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As the number of ad technology vendors grow and their functions expand, companies continue to implement more and more tags on their websites. 

This process takes place in stages and incorporates various departments in the organisation, often without a central role governing their organisation.

This can result in a slower, less efficient, and more vulnerable website. Over the past five years, the average number of elements per page has doubled from 50 to over 100.

In an increasingly complex online advertising environment driven by analytics, ad delivery and site optimisation, how well are companies managing the many scripts and cookies found across their websites?

Many legitimate reasons exist for the proliferation of tags. Advances in ad and image serving and tag management provide precise ad targeting, and an increasingly curated ad experience for the consumer.  

Comprehensive analytics tools and social widgets identify the target audience, and encourage consumer engagement. These numerous tags have, however, slowed sites down and led to the increased possibility of data leakage.

The current challenge faced by brands and publishers is to employ the many advantages these ad technologies deliver, while protecting audience data and improving site performance.

Savvy companies who were early adopters of analytics technologies are now ubiquitously seen across the web. Services like Google Analytics or Omniture have evolved into precise targeting systems where consumer profiles are built over time, and users are then recognised across websites and devices while being served ads that correspond to specific user interests.  

Investing in analytics tools has reaped great financial return for companies as they take advantage of leveraging consumer profiles through retargeting, sales of consumer databases and discovering new audience sources. 

While investments in analytics and building audience databases have proven successful, many brands and publishers have not instituted the comparable investment required to protect that audience database.

Websites have been slower to adopt tools that monitor and control their tags, and many do not know about all the tracking elements across their sites, much less the performance and data vulnerability implications of each.

As a result, with no monitoring system in place to capture and organise tags, these elements have been added in such a way to create a disorderly structure over time.  The tag chain, comprised of the sequence of calls between ad tech vendors involved in element delivery, can be cumbersome and inefficient when not properly managed.

This can result in a vendor bringing in partners unknown to the company, or partners whose business function has changed, or slow tags that hinder others by virtue of their position in the chain. The implications of this is slow website speed, which can have a significant impact on the commercial performance of a website, and data potentially in the hands of third party providers.

The issue of evolving ad technology companies is increasingly relevant.  As the value of consumer data and detailed consumer profiles continues to increase, the number of ad technology companies evolving into data collection businesses also grows.  

Partners a company may have not considered a potential data collector could have, through acquisition or evolution, changed their business practices. As these companies have evolved, do you know what they are doing on your site?

For companies poised to address the accumulation of tags across their pages, the good news is that improving tag performance and data quality produces measurable results.  

Amazon found that for every 100 milliseconds of improved speed, they gained a 1% increase in revenue.

So how does a company make the consumer experience safer, easier to navigate and faster?

Understanding your tag structure, taking control of the elements on your pages and making sure there is someone minding the landscape will solve the problem.  

Companies should protect audience data and manage tags by ensuring someone in their organisation exists with a full understanding of: 

  • All the tags on your websites.
  • What data each ad tech company is collecting and with whom they are sharing consumer information.
  • How tag structure can be streamlined to improve page performance and safeguard against missed collection opportunities.

Regular full site tag audits should also be undertaken to appropriately weigh the utility and performance of the companies discovered. After you know who is on your site and how they got there, make sure none of the discovered elements are prohibitively slowing down your site.  

Examine when each element is programmed to load, and address any inefficiencies in tag structure as well as any navigational problems caused by slow loading elements. Finally, establish good relationships with your approved vendors and be aware of any consumer data they might collect to secure your website against data leakage.

Following these steps will generate a number of benefits for your business including greater control over your site, easier navigation for visitors, the elimination of unwanted trackers, and faster loading speed.

And in a crowded market place, these improvements could result in delivering your business that critical commercial advantage.

Todd Ruback

Published 5 April, 2013 by Todd Ruback

Amy King is Vice President, Product Marketing at Evidon and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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