You don’t know what you got, till it’s gone: Why you need to monitor your tracking- and tagging setup

05 October 2023

It is probably the biggest nightmare for online professionals, decision makers and data analysts: unreliable and incomplete data.

Within any organisation, data is the foundation for strategic decisions, solving problems and the ability to run and assess marketing campaigns. We are increasingly dependent on the quality of the collected data to stay relevant and competitive.

Moreover, running online marketing campaigns relies for an increasing part on trustworthy data. Algorithms which are used by for instance Google, Microsoft and Meta work more effectively when you feed sufficient and correct data into their systems.

Therefore, it is no surprise that data collection is in the spotlight for quite a while already. Already in 2019 the “tracking rat race” between Safari and Mozilla on one hand and marketers on the other hand was in full swing. Since then, many episodes have been added to the saga with most recently the launch of iOS17 and the removal of utm-tracking parameters. With the introduction of new technologies like server-side tagging and the introduction of Data Warehousing the landscape is getting more technical along the way.

Bad or missing data gives a wrong image of your return on investment, algorithms can’t do their job well and ultimately you are wasting part of your advertising budget. Despite all the attention for data collection, the sad reality in most companies is that stakeholders don’t even know if and when tags are firing or not. Most websites have extensive monitoring in place for their website infrastructure, but the functioning of tag containers and tracking tags are frequently overlooked while they have a significant impact. Correct tagging and tracking, a crucial aspect for collecting consistent and accurate data, is almost always overlooked.

Tracking threats

  1. Tag managers allow marketers to inject code into your website without the help of a developer. At the same time those tag managers don’t have a safeguard in place to stop new code from conflicting with other content or objects. You will not be alerted when tags are not loading, malfunctioning, causing errors and conflicts or slowing down your pages.
  2. Frequent updates on the site as well as third party technologies potentially cause errors which result in a collection gap of several days up to a few weeks. Issues don’t get noticed till it’s too late and the irreparable damage to the data and data quality has already been done.
  3. Dependencies and risks are getting bigger over time due to a growing number of technology partners and tags, each forming a potential point of failure.
  4. A lack of process, lack of knowledge and lack of communication between teams, departments and external agencies poses a risk. This risk is even bigger for companies with multiple domains and larger teams.
  5. Manual online checks of the tagging setup are time consuming and are not consistent. The results are influenced by for example the time of the day, the location, the device and browser. It’s impossible to test all edge cases.
  6. You can’t influence everything when it comes to tracking and tagging, for example the endpoint could be offline or an API could be malfunctioning without you knowing.

Everyone has the same struggle

Sometimes you find out by coincidence you have been missing conversions for a specific period and you can only guess how many you have missed based on the numbers of the previous period. During this time, you have annoyed all those buying customers with irrelevant retargeting ads. This is money wasted on annoying your customers.

You are not alone in this struggle. Most websites are not being protected against the tracking threats described above. An average website regularly encounters issues with error percentages of 5% up to 25%. Basically, you and most of your competitors currently have no oversight or insight into how tags are impacting data collection and the user experience of your visitors.

In the land of the blind, one-eyed data collection currently still is king

You never get a second chance to capture the relevant data of your website’s visitors. Therefore it is fundamental that your tagging- and tracking setup is done in a manner which guarantees a steady and uninterrupted process of data collection. You need to put in place safeguards, which alert you realtime when shit hits the fan. This will allow you to act accordingly when something is happening with your tagging, whatever the cause may be.

Currently the one-eyed man can still be king. But what if you could be the two-eyed emperor? You can have full control over the tracking on your platform, maximise the quality of the data you collect and your marketing tagging will no longer negatively affect user experience.

Besides making sure your dataset is up to par, this will save you a lot of time not having to pinpoint the exact cause of the issue and reverse engineer the setup.

It is possible with real-time monitoring of your tracking and tagging. Automated monitoring ensures a constant stream of reliable data at low costs. Reliable data tracking starts with real-time monitoring and it is the foundation on which any data-driven strategy should be built.

Harm Linssen & Suze Löbker co-founders of Code Cube

About the authors:
Harm Linssen and Suze Löbker are co-founders of Code Cube
(one of the sponsors of the DDMA Digital Analytics Summit on October 12th).