Explainer Public

Volgenau Printed Annual Report Tracking


Each year, the Volgenau School produces an Annual Report about what the school is doing. The report is printed and mailed to a number of educational institutions and companies around the country. Additionally, a PDF version of the Annual Report is made available on the Volgenau website. This year, the 2017 Annual Report will provide links (URLs) to some “web-extras”: supplementary content available on the Volgenau website. In addition to text and image content, these landing pages contain embedded YouTube videos.

The Problem

Because people who read the printed Annual Report and choose to visit the website will have to manually enter the URL(s) in their web browser, Google Analytics will not be able to determine that the source of these visits is from the Annual Report. The situation is the same with the PDF version. Although the PDF version can contain working hyperlinks, PDF are not web browsers, which means that they don’t provide referral information. In either case, Google Analytics would categorize these visits as Source = “(direct)” and Medium = “(none)”. Furthermore, if the URLs are to be printed in the Annual Report, they should be as concise and ‘type-able’ as possible to encourage visits.

The Solution

We have set-up our tracking and website to be able to track referrals to the Volgenau website from the links in the printed Volgenau 2017 Annual Report.


We worked with ITS to set-up redirect links for 3 Volgenau pages that they wanted to highlight in their printed 2017 Volgenau Annual Report. These redirect links were then provided in the printed annual report. These links are short, easy to read, and easy to type from the printed annual report. Most importantly, these links will redirect to the appropriate pages on the Volgenau website in such a way as to indicate to Google Analytics that these referrals came specifically from the annual report.

Because these redirect links cause GA to categorize the resulting visits as being specifically from the printed annual report, these particular links should not be used in any marketing efforts or shared with the public in any way except in the annual report, otherwise visits to the website from these links will be mis-categorized as coming from the annual report.


To help distinguish our internal testing from actual user activity, we will add annotations to the Volgenau website analytics to identify the dates that the 2017 Annual Report is mailed-out, and when the PDF version is posted on the website.

Embedded YouTube Video Tracking

We have also implemented YouTube embedded video tracking so that we can see how visitors interact with the embedded videos on these pages.

Expected Results

In addition to seeing how many visits to the site are generated by the links in the printed annual report, we will also be able to see other information about these visitors, such as where these visitors are located geographically.
One thing I am particularly excited about: in some cases (for large organizations or educational institutions), we may even be able to tell specifically which organizations/institutions are using these links.

Other Considerations

To reduce overhead, Volgenau did not opt to create two different versions of the annual report (one for print and one just for online PDF). Therefore, they will not be able to distinguish visits between these two sources.