How to measure the website traffic from print ads

Most companies attribute the telephone not ringing off the hook after placing a magazine advert to the possibility that “most readers probably went and had a look at our website”. Well, maybe they did. Can you be sure though? Here are the mistakes, and wasted opportunities, which I see on over 90% of all print ads.

Firstly, the advert just quotes the company website, not the actual page about the product being advertised. This could be through laziness or ignorance, or a realisation that people aren’t going to type in some long URL to a specific page. But sending prospects to your home page from an advert about a specific product makes no sense. I always liken it to inviting a customer to a meeting at your office, and leaving them to find their own way to you from reception.

Secondly, by just quoting your company website, there will be no way of measuring the number of visitors to the website generated by the advertisement. If you’re using Google Analytics, for example, anyone who visits your website by typing your URL into their browser will appear under a generic “[not set]” source classification. That’s no help at all.

Here’s how we get around that, for the massive outlay of about £10. There are two steps. Number one is to register a new domain name which you’re going to use for that advert alone (you could use it again later, once the advert has passed its shelf life). There are hundreds of domain name registrars which you can use. The domain name might be related to the product name, or might combine your company name with the product type; as long as it’s under a dozen characters or so, it should be fine. So if you’re RedWidgetCo and your advert is about your “Light Blue” widget, you might register redwidgetcowidgets.co.uk, or lightblue.info, or anything appropriate.

Step two is to redirect that domain name to the page on your website where you want people to arrive, which might be www.redwidgetcompany.co.uk/widgets/light_blue.html or something like that. At the same time, add a “tracking parameter” which shows where the visit came from. If you’re using Google Analytics, that will be “?utm_source=[name of magazine]”.

Now you’ll get visitors coming directly to the right page on your site, and you can track where they came from too. The same technique can be used for direct mail or any “offline” advertising.

Note: if you’re an Insider Programme member and would like us to do this on your behalf, for a small charge, please let us know.

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