What Is Tag Validation?

March 1, 2019 Clint Eagar

Sherlock Holmes once said, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”

I’ll do you one better and say, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has accurate data.”

So how do you go from data of unknown quality to accurate, reliable, risk-everything-’cause-I-trust-this data?

Enter tag validation.

Tag validation is a technology-enabled process of examining data collection on a website to make sure output data is accurate and your tag implementations reflect approved business requirements.

Not simple enough? I agree. But because tag validation is critical to ensure optimum data collection from your users, let’s unravel this concept one piece at a time, starting with the basics—what tags are and why they need to be audited. If you are familiar with tags and tag auditing, you can skip down to the first section title about how “Tag Validation takes auditing one step further.”

What are tags?

This is not the game that involves tapping someone and yelling, “YOU’RE IT!”, the tags on your clothes, or the airport code for the Tagbilaran Airport in the Philippines.

If you’ve heard of the words pixel, beacon, tracking bug, tracking pixel, clear gif (and the list goes on), then you have heard of the tags I am referring to.

A tag is a piece of JavaScript code you implement on your site to capture and transmit data, allowing you to discreetly track your viewers’ behaviors according to where they click, what they view, and other behaviors. When implementing a tag, you choose which information and paths you want to track and then you tag the item(s), triggering data collection whenever the user engages with that given element.

In theory, this is a foolproof plan. But as much as you want to trust digital software, technology, and even your own work, things don’t always go to plan. Tags can be broken, missing, or duplicated, which can wreak havoc on your ability to make decisions based on data.

This is where tag auditing and tag validation come in.

What is tag auditing?

Tag auditing is like a seatbelt that ensures your safety by preventing those possible broken, missing, or duplicate tags from disrupting your ability to track your viewers’ behaviors accurately.

Let me give you a few scenarios of how these tagging errors might occur (if you already understand how tagging errors can happen, feel free to skip down to “Tag Validation takes auditing one step further”).

Duplicate tags

Say your company uses Google Analytics to track its site. What you may not have realized is that Sally, your newly-highered analytics guru, has been implementing Google Analytics on a page that was already running Google Analytics. Jim and Pam, two employees on your development team, did the same thing a few weeks prior. This confusion among multiple stakeholders resulted in duplicate tags. That means recording double the amount of clicks on your checkout button, double the amount of clicks on your demo button, and so on. Now these duplicate tags are giving you misguided information about what is actually working well on your site.

See the problem?

Missing Tags

Another scenario could deal with missing tags. For instance, you just launched a new product feature, but something was coded improperly, and the tag that was supposed to be linked to your new feature button was missing. Weeks later you find out that the button wasn’t being tracked and now you don’t know how the product has performed.

Hopefully you are now seeing the impact auditing your tags can have on your business in the grand scheme of things. Tag auditing regularly checks for tag presence and sends alerts if something is wrong, keeping your data clean and protected.

So what’s the next step? Validating your tags to give your organization peace of mind and data you can trust.

Tag validation takes auditing one step further

Confidence—the first word that should come to mind when you think of validation, and the word that every business should hope for when it comes to data.  So, what is tag validation and how does it one-up tag auditing by bringing confidence that lasts?

Imagine you just had a baby. You and your spouse are in the delivery room. The nurse comes back to give you your little, baby girl. Now, without looking at the baby, you know one thing: you have a baby in your arms. You’re really not 100% sure that the baby in your arms is your child, but you do know that you are holding a baby. That’s tag auditing.

Now, to find out if this really is your baby, you need to actually look at it. You need to check the identification tag and the face of the child to make sure it’s the one you handed over to the nurse earlier. That’s how you know it’s your little girl. That is tag validation.

Tag validation is that stamp of approval that gives confidence in the numbers and the code being generated. It takes tag auditing one step further by not just checking if tags are present, but validating that the tags are collecting the right data.

The fastest way to validate your tags and have confidence in your site

There is a manual way of auditing and validating your tags, yes. However, doing this manually can be tedious, time consuming, and is prone to other kinds of human error. On the other hand, automated tag validation does the following:

  •  Minimizes the chance of human error in creating and managing tags by enforcing rule logic
  •  Ensures efficiency in your marketing efforts
  •  Optimizes user experience and is more pleasing for your potential customers
  •  Generates data that you can trust

So how does ObservePoint’s tag validation process work?

Validation is a key component in ObservePoint’s tag governance framework. The normal process of web analytics data collection goes something like this:

  1. A user navigates to a website that has tags waiting to be triggered.
  2. The user interacts with a tagged item (e.g. the cart button or a certain product) which then triggers the tag’s data collection.
  3. The tag’s JavaScript library sends out a network request to a server. That request contains data as a key-value pair (e.g. pagename=mywebsitehome)

ObservePoint can simulate the user activity of steps 1 and 2, and capture that network request in step 3. It then does the following:

  1. Looks at the structure of the data to determine what kind of tag it is—because tags are like snowflakes: each one is unique. This helps determine tag presence, a key aspect of tag auditing.
  2. Looks at the value of each key to see whether it’s an expected value. ObservePoint users can set up rules with values expected to be seen on a given page/group of pages, automatically validating that the data is collected correctly.

You can schedule an ObservePoint audit (equipped with validation rules) to validate your implementation on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. As an automated platform, ObservePoint optimizes your digital analytics implementations by validating your marketing tags. ObservePoint makes it easy for you to get it right. So all of that checking and rechecking your tags is taken care of, and automatically!

What are you waiting for? Start feeling confident in your data today by requesting a free ObservePoint demo.


About the Author

Clint Eagar

Clint gets things done. He has been building websites, marketing and optimizing them for 15 years. He claims to know a little bit about a lot of things and is relied on to execute anything quickly. Clint has been with ObservePoint since the early days and has helped support, test, and promote the product. Before coming to ObservePoint he was at OrangeSoda, running the enterprise SEO team, and before that he was a business consultant at Omniture.

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