Tracking QR code usage

This is the second post in a tips and tricks series about QR codes. The full series includes an introduction to QR codes, tracking QR codes, examples of how they are being used in libraries, and best practice tips.

A number of libraries have started using QR codes around their library as a trial to see if they are useful. Anecdotal evidence may help evaluate these, but one method of evaluating how often they have been used is to ensure you use a QR code with trackable statistics.

How can I create a QR code with these statistics?

There are a number of different methods for creating QR codes with trackable statistics, and your choice will be dictated by a number of different factors such as existing systems, administrator access, and convenience.

Method 1: Google Analytics

You may well already use Google Analytics to track statistics of visitors to websites or the success of campaigns, in which case it makes sense to use Google Analytics to track QR code statistics. You can create a custom campaign URL (see custom campaign guide) so that you know people have used the QR code. This can be particularly useful if creating a campaign that you are promoting in a number of different ways – by using different custom URLs you can track how people are accessing the information and measure the success of different techniques.

Once you have created your custom URL it’s a good idea to shorten it (using any URL shortening service such as bit.ly or goo.gl) before creating the QR code – this will make the QR code much simpler and therefore easier to scan.

Then you can use any QR code creator to get your QR code.

For more information on this, check out this guide from Andrew Preater at Senate House Libraries (which also explains how to add QR codes with trackable statistics to an OPAC).

Method 2: Trackable URL services

Many URL shortening services provide tracking information so you know who has used the shortened URL, when, and where from. If you don’t have Google Analytics you might want to use these to create a trackable URL before creating your QR code. This has the additional bonus as discussed earlier that the resulting QR code won’t be as complex as it is a shorter text string.

It’s even easier with bit.ly which actually has a QR code automatically created for each shortened URL as standard. To find your QR code just go to the tracking page (through your account page or by adding a + to the end of the bit.ly URL), and you’ll find a small QR code icon (see image below).

QR codes on bit.ly

QR codes on bit.ly

Clicking on the icon opens up a larger QR code in a new page that you can then download and use as you wish.

If you’re using the bit.ly URL in different places (i.e. online as well as QR code), you’ll be able to see from the statistics page in the referrer section how many have accessed the link via the QR code compared to other sources.

There’s a little more detail in this How To Create a QR Code and Track with Bit.ly blog post.

Something to bear in mind with this option is that you might want to consider customising your link so that it’s something meaningful – having the text libraryfaq in the URL is much better than a random string of text and numbers, especially when users will have to consider whether they actually want to open the URL. In bit.ly you do this by clicking on the pencil icon to edit the URL and then typing custom text and saving (see image below).

Customising bit.ly URL

Customising bit.ly URL

Method 3: QR code creator with tracking

If you’d rather stick with one service and let that take care of the tracking for you, you may wish to use a QR code creator that has tracking capabilities built in (this is probably the simplest route). There is often a charge for this service, though many offer pay as you go packages so you only pay for the number of QR codes you produce. Some examples of services include:

So now we know what QR codes are and how to create ones with tracking capabilities, but so what? What can we use these for in the library? The next post in the series will demonstrate some of the uses for QR codes in libraries.

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