“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
When it comes to marketing, you need to hit goals. And in order to hit a goal, you need a plan. Actually, in the case of marketing goals, you need two plans: a measurement plan and a tagging plan.
There are so many buzzwords in our industry that sometimes they all start sounding the same. This is the case with measurement and tagging plans. They sound similar but actually serve very different purposes.
Who should make it? Marketing
At the end of the day, everything you are doing has to result in tangible results. Whether it's more revenue, signups, downloads, and etc. A measurement plan helps you distill the macro and micro moments, which will ladder up to your business objectives.
Who should make it? Analyst
This is a document that is technical in nature. It relies on the measurement plan as a guide and spells out what will be tagged on your site and how. It should show what kind of events will fire, when, and how on your site. It should show the configuration within your Tag Management System as well as your analytics platform.
As all things, the size and complexity of this document will depend on each project and time available. I have created simple tagging plans in Google Slides, showing each action and the corresponding event configuration in GTM, the data expected in GA, as well as goal configuration. I have also created plans that are hundreds of columns and rows within a Google sheet that map each and every single interaction on the site, as well as what data is expected to pass and to which platforms, including conditions.
This document is invaluable to analysts as it will help them understand how things have been implemented on the site. There is no formal name for it within the Google platform but within Adobe it's called the SDR (Solution Design Reference).
Which plan do I need to hit my marketing goals?
None, and both!
Do you need to have winter tires on your car in the winter? No but it's definitely cheaper than ending up in a ditch or having an accident. A small investment can save a lot of headache.
I have worked with lots of organizations that never invested the time into having either and it's not noticeable at first. Overtime though you start seeing the result of lack of planning. Since no measurement plan was defined, there are no clear goals as to the purpose of the site. Event tracking has not been implemented, goals not created. The media team is optimizing spend against cost/click instead of actual conversions.
In short, it's a mess. And it could have been avoided.
Quick Tips for Creating Your Plans
- Don't work in isolation. You will need support from your marketing team to help with defining business objectives and goals. If you are the analyst, you are not responsible for the results, only reporting on them and providing ideas on how best to optimize.
- Use templates to get you started. There are dozens of them around. Use whatever makes sense for you and modify it, there is no perfect template that will fit your business exactly.
- Ensure your documentation lives in the cloud. This will make it easy to share, track, and make changes.
- Do not combine a measurement plan together with a tracking plan. They are complimentary but not the same.
- Use gtmtools.com to help document your GTM implementation.
- Review & update your documentation at least once a year. If you can, once a quarter is ideal.
- Review the site itself, to make sure that everything is working as expected.
Create Your Measurement Plan
If done well, a measurement plan outlines how your site and various platforms all tie in together to deliver on your overall business objectives. The plan would include S.M.A.R.T goals as well as the events, metrics, and dimensions that need to be implemented and reported on.
Site & Business Objectives
It seems obvious, but that is why it is so often not done. Having clearly articulated objectives for both your business and how your digital ecosystem will support it, is crucial to your long term success.
What is your business objective? Write it down.
What is the purpose of your site? No, be more specific than that. Write it down!
You would think that if you are an ecommerce site, your goal is to simply sell more stuff. The reality is far more complicated. The final sale is an example of a macro conversion. If that is the only thing you are tracking, you are missing out on all the micro signals that person has performed on your site in the last month or two.
I wont get into the complexity of a user journey, but most people don't buy products the first time they come to your site. This is why tracking micro conversions is so important. Examples of this could be:
- File Downloads
- Video Play
- Newsletter Signup
- Get Directions Click
- Phone Click
- Form Complete
- Request Demo
- Account Creation
There are many methodologies on how to create proper goals. You are free to use whatever your heart desires, I like to start with the S.M.A.R.T approach and take it from there.
Here are a few examples of goals that aren't great and why:
- Increase engagement.
- Using buzzwords within goals is lazy. How is engagement defined?
- Increase sessions on our site
- Now we have an actual metric but by how much and over what time period?
- Increase sessions by 10% month over month
- Ok this almost feels like a good goal, except that measuring sessions is pointless. It is increasingly pointless if you are investing into paid advertising.
Following the SMART approach, below are some examples of goals that are better defined:
Here is how a goal should look:
- Increase form fills by 5%, from 450 to 740, MoM by conducting A/B testing on the copy and format.
One thing I want to point out is, if you have never done this before, it will not be easy BUT the results will be worth it. The hardest part of creating a good goal is to include targets.
For some, this could be as easy as looking at some metrics in Google Analytics. Sometimes no historical data exists. I encourage you to do a bit of research and create ranges as a buffer. It's far better to say that you expect your open rate to be between 40-45% then to say nothing at all.
Create Your Tagging Plan
A tagging plan is a natural extension of the measurement plan. While you can create a tagging plan in the absence of a measurement plan, it's not ideal. Realistically, you will have to go through many of the steps in the measurement plan, whether you have it or not, to finalize your tagging plan.
Assuming you are using a Google Analytics / Google Tag Manager combo, your plan should include:
- List of the views you are going to create and the filters applied to them
- An explanation of what each filter does
- The goal associated with each view
- Custom Dimensions, the index and name
- Any changes you plan on making to Default Channel Grouping
Google Tag Manager
- Summary or tags, triggers, and variables
- The configuration of tags (pageview and events)
- When are they supposed to fire?
- For events, what is the non-interaction set too?
- If you already have a GTM account setup, a fast way to get a summary is to use Simo Ahava’s GTMTools. You can “Inspect” and then “Export” your entire container. It would look like the below screenshot
A tagging plan is a living and breathing document. Do not create it in Excel/Word and have a local copy saved on your machine. Use the cloud version of whatever platform you perform. This will help with versioning and ease of access.
Here is an example of a page from a very simple & visual tagging plan:
Here is an example of a more involved tagging plan. This one includes hundreds of rows and dozens of columns spread across several tabs.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to create a tagging plan. Having one is already better than having nothing.
Quality Assurance For Your Tagging Plan
Once your site is live and everything is running smoothly, get into the habit of proactively checking your tags. All it takes is one developer accidently removing your GTM script and you lose all your tracking. Now that is pretty drastic.
Here are your options when it comes to quality assurance:
- Automated, detailed but pricey - https://www.observepoint.com/
- Automated, free, but only does basic tag presence - http://www.gachecker.com/
- Free & manual - Do it yourself with a tool like dataSlayer
Good luck and happy tagging!