Tracking Offline Vacation Rental Marketing with Google Analytics

As a company with lots of vacation rental clients, we’re well versed in methods that vacation rental managers use in their own marketing tactics, both online and offline. While we’re largely concerned with online visibility, we also are aware that many conversions, advertising and promotion happen offline. From phone call conversions to brand awareness and local advertising, many vacation rental managers are struggling to accurately measure all of their efforts. It’s something we see everyday.

For some industries, it’s pretty easy to measure advertising spend. With many companies only spending dollars on pay-per-click and other digital marketing efforts, they can track all their efforts in a analytics tracking suite like Google Analytics. For online-only businesses, digital ROI is pretty easy to measure.

However, we have found several tactics for vacation rental managers to keep their online and offline marketing data into Google Analytics. It’s a fairly simple tactic that involves using two primary methods: separate, short domains for advertising and landing pages.

Let me explain.

Most offline marketing campaigns are on print flyers, newspapers, billboards and many other avenues. Nearly all of these advertisements usually have your website in the bottom of the ad – and that’s impossible to track. People who visit by directing entering your website into their URL bar are counted as direct visitors, with no more information about where they came from available for you to see.

If your website does a few hundred or thousand direct visits per month, how can you tell if a new billboard or print ad caused that rise in traffic? You can’t. It all goes into Google analytics as direct website traffic and is no different than people who may have already known your brand or visited your site before. So, marketing managers, when it’s time to renew that billboard or print ad, how in the world can you tell if it worked?

Enter a vanity domain (or many vanity domains). A vanity domain is basically a shorter version (or just alternate version) of your website that you can control and measure easier when it’s only placed where you know about it. For example, if we used as our only domain that we placed on a print ad that was sent to vacation rental managers, we’d know that anyone who used that domain came from that ad. We could then apply the secret sauce of this tactic (google analytics campaign variables) to find out in analytics exactly how many people arrived at our website from this ad.

Here’s the steps we’ll take to measure this:

  • Register a short domain (you can use an simple URL, but it has the downside of reducing the amount of people using it. For example, or
  • With your hosting provider or with help from your IT department, redirect that URL using variables you input here to where you’d like that traffic to end up).
  • For example, if we want to measure an ad that we did for VRMA in a print magazine, we might use this:

“Intercoastal Net Designs is offering a free guide to using social media to grow your Vacation Rental business. Redeem this offer at”

We’d redirect that domain using this tool here to the URL it outputs.

Then, when we take a look in our google analytics later to see how well the ad performed, we’ll know exactly how many people came in from this particular offer and ad. Grouping similar ads will tell us how well print ads did overall. For example, if you had three or four offers running for different causes/promotional offers, we could group them all together as print, but at the campaign name level, break them down into each particular advertiser or campaign.

This could look like this for different offers:

If we were to promote to Moz’s email list:

If we were to promote our offer in a local newspaper ad:

If we were to promote our download via Google display advertising:

You get the point. So, in summary, using redirected URL’s are easy to track when you place them strategically on your various offline and online marketing efforts. With lots of ways to advertise your business out there, measuring your dollars spent is critical to maximizing your success.

Questions, comments or concerns? Contact me or anyone on the ICND team and we can help you out.

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