10 Important Issues in Page Tagging for Web Analytics

By Gregory Smyth

Most savvy business owners are now aware of the need to track and assess the return on investment of internet marketing and search engine optimization initiatives, and may have web analytics tools in place to do so. However, few are aware of the different data collections methods used in web analytics, their advantages and disadvantages. We explore them today.

At this stage in the evolution of our web-based business environment, most companies are realizing the value of web analytics in assessing the effectiveness and return on investment of various internet marketing initiatives. However, most don't realize that there are two main methods of collecting data for web analytics purposes, and that each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Page tagging (as opposed to web server log data) is the most common method of collecting data on your website usage, and today we examine the benefits and drawbacks of page tagging for internet marketing specialists and web analytics experts.

  1. Accuracy The first and most important aspect of any web analytics solution is accuracy. Page tagging, or client-side data collection, is generally thought to be more accurate than web server log files. This is because the data is collected directly from the end user. The use of back and forward buttons, as well as other website movements, can be tracked using the page tagging method.
  2. Dependence on cookies Despite the increased accuracy, the fact that page tagging in website analytics depends on cookies to gather data can detract somewhat from overall accuracy. Many users delete cookies periodically, while some simply refuse to accept them. Look for an Asian web analytics solution that utilizes First-Party Cross Domain cookies. These have a 99% acceptance rate and can track single visitors across your domains.
  3. Speed of data availability In some cases, internet marketing and search engine marketing specialists won't want to wait for website usage data to come in. Page tagging has the advantage that data is available nearly immediately.
  4. A greater range of variables With the amount of information that can be collected using web analytics, and the various business uses to which it can be put, it is a waste to collect only the basic info about a website visit. Page tagging allows for more variables to be collected and then analyzed.
  5. Lower upfront cost Page tagging web analytics solutions are generally cheaper to implement than web server log file analysis.
  6. Implementation time For large corporate websites, keeping the initial time spent tagging pages to a reasonable level is dependent on having a built-in header/footer structure for your site. If you have a static site without server-side includes, your tag will have to be inserted manually on every page ... and this can take quite a lot of time.
  7. Implementation complexity Page tagging requirements from some web analytics vendors are more complex than others. Ask your internet consultancy services for advice on the best product for your particular site.
  8. Page load time The Javascript code will always increase page load time somewhat. However, if you've followed best practices in website design anyway, it should make a minimal difference.
  9. Data storage time limits Check with your web analytics distributor about the time limits on data storage, and how you can translate data to a more permanent form.
  10. Dependence on Javascript Another minor issue with page tagging is that not all users will have Javascript installed; data collection from these users will not be possible.