“Let’s Hope this Works” Advertising Never Works

Knowing how your advertising is working for your business is just as important as how it looks, where it’s placed, or how much it costs. I’m always slightly puzzled when after I’ve prepared advertising banners for a client and ask them about tracking the banner, the response is something like, “Well, we’re not tracking it, we just want to see if it works.”

Isn’t that the definition of tracking?

Ad tracking is really the only way to tell if the money you’re spending on advertising is being used effectively. Spending $50 on cheap advertising that earns no profit is a complete waste of money. Spending $300 on advertising that brings in $1200 in sales means that you earned three times more than what you spent, and the advertising, in reality, wound up ‘costing’ you nothing. But you can only know if the sales came from your advertising if you know where the sales came from in the first place.

Click Tracking your Advertising

The technical mechanism for click tracking is simple; I’ve set it up dozens of times. Your ad broker should be able to give you statistics from his or her ad server, but it’s always good to get a ‘second opinion’ by tracking your own clicks. The idea is simple:

How to effectively track your advertising clicks

  1. Your advertisement is placed on a website by your ad broker.
  2. When a visitor clicks on the ad, the ad broker’s server counts the click and sends the viewer to your tracking URL.
  3. When the viewer reaches your tracking URL, your website counts the click, and
  4. Sends the viewer to the ultimate destination page.

By setting it up as described, you can create endless tracking URLs for any site on which your ad is being placed. You can post separate tracking ads for your social media channels as well.

The same premise can also be used for print advertising. By changing the URL in the ad, or the phone number, or if you change the ad to say “Ask for Bob”, “Ask for Steve”, or “Ask for Gail” in different publications, you can know where they saw your ad without having to ask. As long as the person answering the phone is tracking it, of course.

Landing Pages

Just as important as where your customers come from is where your customers go to. Sending them to your website’s home page doesn’t help you differentiate between your advertising-driven traffic and your regular traffic. Building a landing page for your advertising campaign can help you clearly identify how your visitors reached your site, and will dramatically improve your conversion rate.

Tracking Tools for your Advertising

If you want a ‘third opinion’ on how well your campaign is going, the premiere tool for tracking your site’s visits is Google Analytics. It’s easy for your developer to set up and the reporting mechanisms it has are expansive. For my clients who use simpler tracking mechanisms, a database report that shows the number of clicks and the source of the clicks is still an effective means to understanding their traffic.

By tracking your advertising, you’ll be able to get a clear picture of how well the investment you made to create and place the ads is giving you in return.

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