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Website Traffic Trackers and Third-Party Tags

Website traffic trackers, tags, pixels, and beacons – these small snippets of code are added to websites and serve a range of different purposes. They deliver advertising to site customization and boost your ability to measure, reach, and convert visitors. But while they can provide valuable insight into your users and raise revenue in many different ways, they can have a substantial negative impact on page speed. Most of them rely on JavaScript to track activity. New scripts mean that every time you add a new tag to your site, another HTTP request is sent to a third-party server. The big reason why the average load time of sites that have tags is 9.46 seconds. (Average load time of Alpha Efficiency sites with tags is 3.5 seconds, book your consultation to get a blazing fast website). If the tags are disabled, the load time drops by 5 seconds or more. In this article, we will explore the best ways of organizing, managing, and controlling the impact of tags on your site performance.

What is a Tracking Tag?

A tag is a snippet of code added to a website to collect and send it to a third party, usually a digital marketing service. Since marketing relies heavily on data, whether it’s user tracking information or analytics to help understand how people interact with your site, third-party services add a tracking tag to your site. They are usually added to the header section of every page. Google Analytics is probably the most popular among hundreds of services that help site owners to collect and analyze data.

How Tags Impact Website Performance?

As we have already said, each tag you add to your site is another HTTP request, and, rarely, a site wouldn’t have at least one tag. The main problem is that tags introduce latency and can profoundly impact page speed. When a tag makes a call to a third-party server, the quickness of response of that outside resource adds valuable seconds to your load time. So if you have 5, 10, 20, or more tags running on your site, you are most likely to experience a major slowdown.

You can easily check how much of an impact tags have on your page speed. Simply run your site through a speed testing tool like WebPagetest or GTmetrix. While doing that, mind the loading time of your HTTP requests, taking note of the waterfall analysis.

Pingdom’s study

Pingdom’s study into the world’s top news sites recently revealed the true impact of tags on a much wider scale. This web performance and monitoring company used the browser plugin from Ghostery to test the top 50 news sites and see how many and what type of tags loaded on a homepage of each site. According to their research, tags increased the average load time of sites by 6.77 seconds. Also, the average load time for the top 50 sites was 9.46 seconds, with trackers and 2.69 seconds without trackers. Here is what they also found:

  • Out of 298 trackers identified across all sites tested, 225 delivered on-site advertising.
  • 82% of tags delivered target ads based on a user’s browsing history.
  • Analytics trackers, like Google Analytics, Omniture, and Chartbeat, are the second most frequent types of tags (12%).
  • The average of trackers per site was 43, and 42% of sites loaded with 30 to 49 trackers.
  • 42% of the sites tested had load time over 9 seconds.
  • 76% of sites loaded in 3 seconds or less when tags were disabled.

As we can see from this research, tags have a great deal of impact on page speed. This particular becomes a problem when we know (according to Kissmetrics research) that 47% of consumers expect a webpage to be fully loaded in 2 seconds or less. Furthermore, 40% of people abandon those websites that take more than 3 seconds to load. But, since we need tags to collect data and provide better user experience, simply removing them is not a viable option.

Disorganized Tags Create Problems For Both Developers and Marketing Teams

Adding one tag to a page will not generate a noticeable slowdown, but most sites have a far bigger number added to their pages. Let’s take the New York Post as an example. They are a major news organization and rely heavily on user data to inform their digital marketing efforts, and as you could expect, they have a large number of tags added to their site – 85! That’s 85 snippets of JavaScript that the developers had to add, costing hours of development time. Every change that is being made requires updates to a web page, which means push back when marketing teams ask for new tags. It can be frustrating on both sides since marketing teams don’t want to wait long for developers to edit tags or add new ones, but at the same time, developers don’t want to deal with the latency that tags introduce.

How To Get All the Benefits of Tags Without the Negative Effects

This is where tag management systems come in handy. They are designed to manage the lifecycle of tags, which are used to integrate third-party software into digital properties. By using them, you can add, edit, and manage all your tracking tags from one point-and-click interface. This can save a lot of time in development since you don’t have to manually edit your source code. They also take all your tags and condense them into a single JavaScript request. This request is loaded asynchronously in the background. It allows the rest of your site to load independently of the response outcome.

These are some of the most significant benefits when using Tag managers:

Your page loads faster

Tag managers load all your tags using only one JavaScript code. This reduces the number of requests your page has to make to third-party servers. Additionally, the snippet is loaded asynchronously without slowing down the loading of your site.

Easy to manage tags

With tag managers, you can add, edit, and remove tags without continually editing your site’s source code. This saves a lot of time and work, especially if you are developing sites for clients and don’t want to update them continually, or if you run your website and want to update tags quickly.

Better control over problem tags

Tags can experience errors from time to time. This can be very frustrating since it can affect the functionality of your site. They can cause errors in the loading of banner ads or social media integrations, or result in downtime. With a tag manager, you can quickly solve these problems. You can remove problem tags without spending hours in finding and removing every instance of a broken tag across your site.

Although they have so many upsides, the Pingdom study shows that only 2% of the top 50 news sites use them.

Website Traffic Trackers and Third-Party Tags - Impact On Performance

The Most Popular Tag Managers Today

Tag managers are relatively new and emerging technology. They vary in terms of features, ease of use, and price, so there are a couple of things you should consider when choosing one. You need to know what kind of integrations you need, are you going to be using them on mobile sites and apps, and check any special requirements, like privacy concerns. Here are some of the tag managers worth checking:

Google Tag Manager

This is one of the most popular and widely used tag managers available. It offers the ability to choose from over 50 different types of tags. It is free and takes only a couple of clicks to get started. Its interface is easy for both developers and non-technical users. You can easily add and update Google AdWords tags, Google Analytics, DoubleClick, and many other third-party tags.

Launch by Adobe

This tag manager is free for Adobe customers. It has been developed with open APIs so you can work with Adbot and non-Adobe services. Its interface is simple and implements a marketing-friendly rule builder. That allows you to determine when to deploy tags and an extension catalog for quickly adding third-party services.

Ensighten

It is an enterprise, security, and privacy-focused TMS. It provides one interface for managing tags and data, with more than 1000 turnkey vendor integrations. With this tag manager, you can easily unify customer data across brands, domains, mobile apps, and display advertising. You can also easily define user roles and security access, reliable and redundant data centers, and tracking mobile app user engagement.

Qubit

This is one of the most flexible enterprise-level tag managers. It has developed its Opentag system. This system has been designed with marketers in mind but is also very customizable for developers. It makes tag deployment effortless due to its extensive tag library and code versioning that makes it easy to revert to previous versions of tag containers.

Deploying tags manually takes a ridiculous amount of time. Furthermore, having multiple tags in your page headers takes an enormous toll on your page speed. This is why it is high time to start using a tag manager. Once you have got one in place, often review the tags you are using and remove those that are no longer benefiting you and your users. Do your best in assessing what each of them does on your site and whether the advantages outweigh the potential lack of page speed. 

Brian Djordjevic
About The Author

Brian Dordevic

Brian is Marketing Strategic Planner with a passion for all things digital. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or schedule a consultation call with him.

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