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Measuring results and looking for KPI/KSI is one of the obsessions of skilled professionals in general and specially in web related areas. Sometimes, the fact of not ti measure can be a sign of professional incompetence or simply unconsciousness. We must have a good excuse not to measure our work.

Carrying out actions with QR-Codes is not an exception and you can treat them the same way you track your web traffic because, among other things, you can use the same tools.

As we have said repeatedly on the blog, the main application of a QR-Code is to link the real world with the internet and this is mainly achieved by encoding a URL in the code.

A QR can contain a link to any file that a smartphone can read:

– A web page: html (5)
– An image: jpg, gif or png
– An Audio file: mp3
– A Video: mp4/3gp
– Or even a PDF!

You can create URLs to other file types but it always depends on the ability to read the smartphone. Ex. iPhone does not read files (at the moment and it’s not likely to) or websites with Flash objects

1. QR-Codes Metrics

If we analyze the traffic that has generated an action based on QR codes have 3 options (not measuring is not an option) …

a) Landing-pages / ad-hoc Content

Developing special landing-pages for QR. It can be a solution for specific campaigns, but in the midterm we would tend to have chaotic site and content would be spread out  and duplicated.

 b) QR-code management systems

Using campaign management tools online. There are several sites that allow prior registration, to manage codes based campaigns. On this post by Roger Smolski (one of the best and most updated blogs about 2D codes) you will find a selection of sites to do so: http://2d-code.co.uk/qr-code-management-systems/ There are simple tools and more complex, some even allow for the creation of content, but all have a similar philosophy: the user can generate code with a URL, group them in folders, set dates, subjects, etc … and you can see the number of captures that each code has had.

This is again a solution for less complex actions. Both the generation of QR and the analysis must be done at their website and this makes integration with your metrics system quite a mess.

We believe that these tools are an excellent resource for managing small campaigns and first tests with QR-Codes but the growth that mobile versions of sites will experience in the future along with the convenience of a single source of information does not resolve all the needs of a project in the long run.

In this post about URL shortening  we talked about the http://goo.gl case

 c) Google Analytics Campaign Tracking

Treating QR-Codes like web links and using Google campaign tracking tools or your web analytics software. In this post we will focus on GA although the concepts also apply to Webtrends, etc …

Adding tracking parameters the link. GA allow us “tagging” the links pointing to our site (E.g. banner, email, promo, etc.) these parameters allow us to determine the origin of our visitors.

Eg https://www.qrcode.es/index.php?Utm_medium=QR&utm_source=2011_12_24_El_Pais&utm_campaign=Navidad_2011

Required parameters

Campaign Source (utm_source)
Required. Use utm_source to identify a search engine, newsletter name, or other source.
Example: utm_source=google

Campaign Medium (utm_medium)
Required. Use utm_medium to identify a medium such as email or cost-per- click.
Example: utm_medium=cpc

Campaign Name (utm_campaign)
Used for keyword analysis. Use utm_campaign to identify a specific product promotion or strategic campaign.
Example: utm_campaign=spring_sale

Optional parameters

Campaign Term (utm_term)
Used for paid search. Use utm_term to note the keywords for this ad.
Example: utm_term=running+shoes

Campaign Content (utm_content)
Used for A/B testing and content-targeted ads. Use utm_content to differentiate ads or links that point to the same URL.
Examples: utm_content=logolink or utm_content=textlink

We can add these parameters to the URL so we can measure the success of a particular QR. If we do it properly  we will know if a user has captured the QR in a magazine or another, on what date, etc … We are transferring FULL POTENTIAL OF THE WEB ANALYTICS TO REAL WORLD!

We can see the impact it has had the a paper ad and compare the success of different campaigns.

2. URL Shortening

If we let it here, someone might say, “I incorporate the tags to the URL of my QR gets sooo long!” Is true and can be a problem. Even more if you print the code in a very small size.

Fortunately readers and phone macros are getting better so smaller and complex codes can be read without problems, but it never hurts to make things right.

The solution in this case requires an ingenious use of .htaccess file and databases (the basis of services such as bit.ly, goo.gl and alike).  We propose two ways to use .htaccess file:

a) 301 Redirect

From the .htaccess file we can play around with the URL that brought users to our site and modify it if necessary (also used for SEO-friendly links).  Through a “redirect 301” we can redirect traffic from a simple url to a more complex one:

.E: redirect 301 /navidad http://www.qrplanet.com/index.php?utm_medium=QR&utm_source=2011_12_24_El_Pais&utm=campaign=Navidad_2011

b) Redirect and tag through DB

In this case we should create a table in the database in which an ID  has a url and a series of campaign tracking parameters. Thus, by passing a parameter in the code we could redirect to a URL with all the info we have described above.

This process can be as simple or as complex as our necessary (preferably no more and no less).

3. Measuring file access

If we create a QR-Code that links to a file (not to an html page) we can measure with GA but do not be so easy : (
Google Analytics website explains how, through a simple javascript in the link, you can track everytime a file (I.E. a video or a pdf) is downloaded.

n the case of a QR-Code, this solution is not valid because the link should point directly to the page / file without actions associated.

The solution we propose is to create “bridge-pages” from which the user clicks on a button/link to access the file or by META redirects / Headers PHP to access content including desired field parameters.

4. Conclusion

There is not a  single formula to measure the success of our QR, but we encourage to use intuition only when there is no other source of information.

There will be cases where a simple goo.gl link will suffice, but if we want to integrate these data in our GA more robust solutions pass through the usage of campaign tags.

Here we leave this post to reflect on the importance of online metrics and how to measure the traffic of actions based on QR-Codes. As always we are open to comments and opinions. And remember: if you measure it, it will grow!.

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