How to create a measurement plan and why you really need one

Written by Julian Erbsloeh - 23 Apr 2018

In a nutshell, a measurement plan is a document that translates your top-line business objectives into metrics and dimensions you can measure on your website.

It provides a framework not only for a customised configuration of your web analytics, but also forms a vital part of your wider digital marketing strategy. This then determines how your digital channels best play together to achieve your KPIs.

Download our free measurement plan template and step by step guide

This sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often Fresh Egg’s analytics and data team is met with silence and confused looks when asking simple questions such as:

‘What do you need your website to do for your business?’

In our opinion, the creation of a robust measurement framework is one of the core elements of an advanced configuration of Google Analytics, usually preceded by an audit of the current setup. We believe that every online business should have a measurement plan in place.

Many good blog posts have been written on this subject over the years (one definitely worth reading is Avinash Kaushik’s post). Google also provides a number of good resources on the subject, for example in the Analytics Academy.

But we have found that good resources can be quite technical and difficult to follow for non-analysts, so we have decided to share our process.

We have also created a free downloadable measurement and implementation plan for you to use for your own website.

So, what do you need to create your own measurement plan?

The first thing to consider is who needs to be involved. The complexity of your measurement framework and its implementation will depend on the size of your organisation, as will the number of people involved in the exercise. With that in mind, the following key skillsets will be needed in order to create a robust plan:

  • Someone who understands your business objectives and strategy
  • Someone who understands web analytics and what it can do
  • Someone technical who can set up your custom tracking configuration

For large organisations, this means bringing a number of stakeholders together, which can be a challenge in itself. We have found that getting buy-in from c-suite executives at this stage gives the project the attention it deserves and the drive to see the exercise through to completion.

Step 1 – Define your objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs)

Create a simple document (MS Excel works well for this) and outline the top-line business objectives for your website horizontally across the top:

Measurement plan screenshot - business objectives

Identify strategies and tactics to support the achievement of those objectives and define the KPIs for each of those objectives – some objectives will have multiple KPIs.

Example: If the objective is revenue, key strategies to drive revenue could be to increase sales, to increase average order value and to reduce returns, which in turn form the KPIs.

Once the list of KPIs is complete, have it approved by key stakeholders and ideally the Board. It is worth noting that this list is never definitive and will need to be reviewed periodically to ensure it remains up-to-date and in-line with the ever-changing digital environment.

Step 2 – Consider data segmentation requirements and set targets

With the basic measurement framework in place, it is time to start thinking about setting specific targets and segmentation. Should you be splitting performance targets for mobile and desktop? Should targets be set geographically, or by demographic? How about different product categories; should they be broken down for measurement and, ultimately, reporting?

These questions need to be addressed at this stage as some of the segmentation may need to be considered in the implementation of the tracking code for your web analytics software. For example, custom metrics and dimensions may need to be set up. This is also when you need to start thinking about your different audiences.

Measurement plan screenshot - specific targets and segmentation

At this stage, the measurement plan should outline the detailed ‘translation’ of business objectives into measurable performance metrics. There is a good chance that not all of the metrics you have picked can be measured using Google Analytics (GA) or your analytics platform of choice. Social metrics such as likes, retweets and repins are good examples of metrics contained in most measurement plans that a GA implementation cannot deliver on. Highlight these metrics in your plan for later consideration. 

With all the key metrics in place, you can start thinking about setting targets for each of these metrics. This is where the wider team and key stakeholders get involved again if you don’t already have something in mind.

Step 3 – Create an implementation plan

Now that you know what you want to measure and track, you need to get all the tracking into place. An audit of the existing GA configuration will outline the gaps and indicate any additional tracking that is required.

On most websites we work on, an upgrade to GA’s latest code, Universal Analytics, is also required. It makes sense to do this before implementing the tracking for the measurement plan, as Universal Analytics offers a wide range of additional tracking opportunities, including custom dimensions and metrics, sending data into GA from your site’s back end using the measurement protocol, and dimension widening.

If you aren’t already using a tag management solution like Google Tag Manager, this is the right time to re-consider. Implementing your tracking code using a tag container instead of adding the tracking code straight into the website code means you will be more agile in the future when changes are needed, when additional tags are needed, or your tracking needs to be modified because your website changes.

If, for example, your website is likely to change or migrate in the near future, it is more manageable for your developers to transfer a Google Tag Manager snippet together with any dataLayer information, than for them to locate various third party tags individually. Using a tag container reduces the risk of a tag being missed in migration. Find out more about our Google Tag Manager training courses here.

Google Tag Manager is a free tag container solution that covers all the tagging requirements for most online businesses. Find out more about how the solution works in our recent blog post – How To Get Started With Google Tag Manager: Using The New User Interface.

Once you have an idea of what tracking is in place, have upgraded your GA tracking code to Universal Analytics and have made a decision about how you want to implement your tracking code, it will be time to devise an implementation plan. For this, another tab in the same Excel document can be used, using columns to highlight what is in scope, what is already in place and what needs to be added.

Implementation plan screenshot

This provides a good working document for the implementation. We also use Trello to manage these projects. It makes it really easy to assign individual tasks to specific people, keep shared checklists of all steps that need to be taken, and communicate across teams and departments if required.

Once all of the technical aspects have been considered and tracking solutions for the KPIs have been agreed, it will be time to implement the new, advanced tracking.

We will usually set up a test web property in GA for this purpose, so that we can verify all of the data and ensure everything is tracking accurately before sending the ‘new’ data to the existing reporting property. This is best practice and is important in order to avoid collecting inaccurate data throughout the transition period, as it is unlikely that everything will work as expected from the word ‘go’.

Top tip: Remember to set up Google Analytics Intelligence alerts to immediately inform you of unusual peaks and drops in your data too.

The final step of the measurement planning cycle is to plan for ongoing maintenance and refinement of the plan as time goes on. Your technical requirements, your business and the digital landscape can and will change over time, so it is important to periodically review the measurement plan and adjust it accordingly to ensure reports remain accurate.

Step 4 – Define the format and frequency for reporting

This last step is not part of creating the measurement plan itself, but the logical extension – to agree the format and frequency of reporting. In some cases, and this usually applies to smaller businesses and websites, all KPIs can be tracked and reported on using the standard reports in Google Analytics. The process of gathering all the key numbers can be simplified by creating a custom report or GA dashboard and by having automated emails sent to all stakeholders.

However, most of the businesses Fresh Egg works with have more specific reporting requirements for their monthly or weekly BAU reporting. For these clients, we offer a variety of bespoke solutions, such as automated dashboards that pull data from a number of data sources including Google Analytics. This enables cross-channel performance reporting to be delivered with actionable insights.

Consider what information you need and how frequently you need it in order to stay on top of what’s happening on your website.

Want to create your own measurement plan? Download our basic measurement and implementation plan template for free.

If you need support creating and implementing your own measurement plan, we can help. Fresh Egg offers a wide range of services around digital analytics, insight and measurement strategy.

Get in touch to find out more about how we can help you and your business start extracting valuable, actionable insight and get a step ahead of your competition.