Tracking Offsite Conversions

Tracking conversions can be easy: when a conversion means making a donation or booking an appointment, you just set up a goal in Google Analytics. Soon, you can see not just how many people bought but also where they came from and what they had in common.

When a conversion is a phone call, a purchase in a brick and mortar store, or walking in and purchasing a membership, it’s something else altogether.

You quickly find yourself back in the realm of broadcast TV and magazine ads. Did your sales increase? If so, was it because of that ad or was it the season, the weather, word of mouth, a viral video, or the economy? Can you prove it?

Traditional advertising typically takes the position that it doesn’t matter, but it certainly does matter if you’re trying to determine where to put your resources. You want to focus your marketing budget where it will be most likely to lead to conversions, so you need to be able to track those conversions.

Here are some ways that you might be able to capture the information you need:

Special phone numbers

One of our clients was spending on both Adwords and Bing ads, and wanted to know which one was performing better. For his company, which specialized in emergency services, a phone call was far and away the most likely conversion.

We could see that traffic from Google was much higher than from Bing, but that’s normal. He couldn’t imagine asking his panicked callers whether they had found him at Bing or at Google. But he really wanted to know whether the investment in Bing ads made sense.

He set up special Google Voice phone numbers for Bing. We made special landing pages for the Bing ads that featured those phone numbers. He tracked the phone numbers on which he received calls, noting the conversion rates for each number.

Within a couple of weeks it was clear that, for this particular business, Bing ads weren’t paying off. There were almost no conversions at all through the Bing numbers, and those that did make a purchase had small totals.

The dedicated phone numbers showed our client that it didn’t make sense for him to invest in Bing.

Signs of intent to purchase

What do people do when they plan to buy from you? We’ve heard people claim that leaving a comment at a blog is a sign of intent to purchase, but we don’t think so. Neither is downloading a white paper or signing up for your newsletter — unless experience shows that this is what your visitors do before they buy from you.

So what does constitute a sign of intent to purchase? There are two categories.

First, there are general signs. For example, looking for a store that sells your product is something most people will do only if they want to buy. Downloading a coupon shows that the visitors is thinking about buying. Someone might download a white paper for information, but a coupon has no value if the visitor doesn’t buy your product. These signs of intent are things people do only when they are considering a purchase.

Then there are the specific signs. Say that you sell to hospitals. Many hospitals can be tracked in Google Analytics by their networks. Identify hospitals that have purchased your solution, track their behavior at your website, and learn the patterns they showed. Compare this with hospital network visits that didn’t result in sales, and you may be able to find some signs of intent to buy. For example, we’ve seen with a number of different clients that purchasers visit a lot more pages than those who don’t buy. Set a conversion goal of a certain number of pages visited to capture this information.

This type of goal lets you determine how your purchasers — as opposed to non-converting visitors — are likely to find you and how they behave at your website.

Old school testing

In the olden days before the internet, businesses would test the effectiveness of marketing by creating special offers for different marketing channels. Shoppers could come in with a coupon that was available only in the community weekly newspaper, and the number of coupons returned to the shop indicated the reach of that paper.

This is even easier to do with the internet. You can easily create discount codes — or codes for free shipping or another perk your customers will value — for each channel you use.


Gathering data is the first step. What you do with the data is key. If you need help getting from information to action steps, we can help. Contact us.

2 thoughts on “Tracking Offsite Conversions

  1. Another reliable method is the visitor recording and mouse moving tracking. Of course, it impossible for a website with hundreds of visitors but this is the most reliable. You see if someone looking the phone number, for example, the visitor path and the source of the visit.

    • Good suggestion — especially if you build your site with this kind of tracking in mind. Even with larger numbers of site visitors, you can identify patterns.

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