Tracking site visits from offline sources

Oct 19, 2009 View Comments by Kupr

When I moved from the world of direct marketing into paid search, a big thing I appreciated was the instantaneous reporting.  I could now see within minutes, the amount of traffic I was driving to a clients site, and importantly the number of sales and generated revenue.  This gives you instant feedback and allows you to maximise success or avert trouble very quickly.  Not like the typical months wait to get the results back from a direct mail campaign.

I have been mainly focused on managing search campaigns over the last number of years, and through that I know how important this channel is for an integrated digital marketing campaign.  Paid search has taken a bigger and bigger percentage of the total marketing budget over the last few years, and for good reason given the channels strong conversion levels and very clear insight into performance.  However I also know that people are mainly driven to typing a keyword into a search engine, due to being exposed to a marketing message coming from another channel.  Here it is still common for offline channels to raise awareness, interest and desire in a given brand or product and the consumer taking action by searching online.

Smart agencies and advertisers, are already looking at how a customer interacts through the different channels, such as email, SEO, display and paid search, and are already gaining insight into how typical consumers react to each channel.  However, measuring the effect of offline promotions and tracking this across to online digital channels is a little more difficult; but not impossible.

Those that use social media tools such as the hugely popular Twitter, will have already noticed the use of short URLs such as tinyurl.com and bit.ly.  Whilst these are good for helping to keep your message below the important 140 characters, they also allow you to track the number of clicks coming from that link.  I have recently seen a web design magazine using these short URLs in their editorial and wondered if they were just shortening a long URL, or were in fact measuring the number of readers that effectively clicked through to their website.  Taking this idea forward, it would be entirely possible then to include a short URL in many offline channels, and through the use of a proper cross-media tracking tool an agency or advertiser would instantly be able to see how offline was driving traffic to their website, and even if they completed a certain action like a purchase or request for further information.

I expect to see this technique rise over the next 12 months, so get ready to see links such as http://bit.ly/1234 become very common.

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