How to Prove ROI in Traditional Media Using Your Google Analytics

| 2060 Digital

If you’re using traditional advertising (e.g., television, print, radio, etc.), no doubt you’re aware it’s more difficult to track the effectiveness of these campaigns than it is to track their digital counterparts. So how can you tell whether or not your offline advertising is profitable? Here’s how to prove ROI in traditional media using your Google Analytics.

Tracking Offline Ads Using Google Analytics

Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to track and measure the effectiveness of traditional advertising methods using Google Analytics, but there’s one crucial element that you can’t afford to forget: Your ad must include some type of call to action that will encourage people to go to your website. If you don’t do this, your potential prospects will careen into an attribution black hole, and you won’t be able to keep track of anything they might do (or not do) in terms of interacting with your brand.

After all, Google Analytics is designed to track website traffic and user behavior, so if you don’t drive your prospects to the place where Google Analytics can track them, you miss out on the opportunity to gather critical customer data. Follow this simple two-step process to help you start tracking your offline advertising efforts via Google Analytics:

Step 1: Label Your Traffic Using the URL Builder

If you were to put out a TV, radio, or print advertisement in which you encouraged people to go to your website, you’d receive “direct” (a.k.a., type-in) traffic, because those visits would not have originated by way of an existing link on the Web (e.g., search engine results, social media, a blog that links to your site, etc.).

The origin of direct traffic is virtually untraceable, because in terms of how it’s presented in Google Analytics, it all looks the same–it’s just a visit to your home page, and it will be categorized as “Direct” traffic in your Google Analytics reports. While it’s possible that these direct visits came from a print ad, television commercial or other traditional advertising method, you wouldn’t be able to tell. This is where the URL Builder comes into play.

Using the URL Builder tool in Google Analytics, you can create labels for each of your traffic sources, so you can tell the difference between traffic that comes from a TV ad, print ad, flyer, radio spot, or virtually any other offline traffic source you might want to use. Simply fill out the URL Builder form, and then click the “Generate URL” button to create a dedicated URL for the particular form of traditional media you want to use.

Not only can you create these URLs to differentiate between offline media sources, but you can even narrow things down a little further by creating different URLs for A/B testing ads within the same media type.

There is one catch, however: The URLs that Google Analytics creates are far from user-friendly. They’re long, convoluted and wouldn’t look or sound right in any offline advertisement. Here’s where you have to engage in some “URL beautification.”

Step 2: Beautify Your URLs

There are quite a few ways you can change long, ugly URLs into a more memorable, user-friendly format. Here are some of the most common methods:

  • Purchase what’s known as a vanity URL, which is basically a domain name you buy for the sole purpose of forwarding traffic to another domain (i.e., your ugly tracking URL). Let’s say you’re advertising a free 30-day trial for a weight loss pill through television and radio commercials, as well as online. You purchase the vanity URL “,” and then using a basic service known as domain name forwarding (practically all domain name registrars offer this service), you seamlessly forward that traffic to your long tracking URL.

  • Set up an ad-specific, easy-to-remember subfolder on your main domain. Instead of buying a separate domain for the weight loss pill, try setting up a subfolder such as “” Then create a PHP redirect file (see this link for details) that automatically sends any traffic using that subfolder directly to your tracking URL.

  • Use a URL shortener tool, such as or This is not the best choice, as these links give no clues as to what your offer might be about, nor do they include your real domain. They will, however, make your tracking URL shorter, and both services also provide a basic running tally of how many clicks the shortened domain receives.

  • Just remember to create different domains and tracking URLs for each type of offline media you’re using; otherwise, you’ll defeat the whole purpose.

If you need help merging your traditional and digital advertising, 2060 Digital’s team of marketing professionals can create a holistic strategy that ties all your marketing together – online and offline. Give us a shout!