Most paid QR code generator platforms have built-in statistics. Yet, they don’t give insights about what visitors do on your site. You can fill in the blind data spot by tracking QR code campaigns in Google Analytics 4. Besides telling you how, I will also share powerful tricks to get the most out of your Quick Response Code campaigns. Let’s dive in… 

Key Takeaways

  • QR codes have been declared dead many times, but they have more lives than an average cat. 
  • Yet, you cannot track all QR codes in Google Analytics 4. 
  • To collect data about your QR code campaigns in GA4, you need to enrich your URL with UTM tags. 
  • You can then analyze and compare the performance of campaigns to improve them.
  • If QR codes are vital for your business, you can create a custom  channel group in GA4 for quicker analysis.

Can Google Analytics track QR codes?

Yes, it can. But there are limitations and requirements for tracking QR codes in GA. The destination needs to be a webpage that has tracking code installed and the URL of the QR code needs to have UTM tags. 

This may sound either too obvious or as tech lingo. But if QR codes are important for your business, you need to be aware of 4 things. 

#1 Not all QR codes can be tracked in GA

QR codes have many applications. A scan can lead to different content types. Although all of them can contribute to business growth, you cannot track any of the following QR codes in GA4

  • Open a mail program with your business email in the To field
  • vCard contact details
  • Plain text
  • Send an SMS
  • Registration and entrance tickets for events
  • Download a document, such as a PDF, music file, Excel sheet…
  • Etc.

If tracking these types of QR codes is important to your business, you'd better use a QR code generator platform with built-in statistics. However, these platforms are not a GA alternative.

Let me illustrate this with one example. More will follow below. 

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Let’s say you have a QR code on a product package. The goal is to stimulate customers to download a pdf manual. If you directly link to the document, you won’t be able to see in GA4 if the file was downloaded or not. 

The best you can do to track downloads with QR codes is:

  1. Set up a web page and include a button or link to the file.
  2. Use the URL (with UTM tags as explained further below) of the web page in your QR code.
  3. Activate automatic tracking of downloads in GA4

This method gives you the advantage of having answers to vital marketing questions: 

  • Did people scan your QR code?
  • Did they download the file?
  • And what else did they do on your website?

#2 The webpage needs to have Google Analytics 4 installed 

In GA4, you can only track QR code campaigns that lead to a web page that has the tracking code of your property installed. 

Although this is logical, it’s also something that requires your attention.

Agile marketing campaigns, budgets and deadlines decrease the level of clear thinking. But you can avoid missing data. 

Funnels and landing pages 

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These typical campaign pages are often built with another tool than your website software. They are loaded on your domain with, for instance, an iframe. 

Everything looks fine from the outside, until the moment you want to prove the success of your creative QR code campaigns.

Before you launch your Quick Response Code campaign, it’s an excellent idea to check if GA is installed on the destination URLs of your QR codes. 

Content on external platforms 

Social media, YouTube and so on are great places to promote your event, product, service and whatnot. 

However, if you point the URL of QR codes to other domains, you won’t see vital campaign data in your GA4 reports. 

Let’s assume you have posted a video for an event, tourist attractions, exhibitions, etc. on YouTube. 

Embedding the video in a web page is the best you can do to measure QR code scans of videos. 

On top of that, you can also activate Video engagement in the enhanced measurement settings. GA4 will then automatically collect data about interactions with your product or event video.

#3 Be cautious with personal information in QR codes

Some QR code generators can be linked to databases to produce personalized QR codes in bulk. 

Powerful, but risky. 

When personal information is passed in a URL, this will appear in Google Analytics. And that is forbidden. 

It can even lead to suspending your GA account. 

#4 Not set, data thresholding applied

Never, ever assume that GA4 will track or display every single time a user scans one of your QR codes. This is true for every other campaign, visit and actions users do on your website. 

The reasons can be script blockers, not accepting cookies, a glitch. Accept it as it is and embrace the QR code data that’s available. 

How to track QR codes in Google Analytics?

To track QR codes in Google Analytics, you need to treat the URL of your code exactly the same as any other campaign. 

In other words, you need to add UTM tags to the campaign URL

You can do this manually with the risk of making errors. Or with the help of an online tool. 

Step 1: Open the campaign URL builder

This link brings you directly to the web campaign URL builder for GA4. Please note, for Android and iOS apps, there are separate URL campaign builders. 

Step 2: Fill in the UTM tags

You need to fill in at least 3 fields for the URL to show up in GA4.. 

  • Website URL: the page you want to open after scanning the QR code.
  • Campaign source: where will you display the QR code? In a brochure, a sticker, on a T-shirt, a poster, etc.?
  • Campaign medium: will you print the QR code? Paint it on a wall?

Other useful UTM tags for QR code tracking can be: 

  • Campaign name: if you run several QR code campaigns, you can easily distinguish them with a descriptive name. 
  • Campaign content: this is useful if you want to A/B test campaigns that lead to the same webpage. You can, for instance, add the name of a city where you will distribute your marketing material with the QR code. This will help you understand in which locations the campaign was a success or not. 

Step 3: Generate your QR code

Copy the URL for your campaign and use it in your favorite QR code generator. 

You can choose from a myriad of online tools. Some have built-in analytics, which is great. 

But none of them can replace GA4, because they don’t give you insights on user behavior on your website. 

Step 4: Test your QR code

To avoid 404 error pages and money wasted on marketing campaigns, you'd better test your QR code. This is also the perfect occasion to check if the data shows up in GA4.

  1. Scan your QR code.
  2. Open the real time report in GA4. It may take may take a minute before the data shows up. 
  1. Scroll to the card Event count by Event name and click on page_view.
  1. If all went well, the UTM tag parameters of your URL appear here.
  1. Click on them (one by one) to verify that the values you used in the Campaign URL builder are showing up in GA4. If you, for instance, add location names in the content tag, you will see something like this:

You have successfully set up tracking of QR codes in Google Analytics 4. 

Alas, updates in GA4 take a while

The moment you launch your campaigns, you have to wait at least another 24 hours before the data rolls into your reports. 

And yes, that’s only if people scan your cool QR codes. 

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Where can you find QR code campaigns in GA4?

You can find data about QR code campaigns in the traffic acquisition report

To open it, go to Reports > Engagement > Traffic Acquisition

In the table, change the primary dimension to Session medium

Here, you will see the value you used in your QR code campaign URL, such as “print”:

You can also add Session campaigns as a secondary dimension to get more insights about your campaigns. 

The table contains data QR platforms cannot collect. 

You can, for instance, see conversions and the Total revenue, if you have set this up in your property. 

In summary, GA4 will help you 

  • Track your QR campaigns with little effort
  • Analyze the performance of your QR code campaigns.
  • Give you data to decide if they are worth repeating, adapting, or canceling.

I want to share one more tip with you to speed up your analysis flow. 

Set up a custom QR channel group in GA4

If you run many QR code campaigns, a custom channel group will save you tons of time. 

You can either create a complete channel group for your QR codes, or include them in another custom channel group.

This way you can easily compare different sources, mediums and campaigns quickly against each other. 

Another great option is to use an exploration template. This allows, for instance, to do a full analysis of user journeys that start with a simple scan of your QR code.

On behalf of the DDU team, I hope this article will help you successfully track QR codes in Google Analytics 4. I also invite you to scan the QR code below. Okay, that is awkward. But trust me, there is a free surprise waiting for you to optimize your campaign tracking. (Spoiler alert: I am not going to Rickroll you). 

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