How to track scans on a QR Code

Ok lots of people – marketing professionals and digital specialists included – will mock me for talking about QR Codes. QR Codes are something that it’s just easy to hate. They look ugly and people holding up their phone to scan a QR Code in public are easy to take the mick out of, but I genuinely believe QR Codes serve a purpose. Although only if they’re used in the correct way (but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post).

For those that haven’t quite got their head around QR Codes yet or could do with a refresher, this fella from FreedomTarget can show you how to use a QR Code.

QR Code on Subway TracksAnd then the people that put the QR Code on the poster on the right can show you how not to use a QR Code. Unless they did indeed want all of the people in the world who scan QR Codes to be hit by trains (there are people out there that think this would be natural selection, I swear).

If you are already using QR Codes, there could be a simple modification to how you’re using them which could make them far more useful for you as a marketing tool. Namely: measurement.

Slapping a QR Code on something just because you know how isn’t a great idea. There may be some scenarios whereby the QR Code is never scanned and it’s just taking up space on your marketing material (and possibly even making you look a bit silly to the non-believers).

If no one ever scans your QR Code, it’s pointless. But if you could measure how many times someone scans your code, you could have some really valuable knowledge about the success of your marketing campaign.

But how do you know if someone’s scanned your QR Code?

There are two ways to measure scans on your QR Code. One is a bit washy and time-consuming, but the other you’ll hopefully find pretty nifty (and you’ll probably also thing “Far out, I knew that already but just didn’t think to connect the dots”).

1. Google Analytics

Through Google Analytics you can determine how many people have viewed your website using a mobile device. I won’t go into this too much as Google already has that down pat. To accurately measure how many people are using your QR Code, you could make the destination URL of your QR Code a page on your website that you can only get to after scanning the code.

The problem with this is that, without the correct website trickery, the page may end up indexed in Google search results so you could be getting extra views, plus someone who scans the code once could bookmark the page in their browser and view it over and over having only scanned the QR Code once. So this method isn’t quite perfect.

2. URL Tracking

Here’s the solution. Instead of putting your full website address into the QR Code generator, use a URL shortening service that includes click tracking to shorten your URL before putting it into the generator. If you only use that shortened URL in your QR Code, you’ll only ever get accurate ‘click’ reports on your QR Code.

There’s a cool side-effect of this method as well. The longer your URL, the more complicated your QR Code graphic will be, the larger you’ll have to display it on your material, and the longer it will take a phone’s QR Code reader to read the actual code. So by shortening the URL, you’re making a much more simple image.

Here are two examples. Both take you to the location of Miles Toyota in Christchurch (what an awesome dealership) but the first one …

QR Code for a Google Map Location

… uses the full length ‘standard’ URL for this particular location. Complicated graphic huh? The second one uses that same URL but shortened using’s link shortening service.

QR Code with Click Tracking

How much cleaner is that? You can imagine that smart phone QR Code reader apps would have an easier time of reading that one than the original. You’d be able to display it on your print material at a small size as well. AND you’d have the benefit of being able to see how many people have scanned that code. Nice.

Obvious really, isn’t it? And yet I don’t really see many people doing this. I’m even writing this post because I saw a business card at a BNI meeting this morning that had a QR Code taking up two thirds of the card because it was hugely complicated.

So in summary, shorten your URL using a URL shortening service that includes click tracking (even if it’s a short URL anyway) and then put that into your QR Code generator.

Looking for URL shortening services and QR Code generators? Google it! But personally I use for URL shortening and click tracking and GOQR.ME for QR Code generation.

Bonus tip

The click tracking stats behind links are actually publicly viewable. If you see a link, just add a plus symbol to the end of it to view the stats behind that link.

In the QR Code above, I used the link Add a plus symbol to view the stats: Scan the QR Code yourself and then refresh the stats view. Well done. You’ve measured yourself.

Finally, just to finish off, can you imagine seeing a bloke standing in front of this poster with his iPhone’s camera held out in front of him? Are you picturing it? You’re thinking the guy’s a bit of a perv right? Yeah. Interesting campaign, this one!

QR Code Victoria's Secret Campaign

This post is dedicated to my friend, Brendon. You’ll appreciate QR Codes one day, I swear.