Never has something seemingly so simple as page tagging caused so many problems. 

Poor tagging is costing companies thousands of pounds a month from wasted web analytics, duplicate affiliate commissions and marketing that isn't tracked properly. 

There are certain things we know about the tagging of client web sites so that the performance of online campaigns can be tracked.

They range from fundamental problems in getting sites tagged because of IT constraints, to the importance of assigning a sale to the right online channel, and to underlying concerns about the independence of the companies that control the sensitive data that results from it all.

But, while the issues – and there are more – that surround site tagging remain largely unexplored, their significance for advertisers rises with every extra pound they commit to online channels.

Direct response-based advertising has become directly plugged in to clients’ businesses and decisions about these campaigns are based almost entirely on the intelligence derived from the tags on their site.

It seems clear then that the real problems of site tagging ought to be made evident to advertisers and addressed.

First, the perceived failure of some campaigns can often be down to something as simple as a tag being placed on the wrong page of an advertiser’s site or not even placed at all.

Many major clients’ sites are hosted and IT managed outside the UK and subject to three-month development cycles.

This makes tag management a nightmare. A system that allows advertisers and agencies to place and manipulate tags themselves straight from their web pages would be invaluable.

Also, clients have often been tempted to switch off other forms of advertising in favour of search having discovered - from their site tags - that buying customers almost always arrive from there.

A brief consideration of the path people take to a purchase would tell them this was always likely to be the case.

But, does that really mean they haven’t been affected by anything other than a sponsored link?

Effective site tagging helps advertisers to understand the impact of all other exposures to online advertising.

Meanwhile, an almighty battle is being waged by the giants of digital to own the ‘one tag to rule them all’ - that is the site tag into which all other tags can be placed so that issues like de-duplication of sales (ensuring that an advertiser doesn’t pay for a sale more than once) can be managed.

Vying to own this tag – and thus secure a rather locked-down position in the advertiser’s ecosystem – are site analytics firms and ad servers.

Each, naturally, wants to control the master tag and has a decent claim on valuable advertiser data.

And each is entering the other’s business to strengthen their case while making often spurious claims about the potential of their particular system.

Since effective site tagging is absolutely fundamental to the success of online campaigns, all these are major issues affecting advertisers and their agencies in how they apportion spend.

It really is time they were dealt with. 

Paul Cook is the CEO of Positive Feedback .

Paul Cook

Published 29 August, 2008 by Paul Cook

Paul Cook, the founder of RedEye and TagMan, is a contributor to Econsultancy.  

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Comments (2)


James broadbent

Is there really a problem? I have worked in 5 online businesses and the most number of page tags they have had on their site was 4, and not on all pages of the site. They had a web analytics vendor, ad server and perhaps a couple of single tags on the final sales confirmation page for point solutions such as PPC and affiliates to measure their success.

Any company with more tags on the page are doing it incorrectly and should sort the problem out at source and not complicate it even further by employing a tag manager. This is madness gone mad!

Companies need to simplify their life and work with only the key vendors that they actually need Certainly i am aware of several web analytics vendor already that can pass key performance data back to any 3rd party directly which means you only need 1 or 2 tags on the site in the first place and ensure all data is consistent. Even if you use a tag manager this still means different vendors will report different measures which is actually a more critical issue. Surely a tag manager is just another possible weak link?

Am I missing something or are the people needing a tag manager the people who dont know what they are doing in the first place!

almost 10 years ago



Great post! And I can't agree more! The concept of garbage-in/garbage-out readily applies when it comes to tagging. While people are complaining their logs doesn't show the same number of visits as their tags or cookie deletion rates, tags are often very poorly implemented.

This is an issue I'm trying to tackle with WASP, the Web Analytics Solution Profiler, which not allows you to see the tags "in context" of your browsing session, but will also let you crawl you site and check if all pages are tagged, and what are the values being sent.

Otherwise, people can always rely on manual solutions such as proxy debuggers, or maybe opt for the high-end solution (Maxamine). In either case, quality assurance of web analytics implementation shouldn't be neglected!

Stéphane Hamel

almost 10 years ago

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