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How To Track Offline Ad Campaigns In Google Analytics

by Andrey Milyan September 18, 2017

The holy grail of marketing analytics is to have a single dashboard view of all your campaigns. While many of you are using Google Analytics to track web traffic and conversions, there is still a number of advertising campaigns that don’t fit neatly into that single view. For example, anything you do offline is difficult to track and usually shows up as direct traffic in your source/medium report.

One solution is to use custom landing pages, which you should absolutely be doing regardless, but there are a few downsides to tracking offline traffic and conversions that way. For one, you will have to go digging for that data in a completely different GA report. Two, many companies make a mistake of using URLs that no one is likely to type into their browser. Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

Billboard url example

Seems silly, doesn’t it? Yet, the University of Sydney clearly expected at least some prospective students to type that URL in.

Let me show you a better approach that will be cleaner and easier to track. Obviously, it is not foolproof but it should give you a better idea of what impact your offline ad campaigns are having on your website traffic and, ultimately, your online sales.

Step 1: Register a Memorable Domain

It could either be related to your existing domain name or brand or somehow related to the ad campaign itself. For example, for one of my clients, EVELO.com, we’ve registered goevelo,com and evelobikes.com for some of the offline work we’ve done this year. Alternatively, the domain could echo the message of the ad campaign. For EVELO.com, it could have been startriding.com or freedomtoride.com. I would avoid the .net and other less popular extensions.

There are plenty of options out there (Namecheap, Hover, even GoDaddy) and spending $10-$15 on an easy-to-remember domain is well worth the money.

Step 2: Create a Dedicated Landing Page for Each Campaign

You will need to create a landing page that is highly target to the audience you are trying to reach and the campaign message you are trying to get across. Just like online, you should be aiming to create is continuity and relevance. There are a lot of great landing page optimization resources out there. Take a look at these awesome guides from unbounce and QuickSprout. From personal experience, here are a few things worth addressing right away:

  • Your goal – What action would you like your visitors to take?
  • Call to action (CTA) – Based on your answer to the above question, the CTA should be prominent, strong and above-the-fold.
  • Creatives – We are evolutionary predisposed to pay more attention to people’s faces so those tend to do better in grabbing attention.
  • Crisp above-the-fold copy – Tell your visitors what it is you can do for them. Keep it short and to the point. Take a look at this article for examples of what not to do.
  • Don’t be afraid to offer details – A lot of marketers will tell you to keep reading to a minimum. With shorter attention spans, that is probably true for above-the-fold copy, where you want to be brief. I typically use Crazyegg to check how consumers interact with my landing pages and, in one case, I found that 61% of all clicks occurred on CTAs below the fold!

Step 3: Redirect Your New Domain to the Landing Page

Now that you have a highly targeted and well optimized landing page, it’s time to set up your redirect and track it properly. Here is how to set up the redirects for each service provider I’ve mentioned earlier:


  • Go to the Domain List tag
  • Click Manage to the right of the domain you are planning to redirect
  • Scroll down and find the Add Redirect link in the Redirect Domain section of the page
  • For the destination URL, enter the URL of your landing page tagged with the Google Analytics utm parameters.

The last step is important since we want this traffic to show up in the source/medium report and be treated separately from your direct traffic bucket. Your source would be the domain name and your medium would be referral.

Here are the complete step-by-step redirect instructions.


  • Click on the domain to forward
  • In the Overview tab, check that Nameservers are ns1.hover.com and ns2.hover.com. Since you likely haven’t hosted a website on that domain, this is the info you should see. If you see something different, contact Hover support.
  • Click on the DNS tab
  • Under the Forwards section, click on the Forward This Domain CTA.
  • Select your domain from the dropdown on the next step and type it the destination URL. Once again, use your landing page URL with Google Analytics UTM parameters appended to the end.

Here are the step-by-step redirect instructions from Hover.


  • Go to Domains Setting page
  • Next to your domain, click on Use My Domain
  • Under Connect to Existing Site, click Connect
  • Select Forward to Any Site on the next screen
  • Enter the URL of your landing page with the utm parameters.
  • If you get an error, remove the utm parameters and save
  • Go to Domain Settings for the domain you just redirected and click Manage Connection
  • You should get a prompt about Forwarding and Masking, where you can click on Update Forwarding
  • Adding the utm parameters back in on the next screen and save the changes

Check out the detailed instructions if you still have questions.

Step 4: Confirm That Everything Works

Try the direct a few times to make sure it works and the utm parameters show up correctly. Go into your Google Analytics source/medium report. Filter for the source you’ve used in your tagging. For example, for goevelo.com, I’ve used goevelo as a source. In the first column of my report, my campaign looks like this:

GA source example


Voila! Since you have used a short and sweet domain for your offline ad campaign, more people are likely to use it. All of that traffic is now going to show up in your Google Analytics source/medium report, with the rest of your traffic sources. You can then look at any goals or ecommerce conversions that this campaign is generating on your website.

If you have found this article helpful, take a look at ways to create urgency for your website and learn how to better optimize your website forms.

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