By Ali Behnam | November 8th, 2011 at 10:38 am | 0 Comments
One of the common methods through which tags hurt site performance is simply the fact that some tags are slow. Various factors impact the performance of tags, including internet router bottlenecks, server peaks for vendors using multi-tenant machines, usage of low-cost cloud services by vendors, and more. It only takes a single slow-loading tag to potentially slow down the site.
In order to illustrate this, consider the figure below, which shows a web page containing 4 tags, loading synchronously. Each tag on average takes 250 milliseconds to load with the exception of the second tag which takes over 2 seconds to complete. Because of this single slow-loading tag, the entire page now takes over 2.5 seconds to complete.
One method used to speed up this process is using asynchronous loading of tags. Another method is slow tag killing, which is the process of terminating the under-performing tags.
To demonstrate this, consider the figure below, which shows the same scenario with both asynchronous and slow tag killing methods added. In this case, the criteria for slow tag killing is set to half a second. With both features added, the load time is reduced by almost 2 seconds to slightly over half a second.
According to a recent study by Gomez, a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Knowing how every second counts, slow tag killing can be a valuable method for improving site performance and usability.
By Ali Behnam | October 31st, 2011 at 12:17 pm | 0 Comments
A cornerstone of any enterprise tag management solution is the ability to conditionally load tags based on select criteria. Within the Tealium solution, this is referred to as “Load Rules”. Conditional load rules can be used to reduce the number of times tags are loaded and eliminate the redundant pixels. Examples include:
- Loading of tags based on source of traffic – for example, customers can set rules to load an AdWords tag on the confirmation page only if the traffic originated from an AdWords campaign.
- Loading tags only once – many tags need to be loaded only once during a session or per visitor. For example, if you’re launching a retargeting program for the shoes section of the site, you only need to launch the retargeting pixel once.
In order to demonstrate this capability, consider a web site deploying five different vendor tags on its confirmation page – as shown below. With traditional tagging, all 5 tags or pixels will load on the confirmation page regardless of the source of traffic.
Conditional tag loading on the other hand lets you decide under which circumstance to load each tag on the confirmation page. As a best practice, you can create rules that let you load the AdWords tag on the confirmation page only if the source of traffic is AdWords, and do the same with other marketing tags. This alternative is shown below.
Conditional loading of tags offer several advantages:
- It improves page load time by dramatically reducing the number of pixels being called from the page (from 5 to 1 in our example).
- It puts marketers in total control as to how and when they share critical data (i.e. transaction data) with third-party vendors. Rather than sharing all transaction data with all vendors, marketers can now share data on a “need-to-know” basis.
By Ali Behnam | October 24th, 2011 at 7:01 am | 1 Comment
One of the many methods through which Tealium improves site performance is by using asynchronous loading of tags. This method is becoming increasing popular, especially after Google’s adoption of asynchronous tags in 2010 for its analytics product. Tealium is one of the pioneers in asynchronous tracking, first adopting the methodology for tag management back in 2008.
But what exactly is asynchronous tracking and how does it improve site performance?
Before explaining the asynchronous method, it is important to note how tags load and why they slow down web sites. Most tags today are loaded in synchronous manner (think serial). When a page loads a synchronous tag, it waits for the tag content to load before moving on to the next content. The figure below shows an example of a page loading 4 tags in a synchronous or serial manner. The page starts by loading the first tag. After the tag has been completely loaded, the page moves on the second tag. The process is then repeated for the ensuing tags. Assuming each tag takes half a second to load, we’re looking at a total load time of 2 seconds to load all 4 tags.
With asynchronous tracking, the browser can load the different tags in parallel. It no longer has to wait for a certain tag to load completely before moving on to the next or the rest of the page content. This is shown in the figure below. Using our example of the page with 4 tags, we can see that the browser starts downloading the 4 tags in parallel, completing the process much faster. The 4 tags in this case are completed in a fraction of a time compared to the synchronous method.
Asynchronous tracking has many benefits. One obvious benefit is improved site performance, as demonstrated above. Another benefit is improved tracking and data accuracy. Because tags are loading in parallel to the rest of the content, they can be placed on top of the page, which improves the accuracy of data being collected.
By Ali Behnam | August 15th, 2011 at 10:04 pm | 1 Comment
Before starting this post, I want to point that this blog is for debate purposes only and Tealium does not use any ETags or Zombie Cookies.
There’s been a lot of news lately about the use of various techniques such as “local shared objects” or “HTML5 cookies” in order to re-spawn deleted cookie and bypass the consumer’s choice to opt out. These are sometimes referred to as zombie cookies. We at Tealium do not condone such practices and believe that consumers should have the choice to opt out if they want to. However, this post is not about the philosophical debate and there’s been a tremendous amount of discussions already on the topic. An example can be found here.
The topic that we feel has not been discussed is how these same re-spawning techniques can be used to actually improve consumer privacy. That’s right. Zombie cookies can actually be good for privacy.
Before I continue, I want to point out that there are two kinds of opt-outs today. The first is using the new “do not track” headers within new browsers. This is something that many vendors already support. Customers of Tealium for example can take advantage of Tealium’s support in this area to improve the privacy of their visitors.
The second method – which is more traditional – is to allow consumers to opt out of specific tracking. For example, a consumer may decide to be tracked through analytics tools but opt out of behavioral targeting.
Opt-outs are flawed
The problem with today’s opt-out mechanism is that they’re inherently flawed. Here’s why:
When a visitor opts out of a service, an “opt out” cookie is added to the visitor’s browser. The vendors’ scripts or tags look for the “opt out” cookie. If no cookie exists, then the tracking is continued. If an “opt out” cookie exists, the service stops the tracking. Because these services rely on cookies for opt out, when a visitor deletes their cookies, the visitor has effectively just opted back in.
Opt-outs require a more permanent state
The problem with today’s opt-out mechanism is that it is only temporary and stops functioning the moment visitors delete their cookies. The industry needs a more permanent way to allow people to opt out. As discussed previously, the browsers have come up with their solution in the form of “do not track” headers. The problem with these headers is that they’re an “all or nothing” proposition and do not provide visitors with the ability to opt out of only a category of trackers.
What if the industry started adopting some of the same zombie cookie techniques in order to provide a more permanent opt out mechanism? The same technology that is used in some instances to re-spawn tracking cookies can be used to re-spawn “opt out” cookies.
Remember, it’s not the technology but the application that matters. By using the same techniques, digital trackers can actually provide a more permanent opt out mechanism to consumers and better respect their request.
As of the writing of this post, we know of no tracker using such techniques for opt outs and we’re not recommending that vendors do so. But what do you think? Do you think that this technology should be used to provide a better privacy or do you think the industry should completely stay away from such re-spawning techniques?
My personal belief is that if a technology can be used to provide a valuable service to consumers, then it should be used.
And with that said, Ty – tag you’re it.
By Ali Behnam | July 17th, 2011 at 2:21 pm | 0 Comments
One of the conversations that digital marketing teams engage in today’s environment is whether they need a tag management system or not. As companies are increasing their use of digital marketing technologies, their need for a tag management solution increases. Up to now, most companies seeking a tag management system typically shared one of two characteristics:
- They deployed lots of different tags (i.e. analytics, ads, affiliates, etc.)
- They had a constant need to change tags (i.e. new marketing programs, trial of new vendors, etc.)
There are of course other factors that can prompt organizations to invest in tag management systems. For a thorough list, we recommend that you check out the Forrester research titled “How Tag Management Improves Web Intelligence” by Joe Stanhope.
Up to now the group least likely to require a tag management system included the two following characteristics:
- They don’t use lots of tags
- The have no plans to change their vendors
Sounds logical right? Think again.
Just recently, Google introduced a new feature in Google Analytics which provides valuable reports around page load performance, called Site Speed Reports. The new feature helps companies determine the impact of site performance on their web site conversion.
In order to take advantage of this features, customers will have to update their tracking code in the following manner:
var _gaq = _gaq || ;
The change of tracking code is not unique to Google Analytics. Just recently, Yahoo! announced that the Yahoo! Web Analytics tracking code V4 will no longer be supported.
In both cases, tag management systems let customers update their tracking code without changing their pages. For Tealium customers, this is just a matter of changing their templates from within the Tag Management Console.
We’re no longer seeing tag management as a technology deployed by customers that want to constantly add or change their vendors, but also by organizations that want to make sure that they’re deploying the latest version of their vendor tags. To find out more about how Tealium can help you leverage the latest features from your digital marketing vendors, contact us.
By Ali Behnam | February 24th, 2011 at 8:05 am | 0 Comments
Tealium is proud to sponsor the white paper “Buyers Guide To Tag Management Systems”. The white paper has been authored by the team at Logan Tod & Co. and is a must read for anyone who’s in the market for tag management tools.
With the growing number of tag-based vendors and solutions, tag management has become a major challenge for many organization. Whether it’s adding a new tag, switching from one solution to another or just improving existing deployments, organizations are constantly relying on IT for such work. Tag management systems let business users manage such tasks on their own, without constantly relying on their IT teams.
The white paper covers the benefits associated with tag management, as well as features to look for when in the market for such tools. It is a result of Logan Tod & Co’s extensive experience deploying such solutions with multiple customers.
The white paper can be downloaded through our white papers page. Enjoy.
By Ali Behnam | November 23rd, 2010 at 11:26 am | 0 Comments
Congratulations to Antoine Janning and the team at MediaPod for winning the New Services Award at E-Commerce Paris 2010, the largest exhibition of e-commerce technologies in Europe.
MediaPod was awarded Best of Show award for their use of Tealium Universal Tag on client web sites, saving clients several months of IT resources for deployment of tags.
MediaPod is a Tealium Certified Partner. We at Tealium would like to congratulate MediaPod for their continuous innovation in the fields of web analytics deployments and tag management.
By Ali Behnam | October 4th, 2010 at 10:34 am | 1 Comment
Tag Management or Universal Tag?
If you attended X Change, one of the huddles offered was around universal tagging. There are a growing number of companies taking different approaches to the same problem: web site tagging is a mess – whether it’s for web analytics, ad, affiliate tags or a combination. The industry as a whole is starting to tackle the issue – something that we started addressing over two years ago – and that’s a good thing.
Some are using the term “universal tag” while others call it “tag management”. The term embraced by the industry in the long run is anybody’s guess. Our feeling is that it’s pretentious for any one person or organization at this point to decide what the term is. The industry is still very new. In the long run, the clients will decide what the best nomenclature is.
I’ve been in this industry long enough to remember all the different terms that people used to describe the “Web Analytics” industry:
Web Metrics, Site Statistics, Web Stats, Site Analysis, Web Traffic Analysis, Web Intelligence, eBusiness Intelligence, Online Metrics, eMetrics – and I’m sure I missed a few. Eventually the industry started standardizing around the term “Web Analytics”.
Remember ASP? No, not “average selling price” or “active server pages”. It was the term referred by almost all SAAS (Software as a service) providers in the 2000-2003 era. It stood for “Application Service Provider”. Now everyone’s using SAAS. The business models are the same. Only the names are different.
We’re now going through same nomenclature education/battle within the “universal tag” industry. You’ve probably heard the various terms: Universal Tag, Tag Management, Tag Management System, Container Tag, and two other terms that I’d personally like to throw into the mix: “Master Tag” and “Tagging As A Service” (TAAS) – you’ve heard them here first.
So what’s the point of all this?
The point is that it doesn’t matter. This is what marketing people do in order to educate the market. Unfortunately, most of the time they end up confusing the market more than educate it.
So what’s our position on this? Well it depends partly on the methodology used by the provider to tackle the issue. But there are some key features that companies should take into consideration when looking at a universal tag/tag management solution:
Hosted vs. On-demand
Our belief is that a true “universal” tag should provide customers with either option. Some customers prefer the entire solution to be hosted by the vendor – it’s easy, clean and void of headaches. Others (especially clients with large traffic) insist on hosting their own solution. For such clients, any third-party server point of failure is an important determining factor.
Dashboard vs. Programmatic Editing
On the other hand, some customers, specifically those that are more technical in nature want to go beyond what can be made available in a user interface. They want to get under the hood and understand the solution at its core and not treat it as some black box magical tag manager. Our belief is that the solution should provide both options to the user.
Lease vs. Perpetual Model
With the lease model, the solution is a SAAS, or as I’d like to call it TAAS. Many of the tag management solutions fall into this category. However, many customers may prefer to own the license outright and not pay based on the number of server calls, especially since one of the value propositions of universal tags is to reduce any reliance on one vendor. Again, the solution needs to provide the necessary level of flexibility in this regard.
Rich vs. One-line Tags
A one-line tag means a simple include line pointing to a JS file which then makes one or many calls to a server yielding the actual “tag” implementation either statically defined or via server configuration. A one-line tag provides the simplest deployment to the client, but comes at a cost. The server dependency can cause reduced customer experience and a single point of failure. The concept of a rich-tag is more of a “master tag” allowing the client development team to expose data relevant to the application. A rich tag has more initial upfront work but is ultimately more flexible and from a performance standpoint, optimal. We usually see clients that have over 5 data points (variables) opt for rich tags and others with less demanding needs opt for one-line includes. If your site already has meaningful meta data tags, microformats, or consistent elements in the page like breadcrumbs, you may already have a rich tagged site. Our belief is that a “universal tag” supports both tagging options.
For Tealium, a universal tag is about choice. Henry Ford once said “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black”. Although the philosophy works for industrial assembly lines, a “one-size fits all” strategy is the wrong approach for enterprise-level web sites with distinct environments.
This is the Tealium philosophy – a solution that can adapt to client needs and environment. This is why we feel that “tag management” as it stands today only provides a subset functionality of an enterprise-level “universal tag”, and why we have chosen to build universal tag products and to provide universal tag services.
By Ali Behnam | September 16th, 2010 at 8:00 am | 0 Comments
Tag Management has arrived. While attending this year’s Google Analytics Certified Partner (GACP) Summit, one of the topics of discussion among attendees was universal tagging and tag management. This of course is great news as it validates our vision dating back to 2008, as we first introduced universal tagging for web analytics.
What was once a vision and a consulting project here at Tealium is now a topic of discussion at web analytics conferences, including the upcoming X Change. And as marketers’ knowledge of universal tagging increases, so does the product’s maturity. A key requirement has been the ability for business users to manage their tags without IT involvement.
Enter Tag Management Console.
The Tag Management Console is the admin console for Universal Tag Deployments. Within the Console, non-technical users can manage their tag using a drag-and-drop interface.
Want to add DoubleClick tags to your site? Simply drag the DoubleClick icon and enter your account ID.
Want to add Google Analytics? Drag the Google Analytics icon and enter your account ID.
Want to add Eloqua tags for better lead nurturing? Well, you get the idea.
Once configured, users can add, edit and delete their marketing tags and manage complex implementations such as changing mappings from one vendor variable to another. Again, all this is done without straining valuable IT resources, meaning that you can make changes to your tags in hours or days instead of weeks and months.
Contact us to schedule a live demo of Tag Management Console.
By Ali Behnam | June 8th, 2010 at 9:00 am | 0 Comments
So far we’ve discussed using the Universal Tag to improve your implementation, achieve a better web analytics process and prepare for the unknown. But there’s another major benefit associated with the Universal Tag.
Universal Tag is about reducing redundancy.
The redundancy that we see typically comes in one of two forms:
- Redundancy associated with using multiple solutions
- Redundancy associated with data already available on the page
In this post, we’re going to discuss how Universal Tag can in fact reduce redundancy.
Redundancy Associated with Using Multiple Solutions
The trend that we’re clearly seeing today is that businesses are using more digital marketing tools than ever, which is resulting in more tags on web pages. For example, the home page of staples.com includes 7 different vendor tags. Many of the tags require their own set of variables to be declared, which results in redundant data. On this page alone, we see two different web analytics solutions: Omniture and Coremetrics.
Lets look at another example. This web site is using two different analytics solutions: HBX & SiteCatalyst. Both tags are collecting the same set of data, although the syntax may be different. If you were to look at the page weight associated with the HBX and SiteCatalyst tags on this page, you would end up with about 4 KB of added page weight per page. This is extra code on every single page.
For this same implementation, a Universal Tag page code will look something like this – which amounts to about 150 characters – a saving of about 4,000 bytes per page. To put this into perspective, for each 1 million page views per month, the bandwidth savings would be 3.7 GB/month, which is quite substantial.
Compared to traditional analytics tagging, the Universal Tag offers several advantages:
- Simplified tagging
- Smaller page weight
- More flexible deployment
Redundancy Associated with Data Already Available on the Page
Often times, the data being passed to analytics solutions is already available on the page. Think about it. On a product page, you want to be able to capture the product name and attributes such as size, color, ratings, number of comments made, sku number, category, brand and other attributes. To demonstrate this, consider this example shown below of a product page.
The page itself includes just about all the information needed, including the product name, category, brand, rating, number of customer reviews, as well as the user status (“signed in” or “not signed in”). This is all information that’s useful for web analytics implementations. This information can be typically found in a number of ways, including:
- Parts of the page URL
- Query parameters within the page
- Meta tags on the page
- Other in-page elements such as h1 or other such tags
- Cookie values
The idea here is nothing new. See this great blog post by Dennis Mortensen from Yahoo! Web Analytics about the use of microformats for web analytics. The Tealium Universal tag fully supports the use of microformats, as well as other page elements mentioned above for data collection.
This approach creates a smaller footprint on the page, as well as lowers the deployment cycle. However, the approach also has some disadvantages. First, not everyone uses these elements consistently. For example, microformats are fairly new and there are a small number of sites using microformats today. Second, the approach directly ties web analytics deployment to the web design process which has its disadvantages. For example, what happens if you’re relying on tag IDs for web analytics and your design team redesigns the site? The dependence could break the web analytics deployment and is an extra checkpoint for your design team to consider.
In the end, you should pick the method that best works for you. However, it is important to note that whatever solution you end up selecting can fit your specific workflow.