Measuring the impact of offline media through search

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Michelle Stern
Michelle Stern

Determining your return on investment for offline media is far from easy, but search is your best bet for getting closer to the answer.

Offline media — specifically television and radio — don't offer tracking for their resulting leads or sales. However, it is important to calculate the ROI from such media to properly allocate your brand dollars, especially in today's softening economy. 

Because search captures demand generated by other media, it can help you determine the ROI for your offline marketing efforts. Tracking branded and relevant non-branded traffic to your site before and after your offline launch will allow you to determine the effectiveness.

“Relevant non-branded traffic” refers to non-branded terms mentioned in offline copy, such as a phrase that someone might recall after hearing or viewing your ad. You would expect both types of traffic to increase when the offline media runs and to dip when it doesn't. 

The following steps will help you measure the ROI of your offline media: To start, have a paid search campaign in place; unlike organic search, it will allow you to test in a more controlled environment. Now identify all potential terms or phrases someone might recall from the ad. 

Next, bid on these keyword phrases well in advance of the media launch to assess pre-campaign and post-campaign results. Be sure to maintain the same position for a given paid search keyword before and during your offline media launch since different positions may be more or less likely to be clicked-on. 

Then analyze the before and after numbers for this group of keywords to determine whether your offline advertising led to more search volume.  

Finally, determine whether your offline media has a positive ROI by evaluating whether this incremental search traffic was worth at least the amount spent on your offline media initiatives.  If your business is not all online, and you know, for example, that half of your business is done by phone or in stores, then you could double the search traffic (as a proxy) when calculating ROI.

Search is a great marketing channel to help you better understand the ROI of your offline media.  Next time we'll take a closer look at how it applies if you are geo-targeting your media buy.

Michelle Stern is director of client services at iProspect. Reach her at


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