How to track QR codes in Google Analytics

So you want to use QR codes but you’re not sure how to track them in Google Analytics. There are four steps to getting the URLs ready and generating the QR codes that will be ready for tracking using Google Analytics campaign tracking.

  1. Plan your campaign
  2. Use Google Campaign Builder to build unique URLs for each channel
  3. Use your favorite URL Shortener to shorten the link
  4. Generate the QR Code

Below are more details about each step of the process as well as links to some powerful tools for getting the job done.

1. Plan your campaign

Planning how you want to track the campaign is the key to making the work you will do to build the trackable QR codes worth while in the end. There would be nothing worse than for you to go to the analytics after the QR codes are in market and wish that you could segment a different way.

When you are planning think about how deep you want to segment. For now lets assume that the campaign you are running is one in which consumers can use the QR code to go to a page on your website where they can sign up for an email newsletter and instantly receive a downloadable coupon. You are planning to use a variety of collateral to promote this campaign including

  • Window stickers on the front door of your stores
  • Post cards placed at local businesses around town
  • A magnet stuck on the back of your delivery vehicles

There are many ways we could segment the traffic. Do we want to track how much traffic came from each location or from the window stickers as a whole? Do we want to know which business drove the most website traffic from the post cards? Do we want to know which delivery vehicle (and potentially which territory) drove the most traffic from the QR code? You can be as general or specific as you want; just remember that you will have to generate a different QR code (and have a different QR code printed) for each segment you create.

2. Use Google Campaign Builder to build unique URLs for each channel

Google URL Builder ToolThe next step after planning is to build the URLs for each segment. This is easy enough using the Google URL Builder. This tool adds a string to the end of your website URL which Google Analytics interprets and tracks in the Campaign section of your analytics (Look under traffic sources if you have never used this functionality before)

For the example above this is how I would set up the URL for the postcard.

  • Website URL: www.yourdomainname.com/coupon_landing_page
  • Campaign Source: QR Code
  • Campaign Medium: Postcard
  • Campaign Name: Newsletter Sign Up Coupon

After you have filled it out then all that is next is to hit generate and copy that URL. Don’t forget to generate one for each segment you want to track. You may want to start a spreadsheet to keep these all straight for the next step.

3. Use your favorite URL Shortener to shorten the link

For this step you have many options. If you are new to URL shortening I would suggest you take a look at either bit.ly or goo.gl. Both of these services have good analytics of their own and are widely used. Technically URL shortening is optional as you can in theory generate a QR code that for the URL you built in the last step. The reason why you don’t want to do that is because QR codes get bigger based on the number of characters in the URL. In order to make a QR code that can be reasonably worked into the creative of your promotion the shortner URLs are much better. (Read more about the technical reason for this on Wikipedia.)

If you are a bit.ly user you’re in luck because bit.ly has developed a google spreadsheet that you can use to both build the Campaign URL and shorten it at the same time. If you like spreadsheets this one is really helpful: bit.ly Google Analytics Campaign Tool

4. Generate the QR Code

If you have made it this far you are in for a treat. This step is easy.

If you have chosen to use goo.gl then all you have to do is click on the details link that is to the left of the shortened link (see the image below) and you will go to a screen that will have a QR code already on it. Just right click, save as, and you are ready to use. (Make sure to come back to this page after you have launched your campaign; there are analytics here too)
goo.gl shortengoo.gl qr

If you have chosen to use bit.ly you can click on the info page link next to your shortened links and you will find the same thing. If your designer needs a bigger/vector version of the QR code than what goo.gl or bit.ly provides you can use one of the services below.

With each of these tools select the “url” option, paste in the shortened URL from the last step and voila!. All of these services will generate an image in a variety of sizes and file formats to suit your needs. Remember that mobile phones have to focus the code so make sure that you don’t make them too small when you print them. The best way to make sure that your code isn’t too small is to print a test and try it yourself.

If you are new to the QR game I assume you need a QR Reader app as well so here is one for your smartphone.

UPDATE: For more ways to track QR Codes check out this blog post – Tracking QR Codes with Branded URLs

Tim Zack About

Tim graduated Magna Cum Laude with Honors from the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business with a BBA in Marketing and now serves Red Clay clients as a Interactive Marketing Director. Tim's strengths include interactive strategy, pay per click optimization, and social media.

39 Responses to “How to track QR codes in Google Analytics”

  1. Memo Cordova says:

    Thanks for making this look easy. One thing I like about using Bit.ly is that one can custom name a URL, which makes identifying the link easier, both for tracking and simplicity’s sake. I wasn’t aware of the Bit.Ly Google spreadsheet–that is too cool for words. Thanks again!

  2. Mason T says:

    I tried http://www.bwscan.com. They have a neat platform to generate dynamic qr codes with real-time analytics. For payments too through PayPal! It’s cool.

  3. Jaife Calil says:

    This article is great! I have a question: How do you actually track and see you your results? Do I have to create a google account and set the url up with google analytics?

    Please let me know.

    Thanks!

  4. Tim Zack says:

    Hey Jaife,

    Yes you have to set up Google Analytics on your site. The traffic will then be visible under Campaigns which is in the Traffic Section.

    Tim

  5. Hello,
    Thanks for the great article. I’ve created my bit.ly and my QR code. We also use google analytics. What I’m wondering is how I might be able to track how many visits we get to our ticket sales page through people using the QR code. I can’t seem to figure out how that will be tracked. It might be helpful to know that our QR code does not take our patrons to our home page, but rather a page within our site which is our ticket sales page.
    I’d appreciate any assistance you might provide.
    Thank you,
    Holly

  6. Tim Zack says:

    Holly, If you have created the bit.ly link using a Google campaign URL then you will be able to see the traffic that came to your site from that campaign by going to the campaign section under traffic. You won’t be able to identify that traffic on the content page in Analytics but you won’t have to if you have your campaigns set up properly. Since there will only be one way for that campaign to be triggered you will know that all of that traffic landed on the page you referenced.

    I hope that helps.

  7. If a bar code was already created, can you still track through Google Analytics? If yes, what is need to track?

    Thank you,
    Dolores

  8. Mike says:

    Thanks for posting this. We jumped ahead and did a QR code without thinking there might be a way to track the traffic. Now we can create better QR codes and find out if they’re doing us any good!

  9. Sam says:

    Great tutorial – thanks for this. Was looking for a way to have a QR campaign whereby we can access statistical data and this fits the bill! The only issue is with the services you have mentioned to scale up the QR code image, do these actually scale it up or do they just simply create a larger version? Surely Google URL shortner or bit.ly are not going to track these as they’re codes created by third parties?

    Anyway, great tutorial, thanks for sharing.

  10. Mike says:

    As I said above, this post is very cool, but now I need some help.

    Our encyclopedia site has partnered with a magazine that when they have an article that we have some content about, we provide a QR code that they can print at the end of the article, and folks can go to our article to read more. So I created a campaign and created 2-3 QR codes for each issue.

    The problem is that, while Analytics shows total visits for the campaign on certain dates, it doesn’t show which QR code was accessed or which articles were accessed, and there’s only an assumption that the hits came from that month’s issue. Is there a way to get greater granularity, short of creating a campaign for each QR code?

    Thanks for any advice or suggestions.

  11. Tim Zack says:

    Hey Mike,

    I think the best thing to do is to use the Campaign Content field in the URL builder tool to differentiate ads within the same campaign.a

  12. Taniya says:

    Great tutorial! I have a question thought – do I have to have adwords account to be able to track QR codes, banner ad etc?

  13. Michel says:

    I had written a very short article a while ago about just this (http://michelbertrand.ca/work/2-generating-and-tracking-traffic-with-qrcodes), but hadn’t seen the goo.gl URL shortener before.

    It has the advantage of shortening the URL which makes the QR Code more readable at smaller resolutions.

    Thanks for the good tip!

  14. Dime says:

    Great article, i must say…
    I tried to create a couple of different QR codes for each channel (site). And the destination URL is a file on a server location. So, the QR code scan should perform download of that file.

    My problem is that I can not find the tracking results in Google Analytics.

    Please help!

  15. Mike says:

    @Dime, did you create a campaign in Analytics before creating your codes? If you did, then you will find you campaign under “Traffic Sources>Campaigns” in Analytics.

    BTW, I have found it’s great to keep a Word document with each campaign. In it I just copy and paste the info from the Analytics campaign page into the doc, the URL and the shortened URL. That way, as I create new codes in the SAME campaign, I don’t need to actually deal with Analytics again, because it’s obvious what info needs to change. For instance, this is from a real live exhibit that we are going to put QR codes on so that users can visit our encyclopedia site for more content:

    Page: Coal Industry
    Source: QRcode
    Medium: exhibit
    Name: TWWW <-The Way We Worked
    http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/1349?utm_source=QRcode&utm_medium=exhibit&utm_campaign=TWWW
    http://bit.ly/pRf0Zi

    Obviously, the only thing I need to change for each code is a new page number (the 1349 above), generate a new shortened code at bit.ly and then generate a new code from Kerem Eerkan (I like the eps versions, I can re-size to anything in Photoshop), which I immediately rename to something more useful. The Word doc and all the codes for each campaign reside in a separate folder on my hard drive so I can access those codes again, or find out what the heck I did 3 months ago. :)

    Hope this helps.

  16. Celeste says:

    Hi Great article, this has been really helpful. I have a question though. I’ve discovered that a few people with iphones can not scan the QR codes I generate using goo.gl (it just reads it as text and doesn’t take the user to the url).

    Any idea why this might be happening? I’m confused as to why people with Androids who I’ve asked can scan it fine, but people with iphones can not.

    Thanks-a-million,
    Celeste

  17. Molly says:

    This was super helpful. I am so mad that I made one QR code in a print ad already and did not figure out how to track it.

  18. Tim Zack says:

    Hey Celeste, The issue with iPhones is most likely the camera. The camera on the older iPhones can’t focus very close.

    Molly, That’s too bad about the last campaign but next time you will know.

  19. Great website. Plenty of useful info here. I am sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks for your sweat!

  20. Jesus Briones Jr says:

    Thanks for the help! excelent tutorial!, i would recommend saying somewhere there that you dont need to do anything else except to go see your results to your analytics account for who is new to this.

    once again thank you and good job!

  21. R.K. Umen says:

    Can you use this technology to place QR code on the back of 25 sales people and be able to track the salesman who was responsible for getting the hit on the landing page.

  22. I like the valuable information you supply on your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check once more right here regularly. I’m quite sure I’ll be informed plenty of new stuff right right here! Best of luck for the following!

  23. Mike says:

    If you want to create & track codes without having to do all of these steps check out http://www.qr-create.com – its a great tool for generating a bunch of qr codes at once and tracking them all with automatic url shortening.

  24. Dom says:

    An alternative to Google for QR codes is http://www.freeqrcodetracker.com – easy to create and download codes and organise into campaigns, view reports etc and its free. Much easier to navigate than GA.

  25. Nick says:

    I didn’t know about this option, I think I will have to use it for our next ad campaign to have a better overview for the effect.

  26. Audrey says:

    What if we already have QR codes created and now we just need to connect them most effectively to Analytics? Is it too late?
    Thanks for the great content here. I know what we’ll do differently next time.

  27. Tim Zack says:

    Hey Audrey, You can try looking at mobile traffic coming directly to that page as an approximation. There isn’t going to be any way track it positively without setting up a campaign.

  28. Anton says:

    just got the app working on my phone, thanks man

  29. JT says:

    We’ve been trying to use this for our business but when we check the referrers where users clicked on the link, it will have a huge percentage that say unknown/empty

  30. Rosie says:

    Very useful article – I hadn’t been able to get my head round how this worked at all. Now thanks to you I am off to try again and maybe this time it will work. Given the more frequent use of QR codes its important to be able to track them properly.

  31. @JT — Some QR code generators will send you to a referral site first before redirecting the visitor to the website. So that in between site will show up in your Google Analytics in referral traffic allowing you to track average time on the site, PPV, bounce rate, etc. (you can then expand just that site and see individual QR codes/links).

    That’s the way our QR code tracking software (http://www.qreateandtrack.com) works inside of GA (on our on-site dashboard we have other insights, but website use data after the scan can be seen in GA).

    Hope that helps address the issue with unknown referrers in the future!

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