We hear about a new way to advertise online every day (or at least it feels that way). While many of these methods deliver excellent results, that doesn’t mean we should ignore more traditional offline marketing. One problem small businesses have with these methods, however, is figuring out how to track offline advertising.
With online advertising, it’s easier to tell exactly where traffic is coming from because that information is captured by an analytics platform. Fortunately, you can use some of those same strategies with your offline ads. You just need to make a few adjustments.
One of the simplest ways to keep track of your offline advertising is to use tracking links on your website. We have a detailed breakdown of how tracking links work in this post, but essentially you’re adding a code to the end of a link that allows you to keep track of where a visitor has seen your ad.
For example, if you advertise for window cleaning services, you’ll want to send visitors to your products/services page, www.site.com/services/. In order to track visits, though, we can add a tracking code. We could use wc12 to remind us that it’s for window cleaning and that we launched the campaign in December.
If someone visits www.site.com/services/wc12 then we know where they saw that URL, and we can make note of how effective our offline campaign is.
These unique URLs are not entirely new pages. Instead, they are custom created URLs that point to the same page. You can set them up with Google URL builder or with many marketing automation platforms. This unique link helps us bring the power of our analytics process to offline advertising.
To take offline promotions a step further, you can also create custom landing pages. Rather than relying on content that already exists, these custom pages are focused on the specific audience that you are targeting with your offline ads.
Imagine we offer animal grooming products. While we could create general ads to promote our products, we could also target a specific group, like people with horses. This niche audience probably isn’t in the market for cat or dog grooming accessories, but an ad that focuses specifically on horse grooming should get their attention.
Rather than send them to a generic page that includes all our products, it will be more effective to create a landing page that focuses on horse grooming. That way, we’re speaking directly to them, and this specificity can increase conversions.
Furthermore, if you’ve got multiple offline ads running—whether the same ad in different publications, or different ads for different channels, you can create unique landing pages for each ad.
For custom landing pages to be effective, you’ll want to keep a few ideas in mind:
Set the pages to “no index” with a meta tag. This will keep search engines from crawling this page, which helps separate it from online traffic. It also keeps you from sabotaging your search ranking for other pages on your site.
Remember that these visitors are actually typing the URL into the address bar, so you don’t want them to have to remember “www.superlongwebsiteaddress.com/offline-marketing-campaign-2017/”, especially since there’s a good chance they’ll be trying to type that into their mobile device. Instead, use a link shortener like Bitly or create an easy-to-remember URL.
Since this traffic is coming from an offline source, you can’t be certain about how comfortable they are interacting online. A phone number gives your visitor the chance to contact you directly, which could lead to higher conversions.
Once you start creating lots of specific landing pages for offline promotion, it can be easy to forget what goes with what. So make sure you keep a log of the URL and where you’re using it.
Another way to make it easier for your audience (and to help you keep track) is to combine custom landing pages with a redirect domain. This isn’t an ideal solution as it can be hard for you to track and analyze your overall success, but it could be helpful for smaller campaigns.
For example, if our animal grooming products company offers grooming services as well, we can use local domains to keep track of advertising. So, we might have UtahHorseGrooming.com, IdahoHorseGrooming.com, and ColoradoHorseGrooming.com that all redirect to specific landing pages.
You’ll want to balance short and memorable with redirects. You want the URL to stick in the viewer’s mind without asking them to type too much.
Note that you don’t want to just duplicate your website for each of these areas. This can cause problems with search engines. Instead, you can just have specific areas on your main website. Or, if the content for each area is really unique, you can create entirely new sites. In most cases, though, you can just point them to a custom landing page on your main site.
If you get leads through phone call inquiries, then tracked phone lines can be a good way to know where your offline advertising efforts are paying off.
Much like with tracked URLs, you will assign a specific phone number to a particular ad campaign. Then, when a potential client calls that number, you will know where they found out about your service.
Many customers will be willing to inquire about your products and services via email. However, you won’t know where they’re coming from if you don’t have a way to track emails.
One way to do this is to have a call to action in your ad that directs them use a specific subject line when emailing. So a cleaning service company might say, “email us today with ‘My house is a mess!’ in the subject line.” This is particularly effective when combined with promo codes, which we’ll get to in a minute.
Relying on the customer to remember the subject line could lead to inaccurate data, though. One way to help with this problem is to use a custom email address. In the example above, we might create a MessyHouse@cleaningservices.com address specifically for our offline ads.
To make sure customers contact you in a way that you can track, you can ask them to use a promo code. Typically, you’ll offer an attractive discount or bonus that is related to the product or service you are advertising offline.
Ask your customers to put the promo code in the email subject line, for example. Or, you can use the promo code as a part of your tracked URL strategy. You can even ask customers to mention the code when they call if you aren’t able to set up a tracked phone number system just yet.
No matter where you use promo codes, you’ll need to make sure they are unique for each ad. You don’t need a separate code for every single instance of the ad, but you should be able to separate ad strategies or media. So, a separate code for a newspaper ad and a billboard, for example.
You’ll also need to keep all those codes straight, so be sure to log which promos go with which campaigns. Otherwise, you’re tracking won’t help you out.
The above methods will help you get fine-grained data about your offline advertising. If you just need a general sense of whether or not they’re working, you can pay attention to your analytics.
Direct traffic refers to visitors who arrived at your page or website by typing a link into their browser. Even without tracked URLs or redirect domains, the direct traffic stats in your in analytics platform can show you if your numbers increase during an offline advertising campaign. A spike in direct traffic that corresponds to an offline campaign is a good indication that the ads are working. Of course, you’ll need to have your website listed in the ad for this to work.
Just keep in mind that this isn’t a direct measure of offline campaigns. Since your website address appears in other places, visitors might have seen it outside your campaign. (Domain redirects could give you more accurate numbers if you use the redirect domain only for offline ads.)
Like with digital marketing, offline advertising provides plenty of options for reaching new customers. These can be particularly effective depending on your target audience.