How to Track the Online ROI of Offline Advertising

Posted by GeoffKenyon

While I love online marketing and often times think that is a much better marketing investment than offline marketing and advertising, offline ads are important and add value. While we are going to see budget shift significantly from offline efforts to online campaigns, there is still going to be a ton of money going into offline ads.

Much of the value from offline advertising is actually online and is typically attributed to the direct channel. If an ad gives out a website URL, they almost always send visitors to their homepage. When ads don’t give users a website to go to, typically one of the search channels will receive credit for the value created by the ad. The KTM ad below is a prime example of a print ad that will create value, but the value will be attributed to either the search channel or direct channel if the user is already aware of (or simply searches for) the URL for KTM.

As you can see below, in 2012 82% of ad-spend was offline; that is a lot of visitors and conversions that aren’t being properly attributed.

This isn’t just a problem for companies with big ad budgets. In fact, this is more important for small businesses with smaller budgets because often times these expenses come out of the owner’s pockets. Real estate agents are probably the best example of why this is so important. If my friend Hailey is a real estate agent and if she wants to market her self and her properties, she has a lot of options. She could advertise on a big real estate site like Zillow, a niche site, through SEO or PPC, and it’s easy for her to track leads from these. It gets harder, though, when she invests in offline efforts like signs, door hangers, print ads, or any other form of offline advertising. Hailey, and almost all real estate agents, are doing their marketing campaigns on a tight budget, so it is critical for real estate agents (and professionals in many other industries) to understand exactly what is producing value and what isn’t.

The good news is that it’s actually pretty easy to figure out which offline ads are helping you and which ones aren’t doing anything.

Create a custom URL for your ads

The first step is to either buy a vanity domain or to create a unique landing page for each offline effort.

Depending on your niche and ad, it can be important to incentivize the user typing in the full URL (and not just stopping once they type in the homepage) if you are not going to use a vanity domain. This can mean offering the user a special promotion or gift. You would want to reinforce the offer with the URL as well, using something like /free-gift or /special-promo.

Set up redirects and campaign parameters

Once you’ve created your vanity domain or landing page, you’ll need to set up a 301 redirect to the page you want visitors to land on (your home page or a specific landing page) AND include Google Analytics campaign parameters (shown below by ?utm=*)

Adding Campaign Tracking Parameters

If you’re not super familiar with Google Analytics, this guide is a good starting point. If you need help creating the campaign URL, the Google URL Builder and GA Config are really useful tools. Keep in mind, while there are five different parameters you can use, the following three are required at minimum:

  • Source – This should be the specific source of the ad and referral such as “Seattle Times,” “For Sale Sign,” “Flier,” etc. The source parameter will allow you to assign conversions to a specific source.
  • Medium – The medium is simply the high-level channel that your effort is part of. Some examples of good mediums would be radio, magazine ad, or TV. When you consistently use the medium attribution parameter, over time, you will be able to see what high-level channels produce the best ROI for you.
  • Campaign name – The campaign name should refer to specific campaign you are running. You can use this to pull together ads across mediums and sources that are part of a larger campaign, or you can differentiate between different campaigns within the same source.

Track your ROI

At this point, you’ve done all the hard work and have everything set up for Google Analytics to be able to track visitors coming to the site from your ads as well as how many people convert in some form. You will be able to find the number of visitors from your ads under the campaigns tab in Google Analytics, and the number of conversions in the Ecommerce, Goals, or Events tab depending on how you are tracking your conversions.

The campaign view in Google Analytics is where you’ll monitor the success of your offline campaigns.

With this in place you will be able to better invest your offline marketing budget knowing that the channels and campaigns are going to give you the best online ROI.

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November 17, 2013  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing

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