December 10

Today I got to go talk with folks at a lovely nonprofit I work with. They’re working on a newspaper ad (I’m going to help design it, we do that too) and I suggested that we try to track the response from it. The marketing manager sort of blinked at me, and then I kindly suggested we look at Google Analytics. Before we logged in there though, I wrote this down on a scrap of paper:

http://www.guardiacare.org?aw

Now there are two parts to this link, I explained. I pointed to the www.guardiacare.org part, and said… this could easily be any page on the website. If you wanted to send people to a certain landing page, say… contact? you could put http://www.guardiacare.org/contact.html?aw. It’s okay to do that. The important thing is that after you put the link on your ad, you add a question mark. The question mark tells the browser “This next bit of information isn’t an address.” Usually it refers to bits of information you are sending to scripts on your pages. But in this case, it is JUST a little code that means…. “This person came from Ad Weekly.” And that’s why we used “aw.” The “aw” stands for Ad Weekly. You could just as easily have put cj for Courier Journal or nyt for New York Times. You can put “twitter” or “email” if you like. It doesn’t matter. Anything that helps you see where it came from. Make it easy to remember and easy to type in, it should be short.

This is known as a “tagged” link.

Now the beauty of tagged links is that you can see them in Google Analytics, separately from a link without a tag. So you can see how many people went to that page. So say you sent out a mailing? You put the mailing name in the link tag and then you can see how much traffic it generated. Google thinks your tagged link is a separate page and will show you the statistics for its traffic separately. Getting light bulbs? You can do the same thing for any campaign, online or offline. It’s a way to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. It’s really important to do that.

So I showed the lovely lady at GuardiaCare how to see her segmented social media traffic in Analytics and then we looked at how to track these tagged links. From Google Analytics we can actually see the path that someone took to get to any page and then what they clicked on afterward. We can identify hot spots of interest and add more content based on click activity.

(Incidentally, if you clicked the link above to go look at GuardiaCare? That link is tagged “toad” and we’ll look at it in our next meeting and be able to see how many clicks to their site this blog post brought us. Cool, eh?)

So yes, you can measure at least one channel of response to your print advertisements and mailings. Expect to see a lot of mobile traffic to such things, so I would make sure the landing page has a good mobile layout and a clear call to action.

And stop working for free.

More info:

How to read Google Analytics Reports

How to install Google Analytics on your site and/or in WordPress (video)

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