Isn’t it time to start counting the responders from your adverts?

I’ve written recently about how most of us don’t track response properly but I suspect many marketing managers don’t realise how easy it can be. Today and tomorrow I’m going to show you how you can measure the number of people who visit your website after reading a magazine advert. When you’re placing the advert, to track its response, you will need the following: website visitor analytics (such as Google Analytics); about 10 minutes; and about £10. If ten pounds seems a bit daunting, don’t worry, you’ll be able to re-use what you’ve set up several times over the course of two years.

Magazines rarely have in-house response systems for their advertisers nowadays, like the old “bingo cards”. You’re left to your own devices on that one. Most advertisers choose to provide prospects with two or three courses of action: visit our website, telephone us or email us. I hope you have a way of linking any email or telephone response to the advert which generated it, using dedicated email addresses or telephone numbers. But what we’re going to concentrate on here is measuring the response from people who choose to visit the website. I get the impression from most companies I talk to that email and telephone response from print ads is minimal anyway. Most prospects visit the website as the first port of call.

Now, if you’re just quoting your company website address at the bottom of the advert, one of two things is going to happen. Some people will type the company name into a search engine. In this case, the visitor will just be credited to the search engine (e.g Google) in your website analytics, which is no help to us. The more interesting possibility is that the prospects will type the full “www…” into their browsers. However, if they do this, you don’t have an identifiable “source” for your website analytics at all, and the visitors will appear as people who came “direct” to the site, like this:

This “direct” heading includes anyone who typed the full “www…” into their browsers, wherever they saw your website address. It also includes many people who might have clicked on your website address in an email. So we don’t know how many of those people were responders to a particular advert. It could be 1% of that “direct” traffic, it could be 99%. Clearly, that’s no good.

What we need to give them is a unique website address to type in, which we can then measure. Many companies have tried doing this by directly referencing a specific page, solely mentioned in that advert, such as “visit www.bluewidgetcompany.co.uk/widget_mag_june for information” or something like that. This is OK, but to pull this off, you probably need to make it clear that there’s a particular offer on that page which they won’t get if they visit the website through normal channels. More likely, the web page address will appear to be too much like hard work, and responders will just type in the bit before the slash (or go through Google). So that’s not really satisfactory. If you do try this method, always check in your website analytics for the sources of visitors to the page, because it could get picked up elsewhere, and its visitors might not all be from the advert. I know one company which was getting 10 or 20 visitors a month to a special offer page only referenced in one magazine, only to find out later that the page had been indexed by Google and nearly all the visitors were coming from Google searches, not from the magazine.

A better method, in my opinion, is to create a specific domain just for the advert, so you can keep things as simple as possible. So if you’re advertising your new Fast Blue Widget, instead of asking people to visit www.bluewidgetcompany.co.uk/fast_blue_widget for information, you ask them to visit www.fastbluewidget.info or something equally straightforward. Note that I’m not suggesting that you set up a new website here; what you’ll do is to set up www.fastbluewidget.info so that it redirects people invisibly to the real product page, but counts them along the way. I’ll give you a step-by-step guide on how to do this tomorrow.

Discussion

  1. Tim

    I take your point that a new URL could be handy for tracking, but if your core issue is a landing page being crawled then a simple do not crawl in the robots.txt should be sufficient?

  2. Chris Rand Post author

    Firstly, never rely on robots.txt to keep pages out of Google. It just asks the search engine not to crawl that page but is no guarantee it won’t do so, or index the page.

    What we’re trying to do here is to enable you to send people to a conventional page on your website (not a special one), via a print reference, and to measure the traffic.

  3. Tim

    Fair points. If you are paying good money for a print advert (they are never cheap are they!?) adding a specific landing page seems a no-brainer?

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