How to count the website visitors from your magazine adverts

It’s so easy to assess the effectiveness of online marketing that when it comes to non-online advertising, it’s frustrating not to have the same capability to measure return on investment. Those of you who, like me, are the wrong side of 40 will remember magazine “bingo cards” which died off in the 1990s. They weren’t the fastest way of receiving requests for information from prospects, but they did give you a good impression of how many people had seen your advertisements.

Now of course, whether you’re sending out a postal mailshot or taking a double-page spread in Blue Widget World, you know that any prospects will want further information instantly, so you’ll almost certainly be directing them to your website. But there are two major problems with this.

The first problem is that you’ll probably want to send them to a specific page. However, to do that might mean giving them a long and unwieldy web page address to type in, and they’re unlikely to do that. Sending them to the home page is only a sensible option if there’s a big panel there relating to the advert which will then take them to the right page with a single click. And I bet few companies get round to doing that.

The second problem is that you can’t count them. Anyone who directly types in a web page address will appear in your visitor analytics bundled with hundreds of others whose source can’t be tracked. In Google Analytics, it appears labelled with the not-very-useful “(direct)” heading.

How do we get around this? My favourite way is to buy a nice, relevant domain name, which will cost you a whole ten pounds. Then you redirect it to the page on your website with the relevant information (this is easy to do, when you buy the domain name). Suppose you want to send people from a magazine advert to the page on your website about your fast blue widgets special offer. Instead of quoting the 100-character-long address of the particular page, which nobody will type in, just buy the easily-typeable www.fast-blue-widgets.net or whatever, and set it up so that anyone typing that into their browser is invisibly and automatically taken to the right page.

Even better, by adding some tracking code to the redirection address, you can see in your visitor analytics exactly how many people came in through this route too! So next time you place an advert or send out a direct mail shot, and the phone fails to ring, nobody will be able to say: “Ah, well, they probably all went to the website and we can’t count them”. Because now you can.

(If you’re a client and want help with any of this, just ask!)

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