Tag Auditing for Beginners

August 28, 2019 Chris Baird

Have you ever collected data and wondered if the data was correct? 

Have you ever had a nagging suspicion it wasn’t? 

Data is everything in the world we live in, and in the world of business and marketing, it’s no different. But simply having data isn’t enough; only accurate data is useful. 

If you aren’t sure your data is accurate then you can’t trust it. And if you don’t trust the data you have, then what is it worth? So how do you make sure your data is correct? 

This is why tag auditing is important. It allows you to trust your data by making sure the data you have collected is accurate. 

What are tags?

The first step in answering this question is to explain what tags are. Tags are like automated detectives on a website figuring out what works and what doesn’t in order to better serve your site’s users. These little detectives tail your clients, noting their actions and behaviors before sending their findings back to the company. 

Each tag is localized to a specific page of the website, like different departments within a store. Imagine that within each department—women’s, men’s, gardening, food, etc.—one of these little detectives wanders around and notes the behavior of the customers who walk in and out. They mark what objects they look at, what items they put in their cart, how they move from one aisle to the next, etc. 

Afterwards, they report back to the store executives who analyze the data to understand what they could change or improve about their store to better serve their customers. This data analysis could help the teams understand that some items might be a waste of space on the shelves, as they are looked at but never picked up, or that rearranging the department layout could improve sales.

Websites work the same way. Tags are snippets of JavaScript implemented in the pages of a website that log the activity on the site. Basically, they report on how people use the site, what they view, what they click on, and how they react to various experiences. 

This information is crucial for any company hoping to improve their user experience and increase revenue. Tags help companies understand how to improve the layout of a website, what information and products to eliminate or test, and what aspects of the site they should emphasize or promote.

However, tags sometimes act less like a shrewd Sherlock Holmes and more like a dimwitted Inspector Clousseau. Imagine if the detectives in the department store didn’t show up for work or were falling asleep on the job, missing some customers entirely and marking others down twice. Their data would be useless. 

Unfortunately, tags often act the same way and are frequently duplicated, fall off a website entirely, or break and skew the data. This can lead, not only to faulty reports, but faulty business decisions, user frustration, and much lower revenue. So how do you avoid it?

Simple: tag auditing.

What is a tag audit?

Tag audits crawl your website looking for those tags that sluff or slack off while also informing you which tags are working correctly. In addition to evaluating tag functionality, tag audits let you know where tags are located and the type of data each one collects. The concept is simple, but its impact is paramount to ensuring you’re collecting accurate data to inform your business decisions.

So how do you perform an audit? Well, there are a couple ways: manually or through an automated platform like ObservePoint. 

Manually, you can audit about 40 tags an hour. So if you only have one tag per page of your website and only a few pages, then a manual audit might be fairly straightforward. However, most websites are much more complicated and can have multiple tags on every page and hundreds, or even hundreds of thousands, of web pages to crawl through. With ObservePoint’s platform, you can audit over 50,000 tags in an hour and get an analysis of how each tag is performing. 

However, this isn’t a one and done event. Just because a tag is working today doesn’t mean it will work after you update your site, push a new release, or make other changes to your site. Frequently, site changes will cause tags to fall off or break. In addition, during updates and modifications it’s easy for duplicate tags to be added to your site and corrupt the data. For this reason, performing regular audits is necessary to ensure your data’s integrity. 

You can perform these regular audits manually or you can automate the process— eliminating human error and freeing up valuable time and human resources to focus on more important projects. Either way, regular tag audits are essential to making sure your data is always accurate. 

How tag auditing helps HPE

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) discovered the importance of tag auditing when they implemented ObservePoint after HP split into HP Inc. and HPE. The results? The initial comprehensive audit reported:

  • 6% of URLs were missing Adobe Analytics tags
  • 7% of redirects on storage pages pointed to pages with 404 status codes
  • 12% of server requests produced “Page Not Found”
  • 10% of URLs had JavaScript errors

In addition to these issues, ObservePoint found two other more critical errors: one that led to HPE’s consulting agency mistakenly getting inflated hits for their paid search campaign any time someone visited a high-traffic storage page and a coding error on a tag causing their SEO traffic to show a 50% drop. 

Finding these errors manually would have taken their analytics team hours trying to scour the site for the cause of the problems. Their marketing team would have wasted hours trying to come up with ways to improve their SEO rankings, while thinking the paid search campaign was doing great. Not only would they have wasted time, but the skewed data could have negatively impacted user experience and led to poorly informed business decisions. 

Before implementing ObservePoint, HPE didn’t have a clear window to the analytics issues on their site. They had no way to easily see the problems that were causing their traffic to go down 50% or causing the paid search misallocation. After hours of cleaning the data and more hours of analysis, they may have found the issues, but through ObservePoint’s automated Web Audits, they had the tools they needed to clearly see and fix the problems quickly and easily. In addition, HPE saved themselves time and frustration while also quickly improving their user experience and their confidence in their data.

“ObservePoint’s tool saved us a lot of headaches and a lot of heartache,” said Daryl Acumen, Senior Manager of Digital Analytics.

(You can read more about how HPE uses ObservePoint in the case study). [Read more]

In short, automated tag audits allow companies to scan their website to ensure accurate data collection relating to user behavior which leads to better business decisions, happier customers, happier analysts, and increased revenue.

To see how ObservePoint can help you audit your website, schedule your demo today.

This article is part of our Tag Auditing & Governance Guide: 

Tag Governance Strategy

Tag Audtiting Training

Case Study

About the Author

Chris Baird

As Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Baird is responsible for providing strategic marketing direction for ObservePoint products, solutions, and services, and for presenting the ObservePoint brand worldwide. He previously held various marketing positions at Mrs. Fields Brands, Omniture, and Adobe.

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