If you have a small or niche website, then maintaining and monitoring the data layer can be done via spot-checking with a tag debugging tool, but if you have an enterprise-level website with complex functionality, then testing your data layer at scale requires more robust tools.
The Central Role of the Data Layer in Tag Management and Web Analytics
The data layer standardizes the data collection process for your digital property and gathers the information into a central location for distribution to your various analytics and marketing applications.
Like a mailbox from which all of your marketing solutions get their critical information, the data layer influences both the data you collect as well as when individual tags fire. Consequently, making sure your data layer and the scripts that manipulate your data layer are functioning as expected is critical to ensure the accuracy of your web analytics data.
Why Manual Spot-Checking Isn’t Enough
Using a manual method such as a tag debugging browser extension is best for spot checking that the data layer is present on a specific page, but monitoring the data layer for complex websites with comprehensive Martech stacks would be unrealistic.
For one, manual spot-checking is not automatically scheduled, so you would have to remember to do this important data governance task. In addition, you may simply have too many pages, tags, variables, and technologies to be able to test your data layer in a reasonable amount of time. Lastly, manual checking introduces yet another avenue for human error when automation could help alleviate this issue.
How to Conduct a Site-Wide Data Layer Audit
An automated solution like ObservePoint’s Technology Governance is the easiest way to keep an eye on your data layer, the key-value pairs, and the integrity of the variables and data within. You can set up audits to run automatically on a regular schedule, indicate how many pages you’d like scanned, and set up alerts to be notified if something in your data layer is broken. You can audit data layer values that are either triggered on page load or by an event. You can also set up rules to test your data layer against the structural standards you established in the beginning.
Here’s a video of how you can test your data layer. The first part of the video will show you how to use our TagDebugger and the second half of the video describes our automated solution. It should become quickly evident why the automated solution works better at scale.
Testing the Data Layer on Key Conversion Paths
Your key conversion paths in particular will be important to test regularly. A shopping cart or other revenue-generating conversion point will have critical data that you will want to make sure is being passed correctly and in the right format. Tags can be accidentally overwritten or deleted whenever changes are made to your site, especially if many teams are touching the code of important paths. Checking for tags, their triggers, and their values should be a regular part of your data layer audit.
Data Layer Testing as a Habit
Good business decisions are made on trustworthy data. Trustworthy data comes from having an established practice of data governance and maintenance. Your data layer, as the information hub for so many marketing and analytics technologies, deserves particular attention and care. It adds tremendous value to your analytics and marketing tech stack, but only if it’s functioning as expected. To see a data layer audit in action, ask for a sample audit or a live demo.