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How to Start a Tagging Project November 20, 2012

Posted by Joe Kamenar in web analytics.
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Tagging a website can be a very challenging process. If not done properly, you will end up with a lot of data being collected, but without any information. Also, the data you collect may be inaccurate and segmentation non-existent. It is very important to have a process or methodology to implementing web analytics tagging Some of what I have learned from working with various clients will be presented in this post.

Understand the Purpose of Your Website

When building out a new site or implementing web analytic tagging on an existing site for the first time, there is a process you need to follow. The typical way a new project gets done is that someone just decides to use Google Analytics, opens an account, gets their tracking code, sticks it on each page and then just waits for the data to flow through and reports to be populated. But the problem with that approach is that there is no clear value to the data you are getting, other than just knowing visits, page views, traffic sources, top pages and time on the site. Your goal as a web analyst is to be able to do the following:

  • Answer the business questions about the site
  • Provide measurement as to the effectiveness of marketing campaigns
  • Identify user bottlenecks in the site
  • Provide insight on how to increase the site’s conversion rate
  • Know who your users are
  • Know which content areas users are most interested in
  • Know if you are reaching the right types of users with your marketing
  • Determine how the company can save money by moving offline actions to online
  • And many more!

Business Questions

Before you can start defining KPIs and supporting metrics, you first need to know what business questions need to be answered. The most fundamental question is – “Why does your website exist?” Other general questions include:

  • What role does the site play in providing revenue or business leads?
  • Will the site be used to provide various audience segments with the tools needed to conduct the company’s business?
  • Will it be used to provide corporate branding information and build interest in your company’s product or service?
  • Will it be used to provide employees with information?
  • Will it be used to promote a social cause?
  • Will it be used to provide the first level of customer support, in an effort to reduce incoming calls to your call center?
  • Will it be used to keep customers loyal to your product or service?

Other more specific examples of business questions are:

  • How many unique visitors does our site get?
  • What percent of  unique visitors use the various tools on our site?
  • What percentage of visitors register on our site?
  • What are the user roles of our registered visitors?
  • What parts of the country does our traffic come from?
  • Are visitors reading important content on our site?
  • What is the login frequency of our registered visitors?
  • Is our site-search helping visitors find what they are looking for?
  • What are the best-selling products on our site?
  • How many users are using the self-service tools on the site?
  • How effective is our QR codes in attracting prospects?
  • What content is being consumed by mobile visitors?
  • What pages are not being viewed?
  • What is the subscriber email address saturation rate for each marketing channel?
  • What is our conversion rate by product vertical or country/region?
  • Which products respond better to email marketing campaigns?
  • Where on the site do potential customers decide to use the phone to complete a transaction?
  • How well is our cross-sell marketing working to put new products or services in front of existing customers?

These are just a few of the literally hundreds of different types of questions you may be asked about your company’s website. The best way to gather all of these questions is to simply interview the “stakeholders”. A stakeholder is someone who has an interest in how the site is working or how the site is being used. Stakeholders can be in departments such as HR, IT, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, and others.

Align Data Collection to Support KPIs

Some organizations go a bit crazy when collecting web data. For example, I’ve seen a client set up a traffic variable that collects which checkboxes a customer would select as his shortcuts for a portal. Yet no report was being used with this information (nor would one have been useful). Enabling all the parameters you have available can increase the overhead on your analytics tool, and can sometimes cause you to hit limits on the amount of data that can be processed. If any data that you are collecting (other than out-of-the-box) data does not serve a purpose in relating to your KPIs (business goals), then stop collecting it. You can phrase this another way – If you can’t derive actionable insights off of any collected data, then don’t collect it.

Develop Your KPI Framework

Once you know the business questions and how to use your analytics package, you can then determine the site KPIs, as I had discussed earlier. For each business question, you need to define a metric that can provide a benchmark for that particular question. Another approach is to look at the key business objectives, then determine what goals and initiatives are needed to achieve these objectives, and then finally look at the KPIs. This is known as a KPI Framework.

Here is a sample KPI framework for a pharma company that uses its websites to promote their brands to health care practitioners (HCP’s), and to educate HCP’s on how specific diseases respond to treatments using their products. The end goal is to get these HCP’s to prescribe that drug or therapy to patients who have that particular disease or condition.

Key Business Objective Goals / Initiatives Sample KPIs
Motivate Physicians to Prescribe the Brands
  • Connect with more HCP’s
  • Increase participation in webinars
  • Increased engagement with brand content
  • Increase the number of motivated HCPs
  • Increase the number of HCP’s who request samples
  • Channel visits (Connect), response rate
  • Newsletter registration rate (Motivate)
  • Webinar registrations, registration rate
  • Percent of Motivated visitors
  • Request for samples (Motivate)
Increase engagement with the website over multiple platforms
  • Deliver content that can be consumed over mobile and tablet platforms
  • Increase  utilization of mobile apps
  • Keep content fresh to encourage return visits
  • Visit rate from mobile and tablet users
  • App downloads
  • Percentage of Limited, Light, Deep and Extensive engagements (Educate)
  • Return visit rate
Increase Reach and Marketing ROI
  • Reach more HCPs
  • Increase email response rate
  • Increase paid search clicks
  • Increase banner CTR
  • Increase use of social media
  • Decrease cost per engagement
  • Email link click-through (Connect)
  • Change in visits month-over-month from paid channels (Connect)
  • Change in visits from social media channels (Connect)
  • Change in cost per campaign visits

As you can see here, for this pharma company, their key metrics are – Reach, Connect, Educate and Motivate. A report would show the total number of visitors and percentage of visitors who fall into each of these categories, along with a visit report that shows what percentage of visits included a particular key metric. Let’s look at what these KPIs mean.

Reach – Sample KPI

In the global sense of your website and online marketing, there is the concept of “Reach”. Every time a person receives an email from your campaigns, or sees a banner at (including rich media ads), sees a branded paid search ad, reads a sponsored post in a Facebook news feed, gets a tweet where a brand/product or company name is mentioned, and so on, this is known as a Reach. Essentially, you have reached someone with your message. From a web analytics standpoint, this can be difficult to measure, as in most cases, web analytics measurements start when the visitor reaches your website. So, in order to measure Reach, you need to have access to offline data. This can include the number of banner and paid search impressions from your marketing agency reports, along with any stats from social media partners. One key item that I ignored is organic search page results. If your SEO is good, then whenever your company name and message appear to a prospect in an organic search results page, you have also reached this person with your message. You can get this data from tools by Google, Bing and Yahoo. Each of these three companies has their own suite of “webmaster tools”. Look into these tools to get a better picture of your overall Reach.

Connect – Sample KPI

Once a visitor responds to your company’s message via Reach by clicking through to your website, you have a “Connect”. A Connect is visit to your site that is not from where a visitor either types in the URL or bookmarks the site.  It is a visit that comes directly from a marketing campaign.

Educate – Sample KPI

If you want to measure the percentage of you visitors that you Educate, you would look for visits where particular success metrics (or goals) have been met. An Educate visit can be defined as one where two or more pages were viewed, or if an information PDF was downloaded, or a video watched. In the pharma world, videos can include topics like “mechanism of action”, clinical trial studies, or presentations from subject matter experts. If a visitor watches any of these videos, you better believe that this person has been educated on the drug and how it is used. You as an analyst can segment this metric based on new visitors or repeat visitors. It is the new visitors that you may be more interested in educating, as these visitors may be more likely to use your product or service than a visitor who does not take the time to get educated on your brand.

Motivate – Sample KPI

In the pharma world, an HCP does not purchase drugs right from the website. Unless, of course, the drugs are vaccines, which can be purchased by validated users. Some pharma companies allow validated users to request samples of a drug online, so this would be one example of a motivated HCP. Other actions that would count toward a Motivate KPI include registering to receive more information (get on the email list), subscribe to a newsletter, register for a conference or webinar, or any other action where the visitor provides personal information to the company. Thus, your “Motivate” KPI would be the percentage of visits where a Motivate action was taken. As a practical way to do this, you would create a visit segment where a Motivate event occurred.

Engagement Rate – Sample KPI

Another type of metric that can be used to determine how successful a website is in engaging the visitor is to look at an engagement rate. Here are some standard definitions that a pharma company uses when measuring how engaged their site visitors are:

  • Limited – Those who bounced (viewed just one page)
  • Light – Non-bounced visits that are of a duration of a minute or less in time on site
  • Deep – Visits that are between 1 minute and 5 minutes, or who engaged in a survey, poll, or who downloaded key content, or who shared an article via social media
  • Extensive – Visits that are greater than 5 minutes, or where they watched key videos or webcasts.

To determine the engagement rate for each engagement type, simply divide the number of visits for each type of engagement by the total number of visits. Depending on your analytics tool, you may be able to create visit segments for each type of visit, then track the number of visits in each defined segment, divided by the total number of visits.

Getting Ready to Tag

Once you have an understanding of the key business questions of the site and have created a KPI framework, you are ready to start developing the tags that will collect that data. However, before you can start tagging your website, you need to come up with an overall tagging process. Here are some of the considerations you will need to make:

  • Account Profiles
  • Metrics vs. Dimensions
  • Scope of Tagging
  • Report Design
  • Page Naming
  • Success Events & Variables
  • Tagging Persistence
    • Page-Level Tagging
    • Visit-Level Tagging
    • Visitor-Level Tagging
  • Standard Variables
  • Custom Variables
  • Variable Map
  • Creating a Tagging Strategy Guide
  • Creating a Deployment Guide
  • Debugging & Testing
  • Creating Test Cases

Account Profiles

An account profile (or report suite, as it may be called), is key to how your data will be captured and reported. When you create reports, you will be reporting on all data that is captured in that profile. Typically, a profile or report suite would contain data from one specific site, or country-specific site. You can also have data report into a second report suite, called a global, or roll-up, report suite, which looks at all of your site metrics in aggregate. Some reporting packages let you then look at pathing across the various sites, and de-duping of visits to each site, so you can get a total look at unique visitors to all of your sites.

Even within a single site, separate profiles can be used to segment what visitors do and who your universe of visitors is for different portions of your site. The best example is for a portal, where you have an area for non-registered visitors to use, along with a section that is only for those who are logged in. If you have each part of the site reporting to a separate account profile, then you will have an easier time separating the activities of these two types of visitors without the need for segmentation. Some of the key metrics you can then do on the authenticated side of the site is to look at what percentage of visitors or unique visitors use key features in the portal, along with knowing what the top pages or sections are, and perform other visit-based ratios, where you only want visits from authenticated users. Another good use of separate profiles is where your site has several versions (fixed web, vs. tablet vs mobile web), and you want to report on key activities on each platform.

Scope of Tagging

Depending on the complexity of your site and how your business team and UX (user experience) teams want to use the data, you need to come up with a list of high level activities or items to be tracked. In the case of the auto dealer finance portal, here is an example of the scope of tagging:

  1. Content Consumption
  • Top content groups
  • Top content sub-groups
  • Top used features on the site
  • Least used features on the site
  • Percent of dealers who use shortcuts
  • Percent of visits where site search is used
  • Percent of site searches that turn up no search results
  • Top 20 site search terms
  • Percent of visits where the FAQ is accessed
  • Dealer ID
  • OEM (Chrysler, Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda)
  • User role (management, accounting, finance, sales, service)
  • User Profile
  • Password Resets
  • User ID Management
  • Challenge questions
  • Top tools used
  • Retail sales & service guides
  • Management & reporting
  • Leased vehicle return guides
  • Messages & bulletins
  • By OEM
  • By region
  • Vehicle service contracts submitted
  • Vehicle credit applications submitted
  1. Site Navigation
  1. Login Frequency, segmented by
  1. Self Service Capabilities
  1. Access of Core Dealer Resources
  1. Audience Segmentation
  1. E-Commerce Activities

During your stakeholder interviews, you would typically learn this information. Another way to get this is to look at the business requirements document or site design document and determine how to measure each item listed. Then, filter this down to a key set of high-level tagging, like I did here.

Coming up later will be more information on tagging a website, including how to design reports and create a tagging deployment guide.

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