobile devices to visit their website, as well as any future efforts they put into social media.

Gus: Since our client only gets a handful of visits from mobile devices and they are not using Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the rest to do much, then it’s something we can leave off for now. But you’re right – we will need to come back to these topics.


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Posted in: Google Analytics

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