Over the past decade the advertising world has experienced a massive shift to digital. With digital ads, companies have the flexibility to make changes to ad copy and strategy (and see the results) in real-time. Digital ads are also typically less expensive and allow for practically everything to be tracked. Given all the advantages of digital advertising, why would anyone still bother with traditional media buys?
The answer is simple: because traditional advertising still works. The challenge is that measuring those results is so much more difficult.
To illustrate, let’s focus on radio. Imagine you just finished convincing your boss to buy a dozen radio spots and you’re excited to see what kind of lift your company will get! But don’t pop those champagne bottles just yet; your work has just begun. Because, unlike digital ads, radio spots have no tracking structure, no tagged URLs, no attribution models, etc.
Once the ad airs, that’s it. Done. So how are you going to know if the ad spots worked? Perhaps more importantly, how are you going to show ROI to your boss?
Before you reach for that brown paper bag and Xanax, take a deep breath. Ready? Here are 7 KPI’s you can actually track to gauge the impact your radio spots had.
1. Branded Organic Search Traffic (i.e. Company Name)
While many think the best way to track offline media impact is via direct traffic, that’s not always the case. With the proliferation of Top-Level Domains (there are currently over 1,500 different TLD’s available) many people won’t assume that your TLD is a dot com domain. To cut down on time, and to ensure they’ve found the correct site, most people will navigate to their search engine of choice and search for your company name.
Because of the trust Google, Bing, and other search engines have built up over the years, people assume they’ll be taken to the correct website.
With this in mind, you’ll need to compare the exact start and end dates the spots aired to check for any changes in branded organic search queries within that date range.
Specifically, you’ll want to compare branded queries of your company name by itself (e.g. for myself that would mean looking only at the search results for “Liferay” with no other words included in the query). You should also compare quarter-over-quarter and/or year-over-year reports to determine if there were any seasonal fluctuations that could instead explain any changes you may see.
2. Branded Paid Search Traffic
This one is pretty straightforward; the same people searching your company name might instead click on a paid search ad instead of the top organic result. This of course only pertains to those companies that are running a paid search campaign during the airing of the ad spots.
If the campaign has been running for awhile before the spots aired, you also might want to check month-over-month and quarter-over-quarter reports to get the full picture.
3. Vanity URL Traffic
This option allows you to directly track how many people heard your ad and then took action. Let’s say you work for Example, Inc. and your company website is example.com. At the end of your ad you direct listeners to visit “example.com/cloud” instead of the generic “example.com” in order to track how many visits the vanity URL received. From there you can reasonably assume that each one of those visits is a highly interested potential customer or prospect.
A couple of caveats: first, make sure that you do not use the vanity URL in any other campaigns or marketing activities. Second, make sure to add a meta “noindex” tag to the page so search engines don’t index it. If they do index the page, you’ll have a much more difficult time determining how successful your ad really was.
Note: in order for people to remember and take action on a vanity URL you will most likely need to offer something very compelling, e.g. a substantial discount, free tickets, a limited time offer, etc. Otherwise most listeners will simply search for your company name.
4. Custom Code Usage
Another option to directly track reach and engagement is to ask listeners to use a custom code when they visit your website. This code could be entered during the process of filling out a form or before completing a purchase. Either way, it’s a direct tie back to the ads you ran.
The same caveat applies here as well: be sure not to use the code in any other marketing campaigns or activities.
5. Increase in Social Media Followers
While this KPI is less likely to change unless you’ve specifically mentioned your company’s social media profiles in your ad, it’s a metric that is often overlooked. It can be a good indicator of how well your ad reached and resonated with your intended target audience.
For this KPI you’ll want to take a look at the social profiles that your company utilizes and/or engages with the most and look for an increase in followers during the radio campaign. You’ll also want to do a quarter-over-quarter as well as a year-over-year comparison, to ensure there aren’t any other factors at play.
6. Add a Referral Option Dropdown to your Forms
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, you can add a field to your lead gen forms or pre-purchase forms that allow prospects to indicate how they heard about your company. If you already have a field like this in place, you can simply add “on the radio” or whichever medium your spots or ads will be airing.
The caveat here is that many people will end up forgetting or mis-remembering how they heard about your company, so the information you receive may not be completely accurate. But it can still help provide an idea of your campaign’s reach, even if the numbers aren’t exact.
7. Direct Traffic to your Company Website
Probably the most obvious metric on the list, there are a few things you want to bear in mind when reviewing these reports. First, you want to focus on direct traffic to the homepage only. As you may know, the tricky thing about direct traffic reports is that they often include other sources of traffic in addition to direct traffic, such as shortened URLs, bookmarks, etc. To help mitigate, you’ll want to exclusively look at direct traffic to your homepage.
You’ll also want to look at any fluctuations in the following metrics: New Users, Avg. Session Duration, Pages/Session, Bounce Rate, and, if you already have it set up, Goal Completions. These metrics can help to paint the full picture and let you know if you received an increase in direct traffic and, if so, whether it was relevant, high-quality traffic.
These are just a few of the ways you can track tangible actions via digital analytics. Just keep in mind that awareness and brand recognition are extremely difficult to track and gauge. However, they are also highly impactful and long-lasting. In some cases an ad campaign can continue generating dividends for decades after it has stopped running (see the grey poupon commercial from the ‘80s).
One other quick thing to note: timing. Not the time of day or day of the week your ads ran, but instead the stage in the buying cycle your potential customer is in when your ads air. It doesn’t matter how compelling your ad is if the timing isn’t right. But when the time is right and a prospect is ready to buy, the awareness and brand recognition generated by your ad can make all the difference in them choosing you over a competitor.
While this kind of brand recall can be hard to quantify via digital analytics, its importance can’t be underestimated. So be sure to include some of these “intangible” KPI’s in your analysis and note that it can sometimes take several months before the full impact of a traditional ad campaign is felt.