Why Tags Go ‘Rogue’ and How to Tame Them

boxheadLet’s face it, technology isn’t perfect. After all, behind the million lines of code, server racks and bright monitors, are people – issues can and will arise. Luckily, having a tag management solution (TMS) in place can mean the difference between a catastrophic website outage and business continuity. Today, digital marketing solutions are critical to the success of most businesses in acquiring, converting and retaining customers. Furthermore, without properly functioning marketing tags (also known as tracking pixels / beacons or JavaScript snippets), your marketing solutions wouldn’t even be able to operate. Making sure that these solutions don’t impact the online customer experience, or worse, revenue generation, is more important than ever.

Going Rogue

There are a variety of reasons that can cause tags to malfunction, or ‘go rogue’ as I like to call it. Let’s explore a few common scenarios:

Server Crashes

This has happened to everyone at one point in time. A few years ago I worked at an organization in which an employee mistakenly turned off the power switch to the entire rack, effectively taking down 2,000+ websites in a matter of seconds. Servers do go down and can take a lot of time to get back up and running. If your vendor’s server crashes you could be stuck with pages that hang in limbo waiting for a response, leading to very slow load times or even browser timeouts. In either case your customers will go somewhere else, quickly.

Bugs

Remember those people behind the scenes? Yep, they’re at it again – this time writing bad code. Many of today’s vendor tags reference code libraries that are installed when the page loads. This code can easily contain bugs, causing errors, warning messages, broken page functionality or inaccessible pages. Customers could be faced with SSL cautions or even the dreaded, security warning. No customer trust = lost sales.

Version Changes

Have you ever had a vendor make an upgrade to their tag and forget to tell you? Or what about an “enhancement” that suddenly changes functionality? When was the last time the report you rely on everyday just stopped gathering data after one of these product updates? What’s the point of the solution if it doesn’t work because it can’t get data?

Being Prepared

Unfortunately many marketers and data-driven professionals are still manually managing tags today. Often, the problems caused by rogue tags either get overlooked, or require IT to get involved, resulting in a delayed response. Tag management can be employed to not only deal with these issues when they arise, but also serve as a protective barrier.

Five Ways a TMS Can Manage Rogue Tags

  1. Wait for the Consumer Experience – A best practice in tag management is to wait until the DOM (Document Object Model: the basic building blocks of the page) is ready. What this means is that the web page effectively loads and is customer-ready before the tag(s) executes. Even if a tag’s activity is hindered, your customer can still view and interact with the web page.
  2. Asynchronous Loading – Most of today’s enterprise tag solutions employ asynchronous loading. If not, be careful. Asynchronous means that all tags are loaded in parallel, increasing the speed in which they load, avoiding one tag from slowing or blocking the load of all the others. Check out what Steve Souders, Head Performance Engineer at Google, has to say about the topic on his blog.
  3. Tag Thresholds – Commonly referred to as “tag killing,” tag management solutions can monitor the time an external vendor tag takes to acknowledge a browser request. If it takes too long, the tag request is cancelled. This protects from slow loading and browser timeouts.
  4. Data Validation – Automatically check to ensure that tags are getting the right data, not hours or days after the fact. Did you find that a recent vendor suddenly isn’t working? What about finding out that you’ve been collecting the wrong data for the past three weeks? Use point-and-click tag management solutions to quickly remap the data or upgrade the tag version.
  5. Quick Toggle – If all else fails, turn off the tag! This way there is no waiting for development cycles or IT resources. Just log in, point, click and it’s gone. Is the vendor back up and running? Just log in again and turn it back on. It’s that simple.

Many tag management solutions will enable you to take it one step further with tag performance reporting. Are you finding that something is continually slowing things down? Find out what it is. Enterprise solutions monitor and track the performance of the tags loading to your pages. The best solutions on the market will automatically alert you of tag ‘kill’ instances or abnormal data issues, such as orders completing with no order IDs or order totals. Read our case study from Deckers, the parent company of UGG®, which shows how the company use Tealium to handle a faulty tag that was causing serious page delays on Cyber Monday, one of the most important online shopping days of the year.

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