Applying a Measurement Framework to Unlock the Power of GA4
This article will focus on two main areas. The first is the measurement mindset. We’ll help you think about measurement in terms of your wider organization. We’ll then break down the measurement strategy. We’ll show you can alter your GA4 strategy to fit within your wider measurement framework.
Listening and responding
What’s happening in this image? This isn’t a trick question. It’s an image of two people chatting. But when you think about the conversation, what’s actually happening? Well hopefully, someone is listening whilst the other person is responding.
Now, let’s look at another image. This picture is a little closer to home for many of us. It’s still a conversation, but this time it’s eCommerce orientated. You have a salesperson who is trying to help a customer. Again it’s a conversation of listening and responding. All of this makes sense in the offline world.
But what about this? Now we’re in the digital world. But where’s the listening? In truth, there’s very little listening going on in this case. Why? Because there’s no one to listen to. All the website is doing is responding, throwing up marketing messages, and trying to advance the user journey.
What we really want is to go back to the conversation we saw in the earlier images. If a customer went into a shop, they can ask ‘where are the golf caps?’. They are taken to where they need to be so they don’t need to waste time looking.
We want to be able to use our websites to have a conversation with users. Of course, we can’t be there for every customer. But our website can. Think of it this way, when looking at a website, you’re probably hearing its words in your head. As you view products, you’ll sub-vocalize your way through. Essentially, you’re having a conversation with the website.
So, our websites are having conversations. But as digital marketers, we’re ignoring this. So, there’s a new question…
How do we listen?
The better we get at measurement, the better we are at listening to the other side of the conversation. Marketing is how we respond to that conversation. But to get better at measuring, we need a measurement framework. That’s the entire concept of measurementmarketing.io: measuring and responding.
So, when you are in your organization ask ‘are we listening to the conversation?’. And ‘are having the right conversation?’. When you start asking questions like this you very quickly move into a whole different mindset, Measurement is now a department and no longer a project.
Some may be familiar with this from the old days of Universal Analytics, or even Classic Analytics. There wasn’t much measurement taking place. You could set up your goals in Google Analytics (GA). You had your reports, and everyone was choosing the same thing again and again.
Now, that’s gone. Measurement is a department. It needs resources, time, training, budget, tools, and strategy. But how does strategy fit in? Let’s look at something called tools vs trade.
Tools vs trade
Picture someone that isn’t very good at cooking. Their only real skill is boiling an egg, so they want to improve their skills. Maybe they’ll watch some YouTube videos and see what the fancy chefs are doing.
In doing so, they notice that the professionals are using much better equipment. They have a nice oven, ladles, and better tools. They think ‘the reason I’m not as good as them is because of my gear’. The person then spends a huge amount of their budget to become a better chef. They get their new setup and what’s the first thing that they do? Boil an egg.
Why did this happen? Because they didn’t learn how to cook properly. At the end of the day, tools don’t matter. A good chef could create a delicious dish simply by using a camping stove. So, it’s not about the tools, it’s about the strategy.
How many tools have you got?
Let’s be honest, lots of us have invested in products that sell themselves as ‘quick solutions’.
At a press of a button, you’ll get ROAS, ROI, attribution, or whatever metric we need. We keep going to the tool and adding more money. But we’ve never learned how to measure because we’re not using a proper strategy. We’re not going to get the most out of the tool.
So, tools alone will not save us but a strategy will.
GA4 & strategy
The measurement framework is pretty simple. We’re going to ‘plan’ things out, ‘build’, and then ‘launch’ using our measurement systems.
First, let’s talk about why this exists. We saw that there was a problem: We were marketing in the blind, and our marketing department wasn’t making informed, data-driven decisions. We knew that the department had the answers, but wasn’t using them. Put simply, there’s too much data and not enough action.
Instead what we want is a system where going through the right actions, gives us the results we need. In most organizations that means some sort of growth metrics like revenue and profits.
So, how do we do that? The first step is in the plan, we need to ask all the questions that we need answers to. Next, we’re going to gather the information needed to collect those answers. Then, we’re onto the most important key of this particular step. We’re thinking about the actions that we’re going to take to get the answer.
Once you have a plan, you can go into the results it’s time to head into GA. Start thinking about our GA4 strategy. You need to make sure that the tool understands the results you’re trying to achieve.
We now need to know the source of the traffic. And if you have properly configured and have a good understanding of GA4, you will see a natural story start to appear. It will tell you which particular traffic source, ad sets, or clicks are more likely to cause certain results.
The building is now done. You’re onto the last stage, the launch. Now, it’s time to listen. But what are you listening for? A conversation of course! We want to understand the conversation between the users and the website.
Is the website having the conversation that it’s supposed to be having? That’s where the forecast comes in. Lots of businesses miss this step. They’re too busy forensically looking at their data. They’re trying to figure out what happened last week when they should be trying to figure out what happened this week.
That’s the beauty of the measurement framework. It will tell you what’s working, what’s not, and crucially, what’s coming next. You can now measure against your forecast, and with all this information, you can arrive at the optimization step.
This is the stage that everyone tries to skip to. They don’t want to plan or think about building. Instead, they try to use their data for optimization. But of course, this isn’t going to work because the data hasn’t been properly configured.
So, now that you’ve reached the end of the framework, what’s next? Rinse and repeat! Go through the measurement framework over and over, and you’ll get the best results.
Now, let’s look at the different stages in more detail.
There are only ever two types of questions that you can ask. These are ‘results’ questions, and ‘how’ questions. With the ‘results’ questions, think about the user journey. What’s the end result that you need from that journey? Examples of ‘results’ questions include how much did we sell? What was the revenue amount? What was the average cart value?
The ‘how’ questions are even more important. How did you get a particular result? How many product page views did you see? How many users were added to the cart or began checkout? The list goes on and on.
Of course, you also need to know how you’re being successful. You can learn from that information, and replicate it in your future GA4 strategy. So, list down all your ‘results’ and ‘how’ questions.
When you’re starting out, any ‘results’ and ‘how’ questions are useful. The more you ask, the better you’ll get at coming up with questions. And of course, the better the questions you ask, the better the answers you’ll receive.
With information, we switch this around. In your business, it’s really easy to get into the data and metrics. But what do you think about the information from a behavioral standpoint? Ask yourself ‘what behaviors do I need to measure for?’. This is key to understanding the conversation from the user’s side. What are the different behaviors that tell you that a user reached a result?
What are you going to do if the answer comes in lower (or higher) than what you expect? Let’s imagine that you’re looking at the opt-in rate for your marketing campaign.
Firstly, let’s say that it’s anywhere between 25-35%. That’s what it should be for this particular offer – great. You can slowly scale the traffic, keeping it within that range, and bring in other traffic sources.
Let’s look at an alternative example. Your opt-in rate is below 25%. In this situation, you might need to look at the offer itself. You could look at the ad copy, or see whether there is an ad set or traffic source that isn’t working. But if all sources are underperforming, there could be an issue with the overall offer.
Here’s a third scenario. Your opt-in rate is above 40%. Believe it or not, the ad might be performing too well. A conversion rate that’s too high might be a sign of something that’s not quite working. If you’ve got too warm an audience, you might not be scaling correctly. You’ve got some room to expand targeting.
By looking in more detail, you can find a clear set of actions to address the situation. All this happens before you set up measurement, open up a spreadsheet, or start thinking about your GA4 strategy.
With all of the above steps in place we can move into the build stage. Let’s start with the results as these are the easiest to set up in Google Analytics 4. You need to set up A.C.E. (awareness, completed, engage) results. With this system, you’re measuring the stages of the user journey.
You don’t only want to understand how many times a user completed a journey. Instead, you’re also measuring along the way to see where the drop-off is.
The next step of the measurement framework focuses on traffic. It should identify the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘why’. In other words ‘who is sending me traffic?’ ‘what type of traffic are they sending me’ and ‘what is the purpose of this traffic?’.
There are two tricks with your UTM parameters. The first is being aware and using them. But equally important, you need to improve how you structure them. Emails should include UTMs and be properly structured to coordinate with Facebook traffic (which in turn, is coordinating with GA traffic).
With proper coordination, you can go into GA4 and find the traffic sources that bring the best results.
With all this information, you can begin to understand how to use the different traffic sources. When it comes to advertising platforms like Facebook, every click you receive should have a purpose. You’re bringing an audience to a specific journey, to achieve a certain result. After that you measure, did the traffic source do its job?
For example, you might find that Google organic is great at spreading awareness. But it falls back when it comes to persuading users to close the deal. At this point, your Facebook retargeting campaign kicks in, and these users become leads that engage. But you find that email is the best channel for closing the deal.
The better you understand the different traffic sources, the better use they can be put to.
Now you have to configure your setup. It’s time to learn more about GA4 and all the configuration that goes into it. Once you’ve done all that, you should start to see a natural story emerging.
A lot of people think that they have to learn to read the matrix when it comes to GA4. But this is far from the truth. Imagine that someone gave you a copy of a children’s book like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Hopefully, you can read it with no problems.
But what if someone took the book away, ripped out the pages, tore them up, and jumbled them? Would you be able to read the book now? The answer is ‘yes’ your ability to read is unaffected. Instead, the book becomes more challenging to read.
You’d have to stick pages together and rearrange them back to their correct order. You might have to make up some of the story that has been lost.
Well, this isn’t that different to data in today’s world. It’s a lot of ripped-up pieces of paper that people are trying to read. They look at the data and say ‘I’m clearly not a numbers person’. But the issue is actually that the data isn’t put together properly. With a proper GA4 strategy, it will naturally be easier to read.
There’s no real secret to listening, we’re focusing on ‘trends and patterns’. The truth is in the trend, the power is in the pattern. A number by itself is meaningless, the trends are everything. For instance, if the Facebook ads manager is saying that sales doubled, then the trends in GA4 should match.
Let’s say that 8-12% of your individuals should go from the offer page to the cart page. Of those, 40% should complete that cart, with a certain average purchase. Listening can be as simple as looking to see whether you’re in the range of a trend.
You have to market forward, there’s not really any other option. But lots of people are asking questions like ‘what happened to the $10,000 we spent on Facebook advertising last week? Instead, the question should be ‘what will happen to the $10,000 we spend this week?’.
But how can you forecast a clear path forward? Simply by collecting the right information. You’re measuring against your forecast. You’re no longer driving through the rearview mirror, instead you’re looking through the windshield.
Is forecasting perfect? Of course not, you’ll see things that don’t come into play. That’s where optimization comes in useful.
Perhaps your CPMs are a little off, or your CPC is too high. With time, you might realize that your forecast is incorrect.
Let’s imagine that you are running a product page. You expect 10% of people to go to the cart. But this isn’t happening. What can you do to optimize? This is where the ‘expectation engine’ comes into play. Something happened and the conversation stopped.
At this point, you start guessing. Perhaps changing the headline will help. Or, maybe you should do a webinar instead. But with the measurement framework, guessing isn’t needed.
Instead, you need to improve your measurement. What was wrong with a specific page? Did a user leave after ten seconds? If so, there’s a problem with the ad itself. But if they stayed longer than ten seconds, then the ad did its job, and the issue is with the page copy.
From here you can dig a little deeper. Did they see the pricing table of your product for at least five or six seconds? In other words, did they investigate and learn more about your offer? If so, and they didn’t go to the cart, this is a completely different problem to them leaving. But if you’re not measuring for this, you won’t know what actions to take.
Always bear the framework in mind
So, there you have it. We’ve explored each step and stage in the measurement framework. In total, this process should take about 90 days.
Let’s briefly summarize some of the most important aspects of the framework.
- What’s the conversation? Start asking. More importantly, is it the conversation we’re supposed to be having?
- Remember that the planning process is essential. Without it you won’t create a clear roadmap or be asking the right questions.
- Think about your reports, do you just have chaos reports? If you have a clear plan, this shouldn’t happen. But also remember your A.C.E. results, so that you’re tying everything together in a natural story.
- Are you carrying out random acts of marketing? If everyone’s guessing, it’s because you’re not launching properly. You’re not measuring against your forecast to help you optimize.
When strategizing, always bear the measurement framework in mind. Think of measurement in terms of your wider organization, and plan the best possible path forward.
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Mercer, the co-founder of MeasurementMarketing.io, is a sought-after measurement marketing expert. Mercer (as he’s known) and his team have been helping marketers, marketing teams, and agencies measure their marketing so they know what’s working, what’s not, and what’s coming next. In addition to co-hosting MeasureSummit, he can be found speaking at conferences and events, such as Traffic & Conversion, Social Media Marketing World, Content Jam, TravelCon, Digital Elite Camp, Baby Bathwater Institute, and others.