Tracking Your Advertising in Print Publications


"If my marketing person bought print ads for my business and didn't apply any of these principles, I would question their marketing abilities."

It's practically 2024. It's too easy these days for some to claim that they are a 'marketing guru' and apply for positions that they are unqualified for. Technology has advanced rapidly. Many colleges and universities can't keep up with digital marketing. By the time a college book is published, some of that information is outdated. Significantly. One of the first questions that I would ask a potential marketing employee is, "If we did print ads in publications, how would you measure our success?" If they could not provide any of the information below, I would not hire them. If you need to re-train your 'marketing guru' there is help.

In the digital age, tracking the impact and ROI of online and print advertisements has become more straightforward due to a plethora of analytics tools. However, measuring the success of print advertising requires a more nuanced approach. In print publications, there's no immediate click-through rate or impressions count, but that doesn’t mean its effectiveness is impossible to gauge.
If you are advertising in either print or online platforms, you have to consider for a moment, why isn't the publisher you are advertising your business with, doing any of this?  We have been doing it for many years! 

Here are some effective methods for tracking the ROI of your print advertising campaigns:

1. UTM Codes

What are they?

Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) codes are simple code snippets appended to the end of URLs. They help digital analytics software track the source, medium, and campaign name of the traffic that accesses the provided link.

How to use them in print ads?

  • Create a specific URL for your advertisement using a tool like Google's Campaign URL Builder.
  • This unique UTM-enabled URL will track the visitors coming specifically from your print ad.
  • Print the UTM-enabled URL in the ad.


  • Detailed analytics on website visits.
  • Easy integration with tools like Google Analytics.


  • URLs can become lengthy, which might deter users from manually entering them. There are ways to manage this- see #2.

2. Short Links, T.ly or Bit.ly Links

What are they? They are popular URL shortening services. It not only makes long URLs more palatable but also provides basic click analytics.

How to use them in print ads?

  • Convert your UTM-enabled URL (or any other URL) into a short link.
  • Print the shortened link in your advertisement.


  • Short, easy-to-type URLs.
  • Provides a count of how many times the link was accessed.


  • Limited to basic click data. It doesn’t offer the depth of UTM parameters.
I used to use bitly however they recently changed their rates and analytics therefore I switched to T.ly.

3. Custom URLs

What are they? These are unique web addresses created specifically for a campaign. For example, if promoting a summer sale, a business might use: www.companyname.com/summersale

How to use them in print ads?

  • Purchase or create a custom subdomain or page for your campaign.
  • Direct readers of the print ad to this unique page.
  • Monitor the traffic to this page.


  • Simple and memorable for users.
  • Easy to track visits with standard web analytics tools.


  • Requires purchasing or creating new domains/subdomains.

4. Phone Tracking

What is it? Phone tracking involves using a unique phone number in your print advertisements, separate from your main business number. Calls to this number can be logged, recorded, and analyzed.

How to use it in print ads?

  • Obtain a unique phone number for your campaign.
  • Print this number in the advertisement.
  • Monitor and analyze calls to determine ad effectiveness.


  • Direct feedback from customers.
  • Can be used to gauge both the quantity and quality of leads.


  • Requires setup of additional phone services or systems. However most can be done in 10 minutes. Learn more.

4. QR codes

You've seen them. They are simple to create.
Some print publications also have an online version. That publication should be advising you on using these methods and technologies. If they are not, they either are antiquated in the advertising realm, or they don't want you to measure your efforts with them.
It's your money. Incorporating these simple steps are free or have a very low cost.
DiscoverMaestro.com Notes:

Print advertising is becoming more obsolete, but it requires more creativity in tracking its effectiveness. By employing methods like UTM codes, Bit.ly links, custom URLs, and phone tracking, businesses can gain a better understanding of their audience's response and refine their strategies accordingly. It's essential to remember that while these tools provide valuable insights, the most effective campaigns resonate with the target audience's needs and desires.

Above all, you should never advertise in print without using these methods to track your marketing. Otherwise, you are literally throwing your money away and your competition is laughing at you, all the way to the bank!

T.ly also has a QR code builder. Easy to build and use!
We use all of this on DiscoverThurston.com and all of our sites for many years. This allows our members to gain the analytics so that they can see the value of joining us. "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."  
For all you online publishers out there who are still behind the power curve, "You're welcome!"  ;)  
You can get a free consultation with Discover Maestro, the nation's leading Veteran owned marketing agency to learn more.

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