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Offline Sales, Online Ads, Offline Tracking

By David A. Utter

As Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft ramp up the battle for local search dollars, retailers new to the online world need to track the effectiveness of their online advertising campaigns.

Believe it or not, there are thousands of businesses that do not have websites. They have been content to stick with yellow pages, print media, and radio spots to reach the local audience.

That local audience has become more of a consumer of the Internet than ever before, though. Instead of subscribing to a newspaper, they visit the newspaper's website. Instead of turning to the yellow pages to find a business, many people will enter a business category and city into a search engine to see what may be nearby.

The major search engine and advertising players want to help businesses tap that web-savvy audience. A paid search campaign can direct the visitor to a landing page, but if the inventory from the business is not available online, the visitor needs to make a brick-and-mortar visit to complete the sale.

Without some way to track that sale, it will be impossible to tell if a customer at the register is actually a converted online prospect. Internet marketing blogger Shimon Sandler suggested how to track who has traveled from the Net to the store.

The landing page displayed online by the business can contain some sort of trackable item, like a coupon or a code number, that the customer needs to bring into the store. Each sale with that offer can be broken out from the total sales to analyze its effectiveness.

The trackable item idea looks best for the business new to the online community and paid search advertising. Rare is the business that can't or won't offer some sort of sale or discount as a promotion to its customers.

That approach suits both retailers and service industries, like skilled trades or professionals like accountants. A positive number of online to offline conversions may be the cue that a business should make more of a move online.

About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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