The Long Hike Approach to Media Measurement


Summer is an ideal time for hiking , and I love the satisfaction I get from the journey and the accomplishment of reaching a far off destination. Maybe it’s the weather, but in consider ing core principles in media measurement this year, I keep coming back to the principles I follow when I set out for a hike. 

These four recommendations will serve you well whether you are deep in the woods, or deep in analytics: 

1) Be Prepared

When I have a long hike planned, I get prepared in advance. In addition to ensuring that I have plenty of water, I also pack food and emergency supplies, and map out the trails that I will take. Similarly, when planning a media campaign I make sure that we are set up to accurately track not only the results of the campaign, but also the behaviors that drive results. 

If you’ve developed a solid strategy for your campaign, you already know your goals. Make sure to translate your goals into the KPIs (key performance indicators) that you will use to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. In preparing for your campaigns, make sure external links have tracking parameters for your analytics package(s), and that all landing pages have tracking scripts implemented at a page level. Identify relevant calls to action, and implement tracking so you can follow the path that your users take. In Google Analytics event tracking is used for this, but most analytics packages have an equivalent tracking method. Individual campaigns will have additional tracking requirements, but these steps are a part of nearly every campaign. 

2) Take a Breath

While hiking, it is easy to get caught up in the momentum – but sometimes forgetting to take a break can slow you down in the long run. Likewise, a reactive stance to analytics can sometimes impair your progress towards reaching your goals. Analytics requires time to gather sufficient data for analysis. Depending on the aggressiveness and duration of a campaign it might take a day, a week, or even longer to gather enough data.

It will be tempting at times to react to a bad metric quickly, but keep in mind that making decisions with insufficient data can be just as bad as making decisions without data (and sometimes worse!) Whenever possible, hold off on making major changes to your campaigns until there is enough data to tell the full story. 

3) Look Around

It is important to keep an eye on the trail while hiking, but if you’re not watching the terrain around you it is easy to get lost. Metrics in and of themselves do not tell a story, it is important to segment analytics by publisher, creative variation, and landing page to look for differences between segments of users. Only by looking at the full picture can you determine the “why” behind the metrics to optimize your campaigns for better results.

Keep in mind that deeper segmentation will require more data to inform your decisions. For smaller campaigns it will require a higher level of creativity to define variations that allow for more segmentation without “drilling down” to smaller data. 

4) Focus on Your Destination

In preparing for your campaign you have already established your KPIs. Remember that many metrics will impact your KPIs, but sometimes the tactics required to achieve your goals may require negatively impacting other metrics. For example, if ROA (return on ad spend) is a KPI for your campaign, it will be impacted by the cost per visitor and conversion rate metrics. Improving your conversion rate may require targeting higher-cost media, thereby negatively impacting your cost per visitor. Always analyze metrics in relation to your KPIs to make sure you are heading in the right direction.