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Why Do I Care About Tagging?


The other day we were hanging out at a coffee bar near the office with a couple of friends. One was a digital marketer, the other was a specialist in digital analytics. The coffee was very good. We shared a plate of chocolate-chocolate cookies. After the caffeine and sugar kicked in, an animated conversation began. For some reason it concerned page-tagging. Here is a best effort at transcribing that conversation:

Q: As a marketer, why do I care about tagging. Isn’t that IT’s job?

A: If you’re responsible for the success of any of your organization’s digital assets—web, mobile, social, integrated (or not) with offline data, then you need to care about tags.

Q: Okay, so what are they and what do they do?

A: Think about a typical web page. By now we all know it’s created in a markup language called html, also known as the page source. Here is a small part of a tag that would go in the header. . .

[scribbling on a napkin: _gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]); ]

For simple page-view visits, putting a tag in the header is fine. The tag is activated when a “tracking” image shows up in the browser, and it announces itself to a data collection module: “Hello! I just showed up in a browser! Somebody saw me!” And the tag tracks the page view.

If that’s all you want to know, then the same generic tag can be put on the header of every page..and you’re done! It’s fast, simple and it’s even accurate.

Q: That sounds so easy. Why do tags then always seem to get messed up?

A: Because these days, it’s just not enough to know that somebody visited a page. Even something as simple as wanting to know what page they went to next…and if they got anywhere near doing what you were hoping they’d do…or if you wanted to segment visitors by behavior…it requires much more complex tagging. The plain generic tag in the header may need modification before you can get an idea of–for instance–visitor history.

Q: So that is IT then.

A: Creating custom tags, placing them properly, mapping them to reports and making sure they’re properly placed and functioning—that is a job for tagging experts.

Q: I just want to see my reports: paths, funnels, campaign success…

A: Experts on tagging may be internal to your organization. But just as often they aren’t. IT has so many jobs that they may not have the time to understand and perfect the art and science of digital analytics tagging.

Q: So what’s wrong with a few broken tags?

A: Broken tags—or NO tags…means NO data collection.

Q: Can’t we just rerun the data?

A: With no tags there IS no data. And with no data, no reports. Nothing! It’s an unrecoverable error.

Q: Proper tag placement is more important than I thought.

A: It’s vital. And the missing element isn’t technology, it’s expertise.

Q: So–if I’m responsible for the success of my digital assets—I’d better care about tagging! Is there a way to manage tags?

A: Yes…but that’s another discussion.

Q: Why did you eat the last cookie?

A: I don’t know but I think it was a third party cookie.

Someone looked at their iPhone and noticed it was time for our meeting with the agency. We had paid at the counter so we picked up our jackets and left.

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