In the contactless world, QR codes have made quite the comeback – from scanning QR codes to access a menu at a restaurant, to scanning codes on mailings and postcards, QR codes save people time from having to type out a long url onto their phone.
Before QR codes, I remember when link shorteners, such as bitly, came onto the scene so it would be much easier to share a link (and to appease the Twitter character limit).
The other added benefit of sharing a bitly shortened url were the analytics. As a web developer, I enjoy tracking how visitors use the websites I create using tools such as Google Analytics, and answering the questions
- How did people get to the website?
- How much time do they spend on a site?
- How many pages do they explore?
Believe it or not, if you use the right type of QR code, you can also learn the answers to the questions:
- When do people scan the QR code?
- How many people have scanned the QR code?
- If the QR code leads to my website, what did they do on the website?
In this guide, I’m going to walk you through on the mistakes I see people making with QR codes, and how you can better use QR codes more effectively in your marketing.
Dynamic QR Codes vs Standard QR Codes
I originally thought every QR Code was the same – in fact, you can’t even tell dynamic QR codes apart from each other. There are free online QR code generators, where you type in your destination URL and it generates a QR code you can use anywhere.
But I wanted to know – how can I track the QR code like I can with other links? What if I want to change the url after the fact? Are people even scanning a QR code, or are people just using it everywhere because everyone else is?
If you remember bitly link shorteners, what the service does is it takes whatever url you enter and shortens it. When a user clicks the link, for a brief second the link contacts bitly’s server to log that a click was made, and then redirects you to the actual destination url. This is exactly what I wanted with a QR code – and I found out these type of QR codes fall under the scope of “dynamic urls”.
To be a fully dynamic URL, along with collecting analytical information, the creator can actually change the destination URL.
There are a few limitations to dynamic QR codes. If you are looking for a ‘scan-to-call’ url, this can’t be done with a dynamic QR code. The dynamic QR code must link to a url. I’ll discuss alternatives you should consider if you’re wanting a scan-to-call campaign.
|Standard QR Code
|Dynamic QR Code
|Change destination URL
QR Codes: Top Mistakes
Sharing QR codes on Instagram (and other social media)
Just a gentle reminder than in order to access a QR code, you must scan a QR code on your phone. I still see posts on the Internet where they share a QR code without providing any other sort of link. Make sure you offer an alternative way to get to the destination if the person is viewing the post on their phone. I would avoid QR codes entirely on Instagram posts (unless the post is to just to illustrate what a QR code is, and isn’t intended on scanning).
Putting a QR code without any context
I’ve seen QR codes with the words ‘scan me’ next to it, without absolutely no context. Let people know what the benefit of scanning a QR code is. It can also be helpful if you provide an alternative URL if people would rather go directly to the website without scanning a QR code.
QR codes on TV commercials
I’ve come across TV commercials that flash a QR code on the screen so quickly I don’t have time to scan it. I saw a client place a QR code on the bottom-left of the screen, but they put it outside of the ‘TV safe’ area, so the QR code was cut off an unscannable. No matter where you place your QR code, test to make sure it’s scannable.
Why use a Dynamic QR Code?
As part of my job with helping businesses and organizations, I work tirelessly to optimize clicks on banners and conversions on websites. When I design digital display ads, I remember having to convince business owners to de-clutter their ads and remove their url and phone number. This information takes up precious space. Instead, the phone number can be easily moved to the landing page the banner links to.
When I get postcards in the mail, or see TV commercials with huge QR codes, I sometimes wonder ‘are people scanning the QR code?’ The great thing about a dynamic QR code is you can tell if people are scanning it or not. In order to properly test, make sure you create a unique QR code for every medium. Your TV QR Code should not be the same as a QR code in your physical location, or the same as a QR code on a postcard.
You can use the metrics of each QR code to assess:
- Should the QR code stay?
- Should you adjust the call-to-action if scanning is low?
- If no one is scanning the QR code, is the QR code scannable?
- If no one is scanning the QR code and it’s scannable, should you remove it since it seems to be cluttering up the ad?
Using a standard QR code, you’re left in the dark with the answers to these questions.
Brandable QR Code
Many people hesitate to click on bitly links because there’s no telling what the actual destination is. Many of the top brands have invested in a brandable link shortener to increase trust. You should consider similar actions when create a QR code.
The great thing about standard QR codes is it shows the destination URL when you scan it. If you create a dynamic URL using services with a shortener like bitly, when people scan your QR code, they may hesitate if they don’t recognize the domain name. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix without having to buy another domain name.
Using a subdomain, such as link.yourdomain.com, your main domain name will show up when people scan your QR code.
Dynamic QR Codes for Scan-to-Call Campaigns
In order to track a dynamic QR code, the QR code must link to a url. Although you can generate a QR code to go directly to a phone number, should you?
The great thing about a dynamic QR code if you can link to what’s known as a ‘biolink page’. You may see these on Instagram bios, but it’s a page that is a link directory. An individual can scan a QR code and up pops up a page where they can then click to call, or you can offer other options – such as the ability to email you, links to directions to your store, listing of store hours, an invite to join your mailing list – the possibilities go on and on! Suddenly the ‘scan to call’ campaign can turn into capturing a customer’s information – or serving information to customers who prefer to interact with your organization beyond a phone call.
If you do want to have a ‘scan-to-call’ campaign, and wish you could track the information, an alternative is to set up a unique phone number for your QR code. There are many providers who offer phone tracking services. Just be aware that if you ever change your phone number, you will also need to update the QR code – and any previous QR codes will still call your old number.
An easy, affordable dynamic QR code solution
I set out for a solution for my own needs, as well as to figure out where to point clients. The solution I found was expensive – and was from bitly. Starting at $199/month (that’s the discount if you pay annually) you can change a destination of a branded url 50 times each month.
I understand big brands such as Disney and The New York Times spending this amount of money to track all their links, but my mission is to arm businesses with tools and solutions that don’t cost a fortune. In the digital world, you’re already paying for a domain name, hosting, most likely a web designer, on top of your physical-world needs such as rent, paying employees, electricity, and all the other variety of business expenses.
If you have the money and want to toss it over to bitly, it’s a solid solution. If you’d rather save money and don’t have limits on changing destination urls of links, AND being able to do everything the big brands have access to – I have a solution through the Draw the Data tracking tools project.
The Draw the Data project is a catalog of tools Higgens Media is investing in that helps brands better track and manage their marketing efforts.
A highlight of some of the many features:
- Branded URL shortener
- Branded QR codes
- Generate standard and dynamic QR codes, including adjusting colors and adding an image or logo in the middle.
- A/B test destination urls
- Built-in analytics for day by day analytics, referrers, countries, operating systems, languages and many more.
- Biolink pages (perfect for Instagram and social media)
This solution is available for $15/month if paid annually, or $20/month for month-by-month. This includes set-up of a custom domain or subdomain, and an easy-to-use dashboard to see analytics on your own. Contact me below with any questions or to get started. Other options are also available that include fully-managed marketing services.