What gets measured gets managed: when planning a marketing campaign, make preparations to measure what’s meaningful so what matters gets managed.
If you want to access meaningful data on the performance of your marketing campaign, first consider the user actions that matter to you and use this to configure your approach in a way that facilitates data capture, before you launch.
So you’ve created and executed a marketing campaign — you want to assess its performance by looking at results data, but you realize that the data you gathered isn’t actually useful for the questions you want to answer (or you didn’t measure anything, but let’s not go there). At this stage it’s too late to fix the problem.
As such, if as a marketing leader you want to avoid being cornered like this, it makes sense to 1. figure out the actions, metrics and parameters that matter, then 2. implement your campaign and the tracking methods necessary to gather this data, before you launch.
Configuring Your Metrics
If you’re putting together a marketing campaign, perhaps the last thing you want to do is hold back your launch in order to think about tracking. But this is a critical step to take before you start, both to avoid losing data and also to implement processes early before your team has to a chance to start doing the wrong things.
Let’s take a really simple example: setting up your blog. First question: where should the blog live? Off-site tools like Medium.com have many benefits, not least their ease of use and (in the case of Medium.com) in-built domain authority.
However, Medium’s native analytics capabilities are not very powerful. All things being equal, you can access much better data by using your content management system (CMS, e.g. WordPress) to manage your blog and monitor performance using Google Analytics.
Second question: how should we structure our URLs? Most CMSs offer many choices on how it creates the URLs for blog posts you create, common choices include: website.com/blog-post, website.com/blog/blog-post, website.com/blog/year/blog-post.
Chose wisely, because your URL structure determines what you can and can’t measure easily. For example, if you don’t consistently include /blog/ in each blog post URL, you’ll have no simple way to distinguish between traffic to blog content or other content. Meanwhile, featuring date information in the URL will allow you to easily assess the performance of content published in a given year, month, etc.
Fundamentally, there’s no way to generate data like this other than by implementing it from day one. If a user views a blog post on your site via a particular URL, Google Analytics will assign a pageview to the URL as it exists when the visitor views. If you change the URL or the URL structure, those changes will apply moving forward, but won’t affect the data that Google Analytics has already gathered.
Deciding What’s Important
Obviously, it’s impossible to get everything perfect the first time. Nonetheless, a little planning in this area avoids literally throwing away data and insights. Getting it right, meanwhile, involves actually understanding the KPIs that matter to you and figuring out how to measure them.
Take another example: say you’re running a marketing campaign for a company with six solutions. Do you create one solutions page with all the information, six pages, or some other configuration?
All things being equal, the answer depends on what you want to measure. If you have a single solutions page, there’s no way to differentiate between a user seeking, say, cloud consulting or network solutions. If you split the pages, you can get a feel for the performance of your site with respect to these solution types, and determine where to focus your efforts.
Note: please take care before splitting / combining pages and changing URL structures on an established website — these actions can radically affect the property’s performance. Consult an expert.
Hopefully this stands as an example of how to think about tracking before you take action. There’s nothing wrong with an iterative, adaptive approach to marketing and tracking, but marketing leaders that think about tracking from the very beginning stand to access data that they could otherwise have lost and avoid making fundamental changes to their properties that are much more difficult to make after the fact.