How to Key E-mail Responses and Web Visits

Learn to “key your ads” and find out which ones are bringing in the business!

Before I discovered this wonderful thing called “The Internet”, I owned a mail order business. And the best advice I got was “Key Your Ads.” It is absolutely imperative that you know which ads are pulling, and which aren’t. And it was easy. For every classified ad I placed, I used the initials of the magazine, and the month and year of the issue. For example, I placed an ad in the National Enquirer in January of 1996. So, I added “Dept. NE196” to my address. I knew exactly where a response came from by the address written on the envelope.

Keying my ads was second nature. But when I ventured onto the Internet, how to key my ads was somewhat of a mystery. I wasn’t asking for any postal mail, where a potential customer would have to write my “Key” in the address.

So, I started by asking for a certain word, or phrase, in the subject of the e-mail. That worked to a point, but as I’ve discovered online, people are impatient. They didn’t always input my “Key” in the subject area.

Next, I tried forms. I placed a form on my web site that stated simply, “Where Did You Find Our Site?”. On a drop down menu, the visitor had 7 seven choices. One of those choices was “Other”. About 90% of the replies I received were “Other”. I figured people may have clicked on many links, found themselves at my site, and simply forgot how they found it.

One day, when I was still fairly new to online marketing, I received an e-mail message from someone I don’t remember. But what I DO remember is the reply address he/she placed within the message. It looked a little odd. Something like this: mailto:webmaster@kndpublishing?subject=Example

I clicked on it. My mail program came up, as usual, with the recipient’s address already in place–but the SUBJECT was already in place too! It was a revelation. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Without even trying, I had discovered a way to key my e-mail ads!

So, now I was able to track where my e-mail was coming from. But there was still the problem of knowing where the visitors to my site were coming from. I looked into many software programs claiming to be able to tell me the URL of the referring page, i.e., where the visitors were coming from. But, at the time, I was on a slim budget for my online venture, and couldn’t spare the few hundred they were asking for. And am I glad I couldn’t!

Why? Because, I have discovered a FREE, easy way to key my ads, and track the visitors to my site.

One day, I was looking for a free counter. I found one at this site: (If you decide to check this site out, they have 3 different counters. You can also look at FreeCounter2.html and FreeCounter1.html).

I placed a counter on all of my main pages, giving them different ID names. Every day, in real time, the counter counts my visitors, and places the numbers at a special URL, just for me and my site.

The counter was ok, but I was still worried about keying my ads. I was getting hits, but I had no idea where they were coming from. But I pushed on, placing free classifieds for hours at a time, advertising in appropriate newsgroups, banner exchanges, link exchanges, etc.

I’m not sure how long it took me to realize that I could do the same thing with my URL that I was doing with my reply e-mail addresses. But I tried it one day, went to my special URL to see my hit count, and there it was…the answer to my Ad Key problems.

I typed my URL in my web browser. But instead of typing just I typed . Guess what? My page came up exactly as it was supposed to, and I had my ad keys.

[Editor’s note: If I can clarify here, Kim is saying that she can create a key by typing a question mark followed by a code word at the end of her URL. I tried this after reading her article, and it works. Then, whatever statistics package you’re using should be able to identify the different code words for you. When you do your own testing, you’ll want to substitute specific codes for the generic ones she has here. For instance, rather than “newsgroup,” your code might be “books” for a response from the alt.books.publishing group.]

Now, when I place a classified ad, I type in And when I advertise in a newsgroup, I type in

When I go to my hit count page, I can see exactly how many people hit my site from a certain ad. I can’t tell you how much time this has saved me with my advertising. I used to spend hours putting up free classified ads, but I don’t anymore, because I wasn’t getting many hits from them. Imagine, all those hours of work, for nothing! Oh well… and learn.

[Editor’s note: This confirms my theory that most free classifieds on the Net are a waste fo time. A link from a page with related content is a much better use fo your marketing time.]

Keying your ads….it’s an absolute must!

Happy marketing!

[Editor’s Note:] For more on tracking your online advertisements,
please click

Kim Skinner of K & D Publishing is the author, and publisher of Success Online Weekly, a free e-mail e-zine developed for the online marketer. To subscribe, click here.. Kim has many free articles on Internet advertising and marketing at her Free Marketing Assistance page.


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