Planning, Promoting & Measuring Events Online

Published May 6, 2015
You own a business, or maybe you work for one. Whatever the situation, the business doesn’t exactly sit around and wait for customers to appear on their own – it goes out and attracts them – often through events. Sometimes that means holding an open house to get people inside your doors, or speaking at a business event to share information and earn authority. These in-person events can be extremely valuable in not only getting customers into your business, but in establishing long-term awareness.
Thankfully, even when the event is offline, much of the promotion will still take place online. With online promotion comes greater ability to target messaging to the right people and to measure the performance of each source that drove people to the event.
So, you’re planning an event for your business and you want to promote it online. Where do you start, and how do you track it?


Blog Image Promote Event Online


Create a Registration Page & Goal Tracking

First, you’ll want to create a page on your website with information about the event and a form where people can register to attend. Along with the form, create a Goal in Google Analytics to track event signups. This will show you not only how many people registered for the event, but what source (Facebook referrals, organic search, email, etc) drove them to your site to do so.

If you need help creating Goals, see our post on Translating Business Goals Into Analytics Goals. Once you’ve set up a page, a registration form and a Goal to track it, you’re ready to begin promoting your event.

Promote Your Event

There’s no turning back now! The event is happening, and the details are starting to come together. How will you promote your event and get the word out? Thankfully, there are many different channels by which to market an online or offline event, including:

  • Organic search
  • Paid search
  • Display advertising
  • Social advertising
  • Email marketing
  • Event listings

Of course, it is most likely that you won’t pick just one, but will instead use a variety of channels. You’ll decide to run a Facebook campaign, create event listings and put together an email campaign. Whatever channels you decide to focus on, make sure they’re set up to be tracked properly in Analytics. If you’re running paid campaigns through AdWords, you’ll want to ensure you’ve linked your AdWords account to Analytics. If using other advertising platforms or email marketing, you’ll want to properly tag URLs linking to the event page to ensure that event signups from these sources are attributed properly. Google’s URL Builder lets you easily tag URLs with the necessary information.

For example, if running Facebook PPC ads for an event, you’d want to tag URLs so these are differentiated from unpaid Facebook traffic. In the URL builder, you’d add a Source of Facebook, Medium of cpc (indicating a paid channel), Ad Content name unique to the specific ad, and a Campaign name related to the event.


Google URL Builder


Use the URL generated at the bottom in your ad driving to the event page.

The process of using the Google URL builder like this is called “Campaign Tagging.” You can learn more about how to do effective campaign tagging here.

As you’re promoting your event and seeing people register, you can begin measuring details about signups as they come in. To do this, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your Analytics account.

Track Signup Sources

Once people start signing up for your event, you’ll want to know how they found out about it. Did they conduct a Google search or did they click on a link from a display ad? You can monitor what sources are driving the most traction from within Analytics. To do so, go to the Goals page and select the Goal related to your event. In this case, we’re looking at registrations for a college open house.


Google Analytics Selecting a Goal


Now, you’ll see numbers specific to the Event Registration Goal. Toward the bottom of the screen, select Source/Medium to see the top sources driving signups.


Google Analytics Goal Metrics


From these results, we can see that 85 signups for the event have occurred. 47% of these have come from Direct sessions, correlating with the fact that offline mailings pointed people to register on the signup page. Besides Direct, Google organic search (google/organic), by far, drove the most signups, followed by Google paid search (google/cpc).

Based on this data, physical direct mail pieces appear to have been successful, in that so many people accessed the site directly to sign up. In addition, we can say organic search proves effective in getting people to the site. Paid advertising drove enough submissions that it is also deemed profitable in getting others to register.

We can further analyze the effectiveness of our paid campaign by clicking google/cpc in the list of sources. Now, you’ll see engagement and conversion stats for Google paid Sessions.


Google Analytics Track Pay Per Click Advertising


Within this report, we now see that not only did nine registrations occur, but Google paid Sessions also produced a 4.37% conversion rate. Although measured from a small amount of data, this is a relatively high conversion rate, showing an engaged and well-targeted audience. Engagement statistics reinforce the quality of these Sessions, with people looking at nearly three Pages/Session and spending almost two minutes on the site (Avg. Session Duration) on average.

In addition to filling out a form, a number of people may want to RSVP by calling your business. In this case, you’d still like to know if they’re calling from an event page on your website or from another source, like a direct mail piece. Using a phone tracking system like CallRail or IfByPhone allows you to create a unique phone number for the landing page to pinpoint people who called from the web. You can even set up numbers to rotate based on source (like if they came from an ad or organic search), and, depending on the system, integrate into Google Analytics to show that the call took place.

Track Attendees

Ultimately, you want to know not only what sources drove the most signups but also what sources drove the most people to actually attend. Google Analytics, unfortunately, does not show any personally identifiable information about the people who signed up (and, legally, can’t be modified to do so). However, other resources are available to help you track on a more individual level.

First, you can set up your event registration form to pass referrer information for each individual who submits one via your site. This will give you the original source that led each person to the site, whether they clicked a link from a Google search or from a Facebook post. If you’re using an automated marketing platform, this may already be set up for you, and the information will likely come through email after someone submits a form. If you’re not currently using an automated marketing platform, you can ask your developer to implement the referrer information in forms.

Another way to track attendance is to have people sign in when they arrive. This will allow you to cross-reference the list of actual attendees (those who signed in) with people who signed up via the website (those who filled out the form).


A proper setup for tracking registration and attendees will help you to better measure the success of your online marketing for business events. Start by setting up Google Analytics to track form submissions and move to adding more tracking like unique phone numbers and referrer information (to track the original source driving them to the website) for individuals. Ultimately, you see what sources helped to drive the most people to your event and then know better where to invest your resources the next time you hold an event.


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.