Have you ever been asked to justify your marketing spending? How about whether your marketing is actually working?
I will be amazed if you haven’t. All marketers need to justify their existence at some point; otherwise, we get labelled with derogatory pap like ‘the colouring in department’. Thank goodness for experts like Gabe Hughes, who joins me on Through the Line to explore attribution and, more generally, measuring marketing performance.
According to Gabe, we should all be able to assign value to our marketing. To do this, there’s a marketing measurement trifecta that includes:
- Digital attribution, with positional and data-driven models
- Econometrics, aka marketing mix modelling, and
- Incrementality or A/B testing
By using these models, marketers can get to grips with the marketing that works at a brand level and also sales performance, including which channels and campaigns are adding value.
Gabe is a true expert on marketing measurement, and, in his time at Google, he actually worked on creating the positional models we all take for granted, such as first-click, linear and last-click attribution. In the show, we cover everything from data being the new oil to the value of different types of attribution models and the pros and cons of GA4. I promise you there is value in this show if you are new to marketing measurement or just want to enhance your understanding of the options available for measuring marketing performance.
I hope you enjoy the show:
Connect with Gabe here:
Other Episodes of Through the Line you might enjoy:
Social Media Strategy with Claire Hoang
AI-Powered International Marketing with Kate Cox
Building Resilient Marketing Teams with Jo Twiselton
Prefer to Read? We Got You. Here’s the Full Transcript
Andy (00:00:00) – How do you like being labelled the colouring in department or the spending department? Not very much, I’m sure. And that’s why it’s really important as marketeers that we get used to and understand how we measure the value that we add to the businesses that we work for. That’s where Gabe Hughes comes in, a true expert in marketing measurement. Welcome to Through the Line, the Agency Squared podcast with me, Andy Barr. In this episode, Gabe joins me to explore everything there is to know about marketing attribution. Well, as much as you can fit into about 30 minutes in which we cover everything from last click to first click to data driven to incrementality testing, and even we touch upon the pros and cons of using the new Google Analytics four platform. If you want to know about marketing measurement, you’re in the right place. I hope you enjoy this show. Gabe, Good morning. Welcome to Through the Line.
Gabe (00:00:59) – Good morning, Andy. Pleased to be here.
Andy (00:01:01) – How are you doing today?
Gabe (00:01:03) – Yeah, I’m okay.
Gabe (00:01:03) – I’ve got my coffee ready to go.
Andy (00:01:07) – The day can’t start without a coffee, can it?
Gabe (00:01:09) – I’m not a morning person, so I need. I need coffee. Yeah.
Andy (00:01:14) – Good, good. But thanks ever so much for coming on to the show. I’m really excited to have you here because we’re going to be talking about performance measurement and ROI. And that’s one of those subjects that I think is always high up on the list of marketeers. How do I show ROI or what do I do to justify the fact that I’m trying to get this budget from my board or the directors or I’ve done this campaign? How do I really know whether it worked? Yes. And if I understand correctly, you’re pretty much the guy that wrote the book on attribution modeling while working at Google, and you’ve got a lot of expertise in attribution and measurement. And that’s what I’m hoping we can have a look at today.
Gabe (00:01:57) – Yeah, that’s right. I mean, it was a long time ago now, you know, the actual attribution modeling that you had in set, I’m using the past tense because course has changed now.
Gabe (00:02:09) – But all those positional models and model comparison tool, they were all patented in 2011 out of London, out of Google in London. And I had been working with a team of analysts and data scientists and engineers there on understanding the user journey to conversion and how could we best summarize and represent that. And also, you know, we identified the problem of of last click. And why that wasn’t really helping advertisers and why it wasn’t helping Google either. And so we we developed and patented the first attribution modeling. And those models are just about hanging on. But of course, we always knew the data driven was coming and we can we can talk about all of that. But yeah, I’ve been immersed in all of that. And before Google I was working for a research company and product development for it’s now part of Kantar and it was and measuring sort of brand performance of digital ads and things like that. So I’ve really been around the houses on measuring advertising and marketing performance and ROI.
Andy (00:03:11) – Excellent. Okay. And I think if we look specifically at attribution modeling, it’s interesting because it’s a good time for us to be having a conversation because the switch over to to Ga4 is just happened, I think it was last Saturday that Universal Analytics stopped collecting data.
Gabe (00:03:29) – Yeah, end of June and people would have seen this horrible sort of countdown on like one of those bombs in a sci fi movie that’s about to go off, you know, forcing you to switch over. Um, of course, the enterprise brands, the, you know, the guys are paying for what you call it now GA 360 Enterprise, the new form for enterprise. They do have another 12 months. So they’re they’ve woken up, they’re thinking about it. And actually, I think what’s happening is that the folks who are on the standard, the free edition, are, well, it’s unfortunate, but they’re kind of guinea pigs serving the, you know, the needs of those enterprise customers who will pick up later. Maybe that’s a bit unfair on Google. They are shipping quite a lot quite quickly And yeah, we approach with four.
Andy (00:04:22) – Yeah I didn’t know there was the two tiers there in terms of who’s who’s carrying on with the universal analytics data. So that’s quite interesting. They’re free edition users are definitely guinea pigs in that respect, aren’t they?
Gabe (00:04:34) – Yeah, that’s right.
Gabe (00:04:36) – I mean, you know, your enterprise customers just they need a bit more time. But also I guess they expect not to be pushed into making a particular decision. Sometimes with these Google releases, they get delayed as well. So it’s possible that will get it’ll get delayed again. But G4 is definitely, you know, the way forward. We can talk about that. There’s a lot there’s a lot to say about.
Andy (00:04:57) – Yeah let’s let’s get on to that. I’d really like to just explore and unpack a little bit the basics of performance measurement for, for marketeers in attributions, one part of it and an important part and I think I do a lot of teaching of SIM qualifications and marketing apprenticeships. And whenever we get to the conversation around attribution modeling, generally speaking, there’s a bit of a blank look on the face of the person looking at me in that either they haven’t come across it or they’ve heard all the different terms, You know, first click, last click, et cetera, but don’t really understand it and definitely aren’t using it.
Andy (00:05:30) – So I think it’d be quite useful just to, I guess, have a 101 on attribute and then to have a look at other ways in which marketers can measure performance.
Gabe (00:05:42) – Yeah, I used to do this kind of gag when I was presenting on on attribution at Google and also elsewhere. You know, I would stand up and I would say, hands up, if you’re doing attribution and, you know, only 2 or 3 people would put their hands up more these days, of course. And then it was a trick question, of course, because you’re all doing attribution. If you’re not doing attribution, then what you’re saying is, I haven’t thought about the particular methodology of attribution modeling and multi-touch. But what, you know, at its most basic form, forget about all of that path analysis. Just think about assigning value to your marketing and saying, this is what my marketing is worth. And you know, even if you’re even on just one channel, you will have different kinds of campaigns. There will be multiple interactions and most, of course, most digital marketers in particular are across now social email affiliate.
Gabe (00:06:42) – As well as search and organic search and all the different categories of search and PPC shopping and all of those things and video and you know, and there’s more. So they have to think about how do these things work together? How do they interact with one another, What is that path to sale and what is each touchpoint worth is kind of implicitly a question, even if you don’t have a methodology for disentangling that and working out what it is, it’s, you know, as you spend money and you make judgments about what’s working and what’s not working, you’re implicitly attributing value to that marketing.
Andy (00:07:15) – Yes.
Gabe (00:07:17) – And last click, you know, is an attribution model. It’s just the default that was always there from the start and will not die. By the way, it’s one of the things that does survive in fall.
Andy (00:07:27) – I really okay, I think it’s probably the easiest one to understand, even though obviously it has challenges.
Gabe (00:07:33) – Yeah, it’s easier to understand and actually it’s the easiest to technically measure as well because it’s, you know, close in proximity and time to the actual conversion.
Gabe (00:07:42) – So it’s the one that’s least likely to lose data in the process. But the one of the ways to to get into the particular methodology of attribution and as I’m suggesting, I like to think in terms of more broadly, how do we measure marketing, of which attribution is just a method. And there are other methods out there that you should consider. But you know, to think about just the multi-touch bit, if you start off by explaining why last click is and I hesitate to say wrong, but why it’s a problematic way of measuring your marketing, that’s quite a good way into it. So the explanation there is, look, you know, you’re trying to measure what is essentially a psychological process that’s going on where marketers are trying to influence people to to buy their product. So there’s a process of, you know, brand awareness, research and consideration. The old the old concept of a funnel. Yeah. Sort of necessary stages that people have to go through before they actually buy something, right? They can’t they’re not going to consider your brand if they’re not aware of it and they’re not going to buy your brand if they haven’t first considered it.
Gabe (00:08:46) – And sometimes these days that happens very quickly, but nonetheless, they go through that process. So what happens in that process is they start from a position of not knowing whether they’re going to buy from you or not, maybe not even being aware of you, and they end up with actually a decision to purchase. So at some point during that journey, they make up their minds, right, about what they’re going to do. Well, with last click, you are guaranteeing that you will catch them at the latest possible moment where they’re most likely to have already made up their mind. And if marketing does anything at all, it should be influencing people before they’ve made up their mind. Absolutely. They made up their minds. So that’s why is to say last click is just too late in the process. Even if you’re a really hardcore performance marketer, last click is just capturing with very few exceptions, People don’t just jump in and buy something without any kind of from a cold start to just buying it completely happen.
Gabe (00:09:43) – But it’s pretty rare.
Andy (00:09:44) – Yeah, completely. And I think in in the way in which we buy things these days, we spend a lot more time doing research before we even get close to contacting a brand, I think. So that the last click, as you say, is is too late almost.
Gabe (00:09:59) – Yeah, we’re researching it. Or if it’s an emotional purchase, you know, it’s something that we’ve become excited about because I don’t know, we’ve seen a an ad on one of the socials for it and we picked it up. Maybe someone’s talked about it. You know, we have an affinity with it. So even for the sort of non rational, emotional or brand driven purchases, there is this warming up that happens. That is the job of brand advertising, you know, which is which is inherently problematic to measure. But again, these are touch points and influences that happened much earlier in the process prior to the actual last moment of purchase, which last click captures.
Andy (00:10:33) – Okay. So if we agree that last click is is interesting but not transformational because it’s a little bit too late in the buying journey for us to really be too concerned, what are the measures or the attribution models that consider earlier on in that sales process?
Gabe (00:10:50) – Okay.
Gabe (00:10:51) – So just as I say, sticking sticking with just the attribution piece, which isn’t the whole story here. So we’re talking now with attribution and with what’s happened to cookies. We are just talking about a series of clicks. So we’re just leaving out influences of, you know, impression based exposure essentially, which you have to measure in different ways. And, you know, with messaging in my company, we have approaches to that. Sticking with the clicks, you know, when it came to the positional models, we started off recommending that people just compare different attribution models. So the first touch, for example, is a really interesting touchpoint for the new customer acquisition. In other words, this is the first time that anyone interacts with you, the first time they visit your site or your app or what have you. That first touch, if you can measure that, even if they don’t buy, if they then come back later and purchase something, we’d have to agree that that first engagement is first impressions count.
Gabe (00:11:52) – Right? So yeah, that that’s an interesting one. It’s completely the opposite end of the funnel. And actually what you used to find with the additional models is if you then did things like linear attribution, which shares all the credit equally or other positional models, they would generally find a value that was somewhere between the first and the last. Because what happens right, is take a simple search example. People do generic searches, right? They search for your category, right and right. So they’re searching for, I don’t know, shoes. And then they decide that they really like shoes from the brand shoe. I’m mentioning them because they’re a client of ours and so they end up buying a pair of shoes with shoe. And, you know, they’ve gone through that process. So that first touch may not be on a shoe ad, It may be or it may just be a generic search that is on a shoe ad, but then comes in to see shoe and they just okay, they discovered it, but then they go and research alternatives.
Gabe (00:12:54) – And then the last one is more likely to be a brand search, which you actually type in the brand name, and then they purchase something. And so what would happen is in last click, obviously the brand search looks like it’s really performing really well. The generic search looks really expensive, but when you start to flip it and look at the other end of the funnel that first touch, you realize that actually there’s credit there that is owed, as it were, to this generic search. That’s a very sort of tedious search example. But once you then expand it to other things, you know, and there are common patterns that come up, right? So you often find that affiliates often do very well on last click, for example. But then, you know, people aren’t using those affiliates necessarily early on, right? They’re again, they’re using search or they’re being influenced by social or something like that. And then the affiliates are there to close to close the deal as they don’t know from money off out.
Gabe (00:13:46) – That’s right.
Andy (00:13:46) – It would make sense. Yeah.
Gabe (00:13:48) – Yeah. Do they really deserve the credit then is the next. Are they really offering incremental value if people are just swooping in at the last minute to find a voucher code, for example? Yes.
Andy (00:13:58) – Yeah, that’s really interesting to think of it that way. And you know, with that last click and the affiliates you’re mentioning there totally disregards all the investment market is making brand I suppose doesn’t it? And all those other Yeah.
Gabe (00:14:12) – All the work to get them interested And then the affiliates swooped in at the last minute and says you know that’s mine takes that commission. I’m not saying that affiliates aren’t good value. And obviously the thing about affiliates is there’s a huge range of different affiliates. So we sometimes find that actually a good content affiliate, for example, can sometimes be quite upper funnel where you’re reading research and reviews. Sometimes that is the first touchpoint. So they’re not all the same. It’s a very broad category. And that takes me to another point about, you know, attribution like this.
Gabe (00:14:41) – I mean, here we are talking about channel attribution, oh, generic search brand search affiliate. But the other thing that happens is once you disentangled, as it were, the sequence of channel interactions that is happening. The other thing you do is you unpack those channels and you look within them and you say, So which specific search campaigns or keywords are involved or which specific affiliates and so on. And within each category, the the methodology just to come back to ROI and measurement is really about moving very simply, moving money into activities that work and away from activities that don’t work. And what attribution is saying is, well, what works then? What is working? How does it work? That’s that’s what it’s asking.
Andy (00:15:25) – And that makes sense. And presumably once you’ve done that analysis, you’ve got some sense as to what is working. You shift some budget over there, then you can test and refine and move things around based on what’s working at the time. So it’s not a kind of one off snapshot.
Andy (00:15:38) – Here’s the result. It’s an ongoing test and learning process. Imagine.
Gabe (00:15:42) – Yeah, I mean, you know, you need that test and learn. I mean, I guess, you know, there is a decision that is generally made about for reporting purposes for for having that conversation with the, you know, the CFO or whatever the rest of the team or to pass on to your agency. Okay. What is our attribution approach that we’re using? You don’t want it to be this sort of technical discussion that just some measurement geeks in the corner talk about. You want to kind of decide what your true North is, what your KPI is, figure out how you’re going to measure it, and then, you know, use that. And in the background, those geeks can worry about whether or not that model is correct. They can validate it. They can worry about different types of tests and measurement, and you can refine as you go, but you can’t get too bogged down, obviously, in the complexity of it because you’ve got a job to do.
Gabe (00:16:28) – You’ve got you’ve got products to sell. But in the end, what you’re you know, the reason why I think there’s still something which is keeps people awake at night is because especially right now, people are struggling. Right? I mean, what’s happening is costs certainly in the big channels, certainly in search, they’re rising faster than inflation. So marketing budgets are being squeezed. ROI is necessarily under pressure. So people are desperate to get control of that ROI and, you know, get a realistic sense of where that ROI is going. And they’re having to work really hard to stand still. And they know those conversations with the CFO, they’ve got to justify that budget. And so they need some measurement that they can really rely on and to explain why, you know, and how this sort of complex multichannel marketing activity works, that makes sense.
Andy (00:17:22) – And if we’re thinking about measurement, I suppose more broadly outside of attribution or position or models, as you’ve called them a few times, you know, what are the ways can we use to understand what’s working and what isn’t working, I suppose?
Gabe (00:17:35) – Yeah.
Gabe (00:17:36) – So just in a last word on attribution. So you get off the positional models and then you’re talking about data driven. So, you know, for a long time it’s been okay. So isn’t there a clever way of assigning credit that is just correct. And so and then and then, you know, then you have data driven. Now there are different flavors of data driven. Not all data driven models are the same. So in a sense, it’s still a hall of mirrors. We actually use custom predictive models because we think they’re the most accurate. So, you know, we use our clients data to predict the sale and then we use that to assign credit. Um, and you can then measure the objective accuracy in a sort of AI approach. Okay. Google has its own baked in, so there’s data driven attribution and then stepping aside from just the, you know, that multi-touch piece, okay, you’ve got to think about the impressions now. So we don’t have these cookies anymore. You can’t factor in, you know, these, right.
Gabe (00:18:32) – Social views and videos and so on. So what do you do about those? It will massively undervalue your social. If you want to experiment with social and you put it through your attribution pipeline, you’re going to get a few clicks. It’s going to look poor and you’re not going to be able to justify that increase investments. How do you justify that? And the answer is. You need a way to measure that impression value. And there are different approaches to this. And they have in common, you know, with a broader problem of how do I measure branding and how do I measure above the line? What if I’m doing, you know, what if I’m doing good old TV or radio, you know, what do I do about the high Street? If I’m a large brand who has a physical high street presence, and how do I think about the interaction between offline and online? And so increasingly, people are turning to market mix modeling, which is sort of made a bit of a comeback.
Gabe (00:19:23) – And, you know, it’s another methodology predates attribution modeling as such, econometric modeling. It’s also known as and this is a methodology that well, it statistically I mean, it goes back to sort of, I don’t know, 50 or 60 or something like that. It really took off in the sort of 80s and 90s because you needed computers to do it. And it’s a very statistical approach. And we’re actually, you know, doing this as well. Now, a number of brands do it to measure really long term trends and the relationship between marketing and those trends. It’s a very, very different approach, if you like. You know, attribution is really close up and tactical and granular and looks at every touchpoint the market makes. Modeling is like a bird’s eye view. It looks at the whole picture. Okay, yeah.
Andy (00:20:14) – That’s interesting. Perhaps you can use the both in tandem. You’ve got. Sorry. Go on.
Gabe (00:20:19) – Well, there was one more. Sometimes people pick up a triangle. The other one you have to mention is of course incrementality testing and AB testing sort of control experiments.
Gabe (00:20:26) – So there’s this sort of, you know, triumvirate, if that’s the right word, you know, think of it as a triangle. The three points on it, there’s, you know, there’s attribution, there’s and there’s incrementality testing.
Andy (00:20:37) – Got you. What are the kind of. Challenges that marketeers come across when they think about how do we start to get a closer view as to what is working in our marketing?
Gabe (00:20:53) – Well, I mean, the basic problem is you’re trying to sort of fix the house and live in it at the same time, isn’t it? So usually it’s kind of like at the point where they critically need the measurement. They haven’t got time to organize the measurement. They’re like, well, oh, we’ve got a decision next week to make about how many millions we should spend on on paid search, you know, whether we’re going to switch our agency or whether we’re going to throw a load of money experimentally at Tick Tock or something. And they’ve not tried it before and they they then need the evidence, but they don’t have the evidence.
Gabe (00:21:30) – And and then if they are then investing in measurement, um, they’ve got the problem of trying to do the measurement while they’re also doing the marketing. So this is why I mean the reason why, you know, AB testing and incrementality testing isn’t more widely used. It’s widely held to be the gold standard, but you’re talking about turning activity off in order to measure it. So here you are, you’ve got big plans to take over the world. You’ve got sales targets to meet, you’ve got marketing budget to spend. You’ve got lots of complex agencies and technology to work with, and suddenly you’re having to basically mess with your campaign activity and not run certain activity in certain locations and wait for complex measurement to validate later on whether it’s worked or not. And so, you know, it’s small wonder that people just go, oh.
Andy (00:22:17) – Let’s just carry.
Gabe (00:22:18) – On, don’t actually bother. I mean, it’s hard to do is I suppose, the short answer and it takes time to set up in advance and marketers are under short term pressure to perform.
Andy (00:22:29) – Yeah there’s there’s always that challenge isn’t there with marketeers is we have kind of we’re trying to achieve things that take, you know 5 to 10 years to do. But we only give ourselves a kind of 1 to 2 year timeline to do it before we think about moving on to a new role somewhere else or changing brands. And, and that I think creates difficulties in all sorts of areas, not least measurement.
Gabe (00:22:50) – Yeah, there’s a there’s a pressure to get results and that is just normal. It’s just the nature of the business. A lot of money at stake. It’s the largest, you know, budget discretionary sort of a lot of companies, you know, their biggest suppliers are like Google and Meta, right? So so people are spending a lot of money. So there’s a lot of scrutiny there and there’s a demand to get results. So it’s this irony that, you know, the best way to sort of get results and optimize that budget is to measure it very carefully and optimize. But at the same time, you know, you just need results.
Gabe (00:23:22) – So the temptation is to throw money and hope some of it sticks, really. So and also just to do whatever you did last year. So changing course and changing tactics is always riskier than just going, well, you know, we did all right. Our ROI might be slowly declining, but, you know, we we can just hang on in there and keep spending money in the way we always have done. And, you know, it should be okay.
Andy (00:23:46) – Yeah, It’s a brave marketer that, you know, really takes it. It goes off at a tangent or takes a big decision to let’s just switch off for a minute, start to build a measurement program so we can assess what works rather than just, well, we’ve always done it this way. Let’s carry on doing it.
Gabe (00:23:59) – Yeah. Know exactly. Exactly. And and then who do you, who do you trust to do that measurement is the other one then. So if you haven’t got the teams in-house then it’s just extra budget to bring in someone like Metta Genie, for example, for independent view.
Gabe (00:24:12) – And so you’ll end up giving it to your agency to figure out or you’ll rely on, you know, out of the box tools like Google Tools and stuff like that. And Yeah. And can you trust them? I mean, you know, the problem is, of course, these these guys are potentially marketing their own homework and they tend to be quite siloed on what they’re doing. Yeah, but you can see why people default to that.
Andy (00:24:37) – Yes. Yeah. It’s the, it’s the, the easiest route to an answer. Whether it’s the right answer or not I suppose is a different question isn’t it.
Gabe (00:24:46) – Well this is it. And actually surprisingly large number of people are just content with an answer. As long as they’re making that target, you know, why rock the boat by messing around with measurement in. On the other hand, you know, you do get success stories. And what happens is people go, okay, we’re going to take a you know, we’re going to take a risk with a new strategy here.
Gabe (00:25:07) – We’re going to move forward. We’re going to measure it as well. It is a way, I think if you are trying something new to provide a bit of insurance, a bit of a fallback, because you can say, look, guys, we’re going to test this after eight weeks. We’re going to review where we’ve got to. If it looks like a disaster, we’ll switch it off. But if it doesn’t, we’ll keep going. And if you bake that measurement into a big strategic movement there, it can become a way for you to actually course correct and and provide a rational basis In the worst case scenario, if it doesn’t work out, you can say, look, you know, we did, we did we did this properly, you know, and you’re not you’re not wasting money because you’re doing it in a sort of methodical, rational way you’ve got control over. Yeah.
Andy (00:25:54) – Yeah. And of course you’ve, you’ve measured some things. So now that, you know, if it didn’t work well, we can go back to where we were.
Andy (00:26:00) – And we’ve tried that route out. We’ve tested something else out to see if it might move the needle and it hasn’t. So we can go back.
Gabe (00:26:07) – Yeah. And you know what with measurement in general, and this isn’t just in marketing, it’s very rare that you get this sort of black and white result of like, Oh, it did or it didn’t work. You know, every cloud has a silver lining, I like to say. So if you look at going back to attribution, if you look at a given channel and you say, Oh, this channel really doesn’t have good ROI, maybe we should cut back. Actually, if you lift the lid on that, what you’ll find is that there are a few campaigns that are actually doing quite well and typically the channel is being dragged down by wasted money on on certain activities. And so actually, you know, this learning is invaluable. And so organizations that get it right get into a test and learn and it becomes part of, um, actually digital transformation to be more data driven.
Gabe (00:26:51) – And we live in a world where data is the new oil, you know, leverage your customer data, leverage your marketing data test and learn and you’re not going to develop a culture that does that successfully by just ignoring the problem. It is a process. So as you start to do it, you’ll make some mistakes, but you’ll learn things and, you know, in the end it becomes a very powerful way of advocating for for your marketing budget. Yeah. And showing that you actually do have control over, over your ROI.
Andy (00:27:23) – Yeah, totally get that. I think, you know, there’s this over the last, what, ten, 15 years we’ve been awash with extra data from all sorts of digital sources as marketeers, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got any better or more effective at marketing because we haven’t necessarily known what to do with that data. And this is where I think someone like you gave can come in and say, Well, this is what that actually means for you. This is what you the changes you need to make as a result of the information that you’re collecting.
Gabe (00:27:50) – Yeah, totally. And that sort of the crucial thing is and again, this goes for any measurement, not just marketing, is it’s no good if you’re not making decisions based on it. Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s no good if you’re not taking action. So it’s really important to do that, make that leap from, you know, data and analysis to insight and actual recommendations. Yes. Um.
Andy (00:28:14) – Yeah. So if we were to say, you know, if you’re thinking about getting out started with attribution or marketing measurement, you know, plan for the sort of medium to short term and, you know, just get started with some data collection, some simple tests and see what’s working and start to learn and realize that this isn’t an overnight fix. It’s something that takes, you know, 12 months, 24 months or longer to actually start to get some models that you can strategize based on.
Gabe (00:28:43) – Yeah, I think it’s really good advice to not let perfect be the enemy of good to actually just, you know, it’s a kind of user or lose it that’s like your data capability is like a muscle.
Gabe (00:28:54) – You know you need to start using it for it to get stronger and stronger and stronger. So absolutely start somewhere, do something and get involved with Ga4, which which you mentioned earlier, just just, you know, conscious at the time as well.
Andy (00:29:08) – And we really want to talk about Ga4. Yeah, go on.
Gabe (00:29:11) – Well, I mean, it’s interesting because it took us a while to figure this out. But yeah, as I said, you know, really it you’re either looking at or last can actually a lot of the revenue and sales that are reported now in Ga4 it’s it’s defaulting to this Google data driven attribution which we think is better than last click but there’s real question marks over it. There’s a lot of distrust right. Google marking their own homework, as I said. Yeah. Also exactly what’s included, how many touchpoints we think it’s for. We think we look at four touchpoints Google Channel definitions, which aren’t necessarily the ones you would use, and there’s no measure of how accurate it is, but at least it’s not last click where you are relying on Google to tell you what Google is worth.
Gabe (00:29:56) – And that’s combined with changes in in Google’s ad platforms where, you know, now if you if you if you put money into something, you’re not even quite sure what you’re buying. Right? You’re buying a cross search and display all at once. There’s multiple bid modifiers. It’s not clear exactly what you’re buying and you just put more money in and hope to get more, you know, more value out. So so I think it will lead to more people wanting independent measurement and actually something that’s also changed with people on Ga4 standard. Now it’s it’s also including BigQuery, which I don’t know if you know, is the name for the raw data that sits underneath Google Analytics.
Andy (00:30:37) – I didn’t know that. Okay.
Gabe (00:30:38) – Only yeah, it used to only be available to people who are on you know the paid for GA 360 version. They were the only people who would get BigQuery, whereas now everybody gets it up to certain volume limits that are quite generous. So people can actually go into that raw data and try to analyze it themselves.
Gabe (00:30:57) – Now good luck with that because it’s, you know, very, very complicated and so on. And you’ll never figure out how DDR is calculated.
Andy (00:31:04) – I’m not going to begin to think about that game. That’s.
Gabe (00:31:07) – Yeah, but, but what I mean is the data is now available to you. So it is, it is a moment where people can, if they find a way to take more control, whether it’s buying third party tools or whether, you know, bringing in agencies to help them or hiring their own analysts, Increasingly, marketers are being asked to be analysts. And one of the big shifts around Ga4, to be honest, is it’s much more of an analysts tool and a marketing tool, relatively speaking, is a lot more of a requirement for you as the, you know, user to basically analyze your own data.
Andy (00:31:42) – Yeah, that’s interesting. So almost for the average marketeer, ga4, albeit more powerful, is more difficult to get the extract the insights you need to make decisions. So you need an expert in this space to help you interpret it, perhaps.
Gabe (00:31:56) – I mean, it needs, at the very least, you probably need someone to help you set it up. You need a bit of thought into setting the thing up. There’s less reports that are out of the box. Yeah, there’s this sort of report builder thing called Explore, which is a bit like Tableau or something. If you’re not used to Tableau, then you want to find someone who is used to it and really just go, okay, what are we you know, what are we saying here? What are we reporting on here? But sooner or later, you know you’re going to hit these problems I was talking about. Okay. But we’re not valuing whatever it is. You know, sometimes it’s call center sales or sometimes it’s the fact that your website generates leads that are then actually resolved on the telephone if you’re a travel agent. Yeah, Yeah. Or, or the impressions and that whole business about beer. But what’s the value of social? So sooner or later you’re going to realize that it’s just not enough to look at these reports for is actually going to accelerate that because it’s sort of no longer just giving you the answer.
Gabe (00:32:49) – It’s much more. Figure, you know, than it was before.
Andy (00:32:54) – That’s interesting. I think for the average marketeer, that’s going to be an issue unless they’ve got it set up by an expert or they’re able to see, you know, reports and dashboards that they can easily digest.
Gabe (00:33:06) – I mean, I guess, you know, look, it’s already had quite a lot of changes made to it. And there’s like a template library of explore reports you can pull. So I think what will happen as well is a lot of self-help material will appear online already has to a certain extent. Yeah. So if you are, you know, a very small organization struggling, you don’t have the resources, you know, you can’t afford to support or whatever, you can still use this. It’s just a bit of a learning curve. And you know, people are complaining about J4 because you know what? It’s different. And the one thing to say about J4, by the way, is it had to happen.
Gabe (00:33:37) – I mean, they really did need to, you know, sprinkling the whole thing they bought in this a new event based approach, which is the right approach. But it did have to happen. But you know, people don’t like change and it does require just a bit more effort in that setup phase. Yeah, I completely agree.
Andy (00:33:53) – Everyone is afraid of change just on that term event based approach. How is that different to what we had before with Universal Analytics?
Gabe (00:34:03) – Well before there was much more emphasis on page views and sessions, and essentially there were events, but there were different kinds of metrics that sort of ran it. So now everything can be brought back to an event, and an event is, you know, in the back in the day, right? You would literally go from one web page to another. And so but now when you’ve got sort of dynamic Web pages, which have now been around for years, and of course you’ve got, you know, most usage is now mobile, which is much better integrated into Ga4, by the way.
Gabe (00:34:39) – So the idea that of scrolling or clicking or searching and all those individual actions that you take are much more front and central and then you can still work them back to things like users and sessions and page views. So, you know, you can have a page view event or a session start event, for example. Yeah. And the other thing they’ve done that’s quite nice is remember the bounce rate, you know about bounce rate.
Andy (00:35:01) – Yeah, absolutely.
Gabe (00:35:02) – It’s still there, but it’s actually more or less been deprecated for the main reports. And instead there’s a sort of inverse metric which is engagement. So the main measure of users, for example, is active users and these are users to effectively haven’t bounced. So engagement is bouncing, is coming to the site, not doing anything if you like. Yeah, that’s not the technical definition. Engagement is coming to the site and doing something. So it’s a much more positive measure to go, Oh, someone comes and they interact with this site at all. And that’s something we want to encourage and we should be focusing our attention on the active users and not the people who are just leaving.
Gabe (00:35:41) – And so instead of decreasing bounces, you’re now increasing engagement. It’s the same thing, but it’s framed in a positive way.
Andy (00:35:46) – Yeah, I like that. And in actual fact, most marketeers at some point we’ll say an objective is more engagement. So it kind of fits within our vocabulary very nicely.
Gabe (00:35:57) – So it’s the missing metric? Yeah, go on.
Andy (00:35:59) – Do you think then that this move to go forward? Because as you said, there’s been a lot of negativity around it, but do you think overall it’s a positive thing? It had to happen. It’s a useful thing for the industry to have moved on a bit.
Gabe (00:36:13) – I think it’s really it’s really hard to say. I think there’s so many things that have changed. Um, I think that Google could have done a bit more work on creating, you know, just familiar looking out of the box reports that, I mean, there’s things like, I’m sure they’ll fix this, but if you look at total sessions by channel, there’s no there’s no total you know on on that report like some of the basic functionality is just sort of missing all the work seems to have gone into this explore report builder and and that as I say requires you to sort of do a bit of a DIY on it, but it’s already changing quite rapidly and their approach is launch and iterate.
Gabe (00:36:53) – And you’ve got to remember that, you know, Geo Universal Analytics was built on top of all the previous versions of going all the way back to their purchase of Urchin, which was already a good product in 2005.
Andy (00:37:04) – So gosh, is that that was.
Gabe (00:37:06) – They thrown out everything and started again. So at some point they had to do that. Yes. And in that sense, it’s a good thing. I just feel for the small business owners who are so dependent on gate now having to cope with it.
Andy (00:37:19) – Yeah. And somebody I know, an old friend, I suppose our old colleague, he launched a company called Plausible Analytics as an alternative to Ga4. And actually the the Ga4 move has enabled him to ride away and grow his business extraordinarily quickly with, oh, it’s.
Gabe (00:37:34) – A huge opportunity for guys like that. It’s a huge opportunity. I mean, it’s opportunity for us as well. You know, now that you’re forced to use DDA, people are saying, Well, hold on a minute, what is my attribution model? What does it even mean? How does it work? Yeah.
Gabe (00:37:46) – And we’re saying, well, you know, you can have your attribution model how you want it, you can you can do it all custom. You can have objective measures of accuracy and we can help you do that. And we can also help you understand what it means and recommendations and all the rest of it. So it’s a big opportunity for anyone who works in measurement actually. So I don’t know whether or not you’re going to see people walking away. Um, potentially, you know, potentially there will be a bit of a bit of a haemorrhage in the end. I think most people will grudgingly accept it. They’ll ship a few improvements. There’ll be a library of there’ll be a community of support and some templates and everyone will stop grumbling about it. So, you know, let’s see where we are in a year, A year or so. Yeah. Folks have been forced.
Andy (00:38:27) – Forced over. Yeah, no doubt. And I think all marketeers need to remember that, you know, it’s a free product.
Andy (00:38:33) – Right, Exactly. You have to go with what changes are given to you. And when you’re not actually able to influence through paying license fees, for example.
Gabe (00:38:41) – It’s pretty amazing. And actually, you know, you think we all know that Google Search and YouTube are huge, but I can’t remember exactly where I heard this. But, you know, Google Analytics is one of the biggest, if not the biggest hit on Google servers like every website in the world is running. Even those that are running paid for alternative analytics version are usually running, um, standard as well as a sort of free check up amount of hits that Google gets off of. Google Analytics is astonishing and then we are indeed providing this for free. And there we are all grumbling about the fact that we’re getting this incredible state of the art analytics provided to us for free. It’s just like, that’s what we are now.
Andy (00:39:19) – How dare they provide us this amazing service? Exactly.
Gabe (00:39:22) – Yeah.
Andy (00:39:23) – Gabe I think, could carry on talking to you and learning from you for the next couple of hours, but the show length is normally about half an hour and we’re well over that.
Andy (00:39:30) – So I think we need to bring it to a close. But I would love to get your take on are there any kind of resources, books, podcasts, things that you read or listen to that you think that marketeers that want to raise their game in measurement need to look at.
Gabe (00:39:46) – Oh, gosh, you put me on the spot there. Um, wow. Well, we publish quite a lot on our website, so Metagenome and ETG and Icom, we have an insights page where I’ve written quite a lot of things and put out videos and things like that. So you’re welcome to go there. I really think it’s I mean, there’s so much that that’s in terms of free resources that are out there. Some of the larger companies, they have published quite good frameworks this this framework that I’ve talked about. So actually Meta and Google talk about the importance of combining attribution, econometrics and measurement. There’s some serious thinking that goes into that podcast. I don’t know. I mean, for the love of marketing is one that I recently participated in.
Gabe (00:40:28) – I quite like Excellent, but through the line is the one you really want.
Andy (00:40:33) – Do you know what, Gabe? I’ve asked that question so many times and nobody ever says that.
Gabe (00:40:39) – That’s the one you want.
Gabe (00:40:41) – Yeah I like, I like, um, more or less the radio for, you know, I’m quite interested in general data driven decision making and thinking about that sort of stuff. So I like, you know, getting away from marketing. I like that kind of stuff.
Andy (00:40:56) – Excellent, excellent. Gabe, I think at some point I’ll have to get you back to talk more about econometrics and marketing, mixed modelling, because I think that we barely even scratched the surface of that. And it’s such a big subject, isn’t it? But we’re definitely out of time for today. So, thanks ever so much again for coming on the show. I’ve really. The conversation. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m sure everyone that listens to this will do so. I appreciate you sharing that value.
Gabe (00:41:19) – My pleasure.
Gabe (00:41:20) – Thank you, Andy. It’s been fun.
Andy (00:41:21) – Excellent. And see you again soon, hopefully.
Gabe (00:41:24) – Cheerio.