Table of Contents Hide
- Defining Objectives
- Creating the Tagging Plan
- Writing the dataLayer Documentation
- Implementing the Tagging Plan
- Making Your Tracking Last Over Time
The saying “what gets measured, gets improved” is now more applicable than ever to your website. How can you be sure that your goals are being met if you don’t have a system in place to collect and analyze data? How can you improve your visitors’ experience, your conversion rate, and your revenue if you have no means of testing and understanding the results of your experiments? This is where a tagging plan and more generally, an effective tracking strategy, become essential. In this article, we’ll walk through the various steps necessary to set them up.
Before diving into the details of planning tracking, it’s necessary to identify the different objectives of your website (or application). Of course, the main goal will often be the same from one site to another, depending on its specificity:
- For an e-commerce site: the main objective will be making a purchase.
- For a lead generation site: the submission of a contact/quote form.
- For a showcase site of a SaaS platform: create an account with a trial period or subscribe to a subscription form.
In addition to these main objectives, there could be numerous essential actions depending on the marketing/sales/growth strategy in place. This might include newsletter sign-ups, customer account creation, carrying out a simulation, a call following a click on the site, etc.
For this phase, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my business objectives?
- Which interactions on my site serve these business objectives?
- What are the associated KPIs?
To synthesize all this, it’s useful to set up a table similar to the one below:
It’s divided into three parts, similar to the OKR method:
- Business Objectives
- Site Objectives
This notion of always linking each of the KPIs to business objectives will prevent tracking useless elements on the website. Sometimes, marketing professionals want to measure everything on the site, without any real and serious reasons. This will only weigh down the tagging and clutter up the analytics tool.
Creating the Tagging Plan
Now that the objectives have been defined, it’s time to focus on the tagging plan. But before we start, let’s define what this strategic document is and what it’s used for.
What is a Tagging Plan?
The tagging plan is a reference document that will list the different tags to be implemented, for various endpoints (Google Analytics, Piano, Matomo, Google Ads, Meta Ads, Content Square, etc.), as well as the variables that will need to be integrated into the tag.
This includes the famous GTM triptych: tag, trigger, and variable. This isn’t surprising, as this table will enable and facilitate the implementation of tracking (especially via GTM) and the final recipe.
What does this document look like? Here is an example of a tagging plan for an e-commerce site:
In theory, there is no standard nomenclature or template. Each agency, consultant, and company has its methods. Indeed, some will also add the dataLayer scripts associated with the events, which is not my case. The tagging plan will be aimed at marketing, growth, data, and sales teams depending on the use cases. The dataLayer documentation will be addressed to developers, which is why I prefer to distinguish the two supports, in order not to complicate one or the other in the eyes of its target.
Let’s get back to the tagging plan. This step should not be taken lightly and certainly not by a single person. As mentioned earlier, this construction phase must involve the various teams concerned with measurement/marketing tools. It is therefore necessary to have it validated/counter-validated by the various players to reach a consensus.
Events to Track for Different Platforms
Now that we know how to construct this tagging plan, what events and nomenclature should be used? Most of the time, we won’t create our own event names. Each tool has a standard event repository that we need to adhere to in order to get the most out of it and simplify the setup. The best way to do this is to visit the resource pages of your marketing/analytics tools to learn about the data expected by the platform and their formats.
All platforms are not the same. Each has its own specifics and requires a unique approach to tracking. Here are some examples of events to track for different platforms:
- Analytics Platforms: Page views, steps of the e-commerce journey, completed forms, newsletter subscriptions, button clicks, etc.
- Social Ads Platforms: Page views, steps of the e-commerce journey, completed forms, newsletter subscriptions, etc.
- SEA Platforms: Only key steps directly relating to a business objective, for example, a purchase or a form submission.
- Affiliate Platforms: Only key steps directly relating to a business objective, for example, a purchase or a form submission.
The tagging plan includes events that happen on your website. In order to fully understand user journeys, it is mandatory to combine this with a UTM tracking strategy.
Now that the tagging plan is written and validated by different parties, there is one key step left before the operational implementation of the tags in Google Tag Manager (or another Tag Management System): the drafting and implementation of the dataLayer.
Writing the dataLayer Documentation
This step will now involve the person (or agency) in charge of the tracking strategy as well as the web development team. This phase is divided into three stages:
- Drafting of the dataLayer documentation
- Implementation of the scripts by the developers
- Review and tests
What is the dataLayer?
It’s essential to document the dataLayer properly to provide all the necessary information to different platforms, as indicated in the tagging plan.
Depending on your environment (if you are on a CMS) there will exist plugins pushing the dataLayer. This will then eliminate the need for this step (if the scripts pushed by the plugin correspond to the tagging plan). However, this is not always the case, especially when you are in a non-CMS environment.
The dataLayer Documentation
The dataLayer documentation should include a description of each event when it is triggered, the data it collects, and how these data are used for analysis.
Here is an example of a script within a dataLayer documentation. It should be triggered when a project is added to the cart.
In addition to the triggered event, we note many objects that provide details about the product added to the cart. These data will be read entirely or partially by the marketing/analytics platforms.
Implementing the dataLayer
The documentation is fully written? The work is not over yet because we are now moving on to an essential stage: the implementation of the dataLayer scripts by developers.
Depending on the developer profiles, they may be more or less accustomed to carrying out this type of mission. That’s why it’s important that the documentation has been written in detail, particularly on the implementation process.
During this phase, it’s necessary to be available to the developer in charge of the installation of the scripts to clarify the different needs.
Review of the dataLayer
Now the dataLayer is installed (or partially depending on the mode of operation, it is indeed advisable to test the scripts little by little), it is your role or that of your consultant/agency to test each script. This step is called the review and must not be neglected.
For this, you can open the developer console on your favorite browser and type (respecting the case): dataLayer.
You will then visualize the scripts triggered according to the actions performed. You can also use the preview mode of Google Tag Manager.
It is mandatory at this stage to note all the observed anomalies and to report them to the person in charge of the implementation.
Everything is perfect? We can then move on to the last step.
Implementing the Tagging Plan
The tagging plan is written, and the dataLayer in place? It’s now time to finish the tracking by implementing the website tracking.
Setting Up Tracking via Google Tag Manager
This step will rely on the two documents previously created. It should be noted that experienced consultants/agencies will be able to carry out this step in parallel with the work of the developers, which will reduce implementation times.
At this stage, it’s necessary to have a good understanding of Google Tag Manager, as we will set up the tags, triggers, and variables according to the instructions of the tagging plan based on the scripts implemented by the developers.
All tags are now implemented in GTM (in draft), let’s move on to the testing phase. As for the dataLayer, the testing stage is mandatory before any production. This will prevent an event from being not or poorly tracked, which could have serious consequences on an advertising algorithm for example.
There’s nothing better than using the preview mode of Google Tag Manager for this phase. It will allow you to visualize the tags triggered on the different events as well as the associated dimensions (variables).
If you’re at this stage it’s because all the initial planning is in place, and functionally so. All you have left to do is to put your tracking into production.
I always advise monitoring the proper rise of information in different platforms in the hours and days following.
Making Your Tracking Last Over Time
Do you think you’re finally rid of tracking? I hope I don’t disappoint you by telling you that no.
A tagging plan is not a one-time solution, but a long-term strategy. As I once heard: “Tracking is not a project, it’s a department”. To stay effective, it must evolve with your company, your website, and your marketing/analytics tool stack. That’s why you should always make sure your tracking is functional and, above all, integrate this scope into each of the site’s evolutions that may impact tracking.
In summary, an effective tagging plan is essential to make the most of your data. It must be well-designed, well-documented, and constantly updated to stay in line with the evolution of your company and your site. By implementing a consistent tagging plan, you can ensure that you have the information you need for your analysis and the success of your advertising campaigns.