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Do QR Codes really work and how can I tell if they do?

You’ve seen them, maybe you know what they are and maybe you have no idea. In a recent poll, 58% of users said they weren’t Infographic QR Codes Statistics familiar with them, so why should we care about using them? In the same way that websites, then MySpace URLs, and more recently Facebook pages started appearing in TV, magazine and newspapers ads, we’re starting to see more QR codes appear in traditional advertisements. Start now and get ahead of your competition!

What is a QR code?

A QR code is a 2-D barcode that can be scanned by a smart phone’s camera and transfer information. Based on the type of code it is, it might direct the viewer to a website, make a phone call, deliver a vCard or more.

Tracking QR Code Responses Using Google Analytics

If you have Google Analytics tracking set up on your website, using Google Analytics for tracking your QR Code visits will keep all of your data in one location, and allow you to track the online behaviors and conversion rates of your QR Code visitors.

Here’s how to set up QR Code tracking using Google Analytics:

  • The first step is to add tracking code to the URL of your target response page. The target response page is simply the website or page on your website you are trying to get users to visit.
    • Go to Google’s URL-Builder tool and load the target URL for your QR Code, your campaign Source, Medium, and Name. For example, let’s create a code with tracking for this post. I’ll use “facebook” as the Source, “status update” as the Medium and “trackable-qrcodes-post” as the Name.
    • Click “Generate URL” and you’ll get a url with tracking code.
    • With your new link in hand (or in your clipboard), it’s time to create your QR Code. Kaywa’s QR code generator is the simplest way to generate a QR code for a URL, text, phone number or SMS. Simply select your preference, enter the content, specify size and click “Generate.” Then, save the code to use elsewhere or grab the HTML to embed it online.

  • You now have a QR Code; download it and apply it to your direct mail piece, business card, billboard, t-shirt, or whatever else. When someone scans the code and visits your site, Google Analytics will track the visit and the associated source, medium and name.
  • After you’ve tested the QR Code,  go into Google Analytics and navigate to Traffic Sources > Campaigns. You can sort by “Medium” and search for “qrcode” to see your test visit (see below).

Tracking QR Codes using Google Analytics

Using Bit.ly for Creating and Tracking QR Code

If you aren’t using Google Analytics, don’t know how to use Google Analytics or just need a simpler process, the url shortening application Bit.ly is another great tool for tracking web traffic it redirects to your QR Code landing pages.

Here’s how to create a trackable QR Code using Bit.ly:

bitly qrcode

Bit.ly QR Code

  • Create an account at http://bit.ly/.
  • Insert the target url into their url shortener. You’ll get a shortened url that looks something like: http://bit.ly/8AjVUt
  • In your list of shortened urls, you’ll see the target url, with a link beside it for the “Info Page” for the url. Click on it, and you’ll see tracking information and a QR Code for the shortened url.
  • Right click on the QR Code image to save it; you’re now ready to use it on whatever marketing piece you’d like.
  • Now, whenever someone scans the generated QR Code, they’ll be directed to bit.ly, which will count the visit and automatically redirect the visitor to the target url. This will happen fast enough that users won’t even notice the redirect.
  • You can then use the reporting tool on your Bit.ly account to track scans/visits via your QR Code
Bit.ly QR Code

Bit.ly QR Code

  • Here are a few ways that you can use QR codes to spruce up your small business marketing strategies.
  • On business cards: A fast and simple way to use QR codes for your own professional purposes is to place them on business cards. Generate a barcode that directs scanners to your online resume, small business Facebook Page or your website to help new contacts find you or your business faster.
  • On marketing materials: You’ve got fliers, brochures, programs, handouts, white papers and a myriad of other materials in your media kit. Add QR codes to direct viewers to a particular how-to video, send them to a Flickr photo set, get them to follow you on Twitter, or point them to a mobile-friendly landing page that promotes a new campaign. For inspiration, check out what the Detroid Red Wings did with QR codes in their arena programs.
  • In storefront windows: Google is sending out QR code window decals to top local businesses with Google Place Pages. If they don’t send you one, steal the idea and generate your own QR code to place in your window. You can use this code to encourage Fousquare checkins, point scanners to your Yelp profile, or simply invite customers to share memories in photo, video or text form via Stickybits.
  • For freebies: If you really want people to pay attention to your QR codes, make them good for something fun. Say you’ve placed a QR code decal in your storefront window, why not reward those who scan it with 10% off their purchase or a free pastry? Give them something small to thank them for their patronage. Simply create a custom QR code for the freebie you want to offer. You could even get creative and hide the QR code offers online, like on your Facebook page or website, or somewhere inside your store.

Things to Remember

  • If you’re going to use QR codes for small business marketing, you’ll want to keep in mind that QR codes — and the apps that scan them — are still foreign to most people.
  • Yes, more and more people are starting to associate the codes with action, but never assume your customers will know what to do. Make it a point to spell out how to scan the QR code, and help instruct customers on where they can grab scanner apps.
  • Also, remember that QR codes should provide some kind of value to the scanner. It may be easiest to direct QR code scanners to your website, but that’s likely not the most engaging place to send people. Instead of having the QR Code directed to just http://macwin.wpengine.com, try focusing the QR Code to one specific page within your site, one promotion/coupon or one service you offer.

Does your business or have you ever used QR Codes? Please take a moment to fill out the survey below and let us know:

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Todd Bogert

Todd Bogert

I am a Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator with 25 years technical/electronics background - 19 years experience in PC hardware and software training, troubleshooting, installation, upgrades, and maintenance - 13 years experience in Project Management and Network Management/Administration - 15 years experience working with Windows Server 2000/2003, DOS, NT Server 4.0 and Workstation 4.0, Windows 9x, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 and Apple OSX.