A century ago the father of modern advertising John Wanamaker said "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." With the advent of the Internet it's now possible to track exactly which half is effective, and by using the following hints and tips you should be able to make the advertising you do online and offline much more effective.
Direct and brand advertising
There are two forms of advertising, direct and brand. Direct advertising focusses on getting results through a sale. Brand advertising does what it says on the tin, it's all about getting your brand known to the public, with the aim of making your brand the one the consumer thinks of, when they make a decision to buy a few months down the line.
Before the internet arrived both direct and brand advertising were notoriously hard to track. The problem was there's no natural mechanism that links an advert directly to the point of purchase. For example, unless you ask the customer where they saw your name it's almost impossible to say if that advert in the local paper resulted in a person buying something from you.
With the internet and mobile you get tracking by the truckload. With online advertising especially advertising with systems like Google AdWords, you get a wealth of information about the people who click on your adverts as standard, and that goes some way towards making your advertising more effective. However by adding a few simple techniques to your online and even your offline advertising you can also get information about what works and what doesn't, and you can do it very quickly and at little cost.
Create custom URLs
By creating specific URLs (web addresses) for each campaign that you are running, you get a much better idea of which 50% is working. You do this by simply adding a "?" followed by some code to the end of your website address.
20% off on Friday morning http://www.haircuts.com/offers.html?fridayad20off090512
Get your first cut for £8.00 http://www.haircuts.com/offers.html?8poundoffer090512
Three for two offer on selected hair products http://www.haircuts.com/offers.html?twoforthree090512
When you click on any of the above web links, it still takes you to the same page offers.html, but your website log files would record them as separate web addresses. So you when you analyse your website logs you can see whether the first, second, or third advert brought more users to the site.
Track your adverts
If downloading and analysing web logs sounds too complicated then there's an alternative. Tracking software uses the same principle, in that you generate a special web address for each campaign. However, instead of your prospects going directly to the page they're either diverted to the ad tracking software's homepage or via the installed ad tracking software which records the click.
You can then interrogate the tracking software (via your browser) any time you want, and it will give you full statistics instantly on that particular campaign.
Ad tracking services such as AdTrackz and AdMinder make a charge for their service or offer the first month for free, Linktrack offers a free limited service which can be upgraded to a full account if you like what you see.
Tracking offline advertising
Many businesses still advertise using offline, but just because your adverts are offline doesn't mean you can't get feedback and measure the advertising online.
Just as you did with the online advertising you can use specific web addresses on your offline advertising, however unlike online you want to keep things simple. So you have two options, you can use a short code generator such as is.gd (http://is.gd) to create a short easy to remember URL eg instead of using
However this is still probably asking too much of a poor consumer, it's also open to mistakes eg if you put in http://is.gd/trbc2 instead of http://is.gd/TRBC2 it won't take you to the right address. But there's a way around this and that's to use Quick Response (QR) codes.
Setting up a Quick Response code
A QR code is a 2 dimensional bar code that can contain all sorts of information including a web address, it can also – providing a user has an application downloaded - be read by mobile phones. By putting a QR code on an advert it solves the problem of long web addresses. All your potential customer needs to do is point their mobile camera at the advert and they are then taken directly to your website and you can track exactly which advert they were viewing at the time.
Quality not quantity
One last thing to consider is what represents a good result for your advertising. Getting more data on your advertising is useful, as long as it is interpreted correctly. For example, if ten people click on advert A and thirty click on advert B, then you'd think that B was three times more effective than A? However, if advert A was only viewed 10 times, and B was viewed 2000 times then the answer is, no.
Calculating the click-through rate (CTR) allows you to get a better handle on the effectiveness of your adverts. Put simply, CTR is the ratio of views of an advert with the number of times it's clicked. So taking the figures from the previous example if you have 10 clicks from 10 views then the click-through rate is 100%, if you have 30 clicks from 2000 views the CTR is 1.5%. In general the ratio is going to be substantially lower than 100% or even 1.5%, you'll be very lucky if you get 0.1%.
CTRs are an indicator of success and you shouldn't be a slave to the numbers. To get reasonably accurate results you should be looking at 1000's of views, and you should also not dismiss an advert just because it has an average low score. It's worth also looking at how the adverts perform at different times of the day, and on different audiences. If your advert works really well at converting men in their lunch hour then keep on using it but only at those times and to that part of the audience.