As powerful as any marketing or analytics solution may be, the insights from that solution are only as good as the data on which those insights are built. And since that data is only as reliable as the technology that collects that data, being able to analyze and act on web analytics data depends on how well you govern the technologies on your site.
Too often companies take an attitude of “set it and forget it,” without realizing that frequent updates to a website can result in errors affecting underlying technology, which pollutes data and in turn cripples insights and decision-making.
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 web tech is continually functioning as expected.
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 validated.
What are tags?
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.
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 approach is foolproof. But as much as you want to trust digital tech, and even your own work, things don’t always go to plan. Websites are hardly set in stone, and frequent changes result in tags breaking, going missing, showing up twice, or showing up at the wrong time. When errors like these happen, it wreaks havoc on your ability to make decisions based on data.
Which is where tag auditing and tag validation come in.
What is tag auditing?
A tag audit is a routine scan of your website to verify that tags are firing when you expect them to, alerting you if ever something is amiss. If you regularly audit your website to test for potential errors related to the presence of tags (errors like missing or duplicate tags), you’ll have taken the first step towards ensuring your technologies are functioning as intended.
ObservePoint’s Audits feature is a perfect example of what a tag audit looks like:
But beyond just ensuring your tags are present, you also need to verify that the data captured by those tags is present and in the right format, which is where tag validation comes in.
Tag validation takes auditing one step further
While a tag audit verifies that tags are present, tag validation verifies that the individual data points collected by a tag are correct.
As an example, a web analytics tag might be configured to capture product IDs so that an analyst can tie web visitor behavior back to specific products. The process of how that product ID ends up in the hands of the analytics tag probably has multiple steps, each a potential point of failure that would result in a missing or inaccurate product ID.
Regardless of where along the way an error occurs, missing data will result in incomplete data in the analytics solution, inhibiting your ability to run actionable analysis. Tag validation addresses this issue by comparing what a tag collects against what you expect it to collect.
If you’re manually debugging your analytics tags, tag validation is as simple as checking the analytics network request to make sure a given data point matches your expectations. But if your tagging implementation is large enough to require you to automate tag auditing and validation, then tag validation would look similar to the process made possible by ObservePoint’s Technology Governance solution, specifically the Rules feature.
The fastest way to validate your tags and have confidence in your site
As mentioned, 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
The below video shows a short demo of ObservePoint in action. If you’d like to see how ObservePoint can help you audit and validate the tags on your own site, request a custom demo.