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From Evidon’s Optimization Desk – How Website Tags Can Hurt Users’ Experience

April 10, 2017 – Mollie Panzner

I took the last couple weeks off from writing to organize Evidon’s 3rd Annual Vendor Governance Workshop. The Workshop was a hit and drew attendance of individuals from over 25 Fortune 100 companies, including Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs), eCommerce, retailers, publishers, and non-profits, each seeking better approaches to digital governance and the use of 3rd parties. Behind closed doors, in a transparent, “no-pressure” environment, we came away with new perspectives on how to best manage the challenges and opportunities, presented by 3rd party digital technologies.

These 3rd parties include site technologies that power the entire online ecosystem and, among others, include data management platforms, retargeters, ad servers, tag managers and content management tools. In this post, I’d like to share a couple of the takeaways from the event about how poorly-managed website tags can hurt user experience. These negative impacts include:

  • Customer data leakage to unknown or unauthorized parties
  • Poorly performing pages and security threats
  • Privacy and compliance complications

As a reminder, what is meant by “digital governance,” is really the management and optimization of the digital vendors on your site. A direct benefit of proper governance is minimizing the poor user experience threats that 3rd party tags can introduce: slow pages, mixed content warnings, and brand mistrust. A well thought out vendor governance strategy can help site owners to avoid these challenges.

A “Lack of Experienced Practitioners” Has Led to the Un-Optimized Use of Technologies

A poll from a recent IAB/Winterberry Group report pointed out that the number one reason for the un-optimized use of data technologies is “a lack of experienced practitioners” (along with a need to improve data processes, and properly integrate existing tools). I believe this is directly related to two key themes that Evidon has observed over the last couple of years:

(1) Poor management of 3rd party tracking technologies and the risks that they introduce.

(2) Unclear or non-existent strategies associated with the use of digital vendors (here’s a digital governance maturity chart for those interested in better understanding where their organization lies on the spectrum).

The best way to optimize the use of these technologies, and mitigate their negative impacts, is through education; hopefully this post will help clarify some of the risks associated with not carefully monitoring digital vendors.

Risks that Tags Introduce to Your Users’ Experience:

Previously I’ve addressed (and categorized) the types of tags that one might encounter throughout their online experience. I haven’t, however, spent too much time on what it means for these tags to be on your website, or more explicitly, what potential impacts they might have on the user experience. Here are the most common challenges that 3rd-party tags introduce:

Data Governance (and Data Leakage)

Can lead to unauthorized or unknown data collection, redirect threats such as mixed content warnings, audience data dilution, poorly executed advertising efforts, and lower CPMs.

Experience & Performance

Can lead to lower customer conversions, lower ad revenue, higher abandonment rates, and page load content delays.

Privacy & Compliance

Can lead to a lack of brand transparency and thus to decreased user trust, the sharing of non-encrypted data, and risks of regulatory actions and fines associated with not adhering to global consumer privacy laws.

Instead of writing more on the matter, I’d like to instead debut Evidon’s infographic on “What Is Seen Behind the Screen.” The graphic is a visual representation of the relationships between 3rd-party tags on your website (see Evidon’s Trackermap live here), and the range of implications that they introduce to your users’ experience:

What Is Seen Behind the Screen?

There are two conclusions that must be drawn from the above illustration. The first is that it’s increasingly challenging to manage the user-experience risks associated with 3rd-party tags and their redirects (also knowns as piggybacks, daisy-chains, or hops). It’s especially crucial that the website owner understands the costs and benefits associated with their use of programmatic technologies, and the host of partners that these platforms can introduce to a website, often without prior authorization.

Second, having a means to easily visualize how tags access your site (and your users) is now not so much an option, as it is a requirement. A follow up on the previous point, what hasn’t been considered in the challenges illustrated above is the glaring concern of operational inefficiency as it relates to the site owner. Without holistic tagging visibility as well as a comprehension of potential risks, site owners will experience longer mean times to resolution, un-optimized implementation of tags, and poor allocation of resources. Essentially, site owners need a means to view all technologies with access to their site (and how they attained this access) in order to ensure swift and appropriate resolutions.

If you aren’t a Evidon Trackermap user, feel free to test it out, or contact Evidon directly so that we can walk you through some issues that might be impacting your site’s user experience currently.

As always, I’d love to continue the discussion – my email is (mollie at evidon dot com) and my Twitter handle is @MolliePanzner.. If you’d like to learn more about Evidon or our full range of tag analytics, you can visit us at Evidon.com. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @Evidon.


Mollie is the Director of Professional Services at Evidon, and a subject matter expert on tagging governance and 3rd-party vendor analysis.