As the holiday season draws near, more clients and co-workers are taking some well-deserved breaks with friends and family. If you have some time to take a breath and look toward the future, you’ll want to use it to prepare your digital analytics practice for some of the inevitable changes looming next year.
1. Adopting Google Analytics 4
Back in October of 2020, Google launched the latest version of their much-relied-on analytics platform to mixed reviews. Do a quick search for “google analytics 4,” and you’ll find a “People Also Ask” section filled with things like:
- Is Google Analytics 4 better than Universal Analytics?
- Why does Google Analytics 4 suck?
- Why do I need GA4?
The digital marketing industry is notoriously change-averse, and we heard a lot of the same protests when Universal Analytics launched. While GA4 isn’t without its flaws, there are a lot of inherent advantages to using it, and a lot of early adopters are now gathering year-over-year data as I’m writing this.
We wrote a piece on how GA4 will improve your data collection earlier this year that you should revisit if you’re still on the fence about upgrading. At the very least, you should set up a GA4 property before Jan 1, 2022.
2. Embracing Server-Side Tag Management
Coupled with GA4, another technology announced in 2020 that businesses have been slow to adopt is server-side tag management. The venerable Simo Ahava wrote about it when it dropped in the middle of quarantine, explaining its advantages:
- It is better equipped to handle user privacy initiatives and to scrub accidental PII collected about the user before it’s sent to analytics platforms.
- It is better positioned to take weight off the browser and improve website performance.
- It is better situated to collect user behavior data without relying on increasingly fraught (and unpopular) first-party or third-party cookies.
Although we’ve gotten a reprieve from Google saying Chrome will continue to support third-party cookies for a while longer, server-side data collection will soon be the only reliable way to measure customer interaction with your website. Might as well get on board now before it’s an absolute necessity.
3. Collecting Micro Conversions
Back in October, we went into why measuring leading indicators to conversion is more important than you may think. Getting micro conversions chosen, set up, and gathering sufficient data before the new year is the perfect way to equip yourself to make better marketing decisions in 2022.
What do we mean when we’re talking about micro conversions? Things like:
- Navigation. Clicks on menu items and call-to-action buttons.
- Scrolling. What percentage of long-form content are people consuming?
- Downloads. Views of gated or ungated .pdf assets, for example.
- Video Views. Is your 60-second elevator pitch video landing with your audience?
- Subscribes. Building the house list could be the most important marketing activity you do.
- Outbound Clicks. How much traffic are you relaying to partners?
4. Actioning Closed-Loop Analytics
Earlier in the Spring, we talked about how closed-loop analytics was a vital component of measuring the efficacy of lead generation campaigns on social media ad buys. That’s still true, and not a lot of businesses are capitalizing on these types of CRM integrations.
If you’re looking to answer business questions like…
- Which upper-funnel marketing activities are driving downstream revenue?
- How much does it cost to generate a sales-qualified lead?
- How long does it take between the first user interaction with the website and the close of a sale?
…closed-loop analytics is the only effective way to answer those questions.
Stop the guesswork around these things and get some real data to bring back to your boss.
5. Building Dashboards
Here at Portent, our analytics team is in the middle of deciding what our new Google Data Studio template should look like. So if you’re already a client of ours, you’re covered on this point.
If you’re working in-house though, and want to design something amazing for your stakeholders, we put together a whole guide on building report templates that stand the test of time.
The process involves:
- Surveying your stakeholders.
- Centering reports on answering business questions (instead of just “data puking,” as Avinash Kaushik would say).
- Building reusable components instead of entire dashboards.
- Providing interesting context like industry benchmarks and goals.
- Delivering reports to users when and where they need them. (Some folks require a weekly email drop, others want something interactive to slice and dice.)
- Evolving your reports as you get more stakeholder feedback.
6. Creating Forecasts
If you haven’t already cemented your business goals and marketing budgets for next year, you’ll want to quickly forecast your primary KPIs using as much historical data as you have handy. This will yield a range of expectations for your leadership team to think about (and hopefully take action on). It will also help keep your marketing teams accountable throughout the calendar year.
In addition to the method we mentioned in that blog, lately we’ve been using a wonderful tool called Forecast Forge to automate parts of that process. Forecast Forge uses a forecasting model akin to Facebook’s Prophet algorithm, which is really good at handling seasonality in the past performance data.
Take Advantage of Analytics
Think of the next few weeks as a chance to get ahead before January plans start to get enabled and we’re all too busy to get data needs implemented. Don’t lose your opportunity to start off 2022 ahead of the curve!