Print Ads ARE Trackable!

Print Ads ARE Trackable!

Are you tired of hearing that print ads are not trackable? Me too!

In nearly all of my ad sales training workshops I hear the above as one of the most common objections from advertisers. So, here is the answer.

PRINT IS TRACKABLE!  The real question is if the advertiser will do what is required to track the various ad components?  Or, are you as a sales person willing to step in and do the work to increase the ROI impact for your clients?

Please feel free to create a one sheet from this information to use with your advertising clients. Please note that there are some VERY detailed instructions at the end of this blog post too.

Here are eight helpful tips to maximize your print ad buy. 

NOTE:  I have written the below so that you can use it with your clients.  Feel free to share.

1. The person that answers the phone at your office is NOT the best person to track your print ad response. “64% of incoming calls, tracked over a four month print ad campaign, resulted in no question being asked about the advertising source.” – BSM, research study, 2014

2. Be sure to run a unique web site address in each different print ad that you run. These are called “Vanity URL’s.” For example, is your main web site. Go to and register another dot come name like, to run in print ad #1 and to run in print ad#2. After you register your Vanity URL, you will need to follow some very specific instructions. Those are located at the end of this blog.

3. DO NOT use a dot com name like, . This will fail almost every time! DO NOT do this.

4. Be sure to run a unique tracking phone number in each ad. Call tracking numbers have been around for years. Sure, phone volume is way down these days, but tracking your calls from print ads is super easy. Companies like can offer you this service for as low as $30 per month. Or, a cheaper route is to buy a TracPhone® from Walmart®. If you truly want to know who is calling from your print ad, put your cell number in the ad. Why not? Are you afraid you will get calls? 😉

5. Track your Google® analytics. Everything a user does is tracked in your Google® Analytics. Most business owners just do not fully understand how to read their Google® Analytics. Other than Google®, traditional media, like print, is the second best way to drive traffic to your web site. Be sure to track when your print campaign started and ended in GA. You will almost always see a lift in web site traffic during a print campaign. Be sure to filter out all the other things you are doing online to see the best result.

6. Run unique content in each ad. Ad agencies are notorious for running the exact same ad in multiple magazines. STOP! Do not do this. Feature different content in each print ad to better gauge results. It can be as simple as changing the color of the product you feature or the image in the ad. Do something to give you a chance to see the results.

7. Spend time checking your marketing results. It is imperative. As your media sales rep for help. It’s your money… track it.

8. QR codes. While not the rage as they were intended, why not. Feature a unique offer to readers willing to scan the QR code that is pointed to a unique landing page and offer on your web site. Free QR code:

As promised, here are the VERY specific instructions on how to set-up your Vanity URL so that Google Analytics can read it.

1. Buy Your Vanity URL: I recommend buying your vanity URL from GoDaddy as they offer quality phone support.

2. Create A Trackable URL:

Visit Google’s URL Builder tool:

Enter your real website URL (not your vanity URL) where it says “Website URL”

Under “Source,” add where people are coming from (ex. mailer)

Under “Medium,” add the type of marketing it is (ex. print)

Under “Name,” add something specific (ex. “50percentoff” – do not add spaces between words)

Click “Submit”

Copy that URL to your clipboard

3. Forward or Redirect Trackable URL to Real URL:
Log into or the site where you bought the vanity URL, open the account settings for that URL, and in the “redirect” or “forward to” option, paste in the URL you generated with Google’s URL Builder. Do not make this a site alias as an A record or C name.

4. Test It! And, learn to set up a report in Google Analytics.

About the blogger: Ryan Dohrn is a 25 year media industry revenue expert and has trained over 3,000 sales people on the above method for tracking ROI on print ads.