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Magazine advertising ROI – how webstats can help

There are two key problems with magazine advertising that lead to poor return on investment (ROI) …

  1. Stupid advertisers
  2. Stupid magazines


ROI from existing advertising

How many magazine adverts do you see where it either has no website url, or the website url is the home page?

The advert is published and the advertiser waits for the enquiries and sales to roll in.  When the ROI is bad the advertiser thinks that it was a poor investment and probably develops distrust in other magazine advertising sales people (hoping to get their business in the future).

It’s not always easy to measure ROI from magazine advertising though.  Some people may make contact directly from the advert, whereas others may search for the url they find.  Usually, part of the problem is that the business that placed the advert doesn’t have a strong process in place, which makes it hard to measure their ROI.


How to do it right

When placing an advert in a magazine, the following steps help in starting to assess what was gained from the advert …

  1. Ensure that the advert has something that provides a benefit, which can be quoted when contact is made with the company.  For example: “Quote Code MAG1 for a 10% discount”.
  2. Ensure that the advert contains a url other than the home page.  For example, an advert about carpet cleaning in care homes could have a url of
  3. Record enquiries gained.  This is where many businesses fail, often because there are multiple people taking enquiries and there are also people who don’t value the importance of recording enquiries.   Every enquiry gained, regardless of how it comes into the business, should record the following important information (apart from contact details of the enquirer):
    1. Date of enquiry
    2. Time of enquiry
    3. Perceived source of the enquiry (e.g. magazine advert)

A period of time after the magazine advert has been published it’s then time to measure what was gained from that advertising.   There should be an accurate log of enquiries (as per point 3 above) and some of those can be easily verified by using webstats data.

Taking that url of and using analytics software (for example,  A1WebStats), you can see how many people landed on that website page during the time of the magazine advertising.   If that website page doesn’t typically get many people landing on it, then it could safely be assumed that most new traffic has come from the magazine advertising.

If there was a specific enquiry gained on a particular date and time, and the analytics software shows that someone had come into that page at around that enquiry time then it could mean that the magazine advert had done its job.

Where this becomes interesting is if there aren’t many people identified as having either landed on that url, nor have found their way to that page.   If the magazine advert itself had an attractive offer (e.g. 10% off) and a specified url, but the numbers of people getting to that url are weak, then it implies that the advert hasn’t done its job.

The concept of the attractive offer also applies to other forms of enquiries taken (e.g. by telephone).  If people aren’t quoting the offer (e.g. MAG1) to get their discount, then it implies that the magazine advertising wasn’t effective enough.

As long as there is a rigid company process whereby all enquiries are recorded, including date and time, then there is the opportunity to analyse those enquiries in more detail.  If the total number of enquiries gained are really poor then it could be assumed that the magazine advertising had failed.  In cases where there were enquiries gained then it’s important to get more insights into what led to those enquiries – this can be done through both human interaction (e.g. someone quoting a discount code) or through analytics (finding matches between enquiries gained and people who were in that specific part of the website at the time of enquiry).

However, all this is assuming that the advertiser knows to advertise in certain ways.  This is where we get onto the subject of …


Stupid magazines

If a magazine wants to get a repeat advertiser then it makes sense to guide advertisers on how to get the best out of their advert.

They should certainly be advising advertisers to be logging all enquiries gained.   They should also be advising them on how to create an advert that will generate best impact, and that can be measured in some way (e.g. a discount code or distinct landing page on the website).

Unfortunately, this is rarely seen.  Most magazines want to get the sale of the advert and then that’s their job done.  They rarely think beyond that, including what it would take to get the advertiser to spend with them again.

Our view of the perfect magazine advertising department would include people that:

  1. Give good advice on how to track ROI from magazine advertising.
  2. Provide feedback on the suggested advert (to go into the magazine).  This means not being afraid to tell the advertiser that their advert is weak.
  3. Offering no-risk deals.  This means giving the potential advertiser the input of points 1 and 2 above, and also allowing them to run an advert totally for free first time round.

If following the path above, the adverts would be more effective and the advertiser would have a way to measure what they did or didn’t gain from their magazine advert.   There would also be an “our magazine actually cares” feeling so that even if the advert didn’t generate great results, there may still be an open door to create future adverts.

Hands up how many people would welcome some free magazine advertising, on the condition that they act on recommendations that make their advertising and measurement more effective?!

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  1. Amy Kamin says:

    Need analytics on a new print magazine. Thank you.

    1. Andy Harris says:

      Thanks for asking. The only way that you could use analytics on a print magazine would be to track people who go to a website via something within the magazine. A popular method would be to use a QR code within the printed pages, and that QR code has utm parameters (e.g. medium, campaign, source). When someone uses their phone to scan that QR code within the magazine, they get taken to that page of the website, which is then tracked via analytics precisely because of the utm parameters. Hope that helps!