Concerned about page-load speeds? Optimize tags; don't remove them
We at TagMan recently conducted a survey and found that, no surprise, most marketers are concerned about page-load speed, 81% of respondents, in fact. We also discovered that 71% said they are aware that tags — pieces of code put on your website every time you implement a campaign — impact site performance, which was a bit surprising. Even more surprising was the revelation that 35% of respondents have actually gone to the extreme of removing tags altogether, or reducing them, from their websites.
Unfortunately, all the great online campaigns and social media plug-ins that marketers put on their sites come at a price; each one contributes to slower site performance, largely due to tags. But tags are valuable. They help you track the performance of online campaigns and analytics, and give you measurable data to determine how best to spend your marketing dollars.
Research shows that a two- to three-second delay in page speed can result in a substantial loss of sales. Also, slow loading pages impact your search engine optimization efforts, as Google factors speed into its page rankings. The slower your site, the lower your natural search ranking. The trick is to optimize the way tags are stored and loaded, so you can still rely on the tracking data while overcoming the latency issues they cause.
Below are a few tips for how you can optimize tags and get better site performance to deliver a more streamlined experience to your visitors without losing sales or valuable data.
1. Implement tag management
Our own studies indicate that most websites have about 20 tags per page. Given the prevalence of tags in the digital marketing world, it's no surprise that analyst groups like Forrester Research are recommending tag-management systems as a way to overcome the page weight-related issues created by website tags. Without a tag-management system, it's simply too cumbersome to manually manage all your tags and ensure they're loading properly. New, smart tag-loading features go one step further to enable you to select how and when specific tags are loaded, so they're relevant to site visitors, which leads to the next tip.
2. Focus on relevance
Loading tags that are irrelevant to the visitor will slow your site – and more importantly, it also ignores all the data you already have about your visitor. For example, why load the retargeting tag if the user has already been given a cookie? Or if your visitor came from a direct marketing email, it's not necessary to load an affiliate tag. Aligning the tags you serve with visitor data improves results all the way round.
3. Take a top down approach
By loading tags at the bottom of the page first, you cause your visitors unnecessary wait times. Instead, be sure to always start with tags that are above the fold, so the portion of the page viewable to your visitor loads first. This is also true for all the properties on your site – images, content and otherwise.
Third-party tags and the customer data they provide are at the heart of digital marketing and will be for the foreseeable future. Don't reduce or remove, but focus on optimizing tags, so you can speed up your site while keeping your valuable tracking data.
Paul Cook is CEO and founder of TagMan, a website tag management services provider.