Posts Tagged ‘andrew v. edwards’


The 4 Horsemen of the Digital Analytics Apocalypse

Written by Andrew Edwards. Posted in Digital Analytics

four-horsement-analytics-185x114-1While digital analytics can uncover unparalleled insights for marketers, too often something goes wrong and sometimes terribly wrong. Throughout history, the abovementioned “four horsemen of the apocalypse” have been identified as Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. Here we will look at how each, in a modern incarnation, can destroy digital analytics effectiveness, and how to battle them.

Horseman 1: Conquest

If you’ve been asked to abandon your healthy skepticism and buy into a single-vendor solution that “solves every problem” in analytics; if this also includes all “services” to be performed by the vendor; and worse, if you have allowed yourself to be convinced by your creative agency that yes, they also do analytics (in other words, they agree to umpire their own balls and strikes); then you have been a victim of conquest. You no longer control your own analytics destiny but have put it entirely in the hands of providers with an agenda that does not necessarily include your getting the most insight out of your analytics.

How to battle it:

Choose only best-of-breed solutions for each purpose. Worry less about interoperability. The dirty secret is that most branded solutions are made up of portals that don’t work together all that well anyway — they just have the same logo. Choose your own consulting company, make sure they know the tool, and let them deliver what they can. In many cases this will be superior to what the vendor can deliver. Finally, don’t let your creative team measure their own success. This is why baseball has umpires and why football has referees.

Horseman 2: War

Internal battles between IT and marketing can be ruinous. Endless turf-wars, truth-blockage, “not-invented-here” attitudes, and lack of clear chains of command make for heavy losses on all sides. And with the stakes higher and the “weapons” more powerful, the battle becomes bloodier. Analytics today is visible, but it’s tough to find someone who can really own it. In too many cases it’s easier to blame someone else — even if the only problem is that the trendline is headed south this month.

How to battle it:

Be an informed peacemaker. Understand the tools and technologies that powerfully affect your business and work to make sure how each division plays its role. Unlike today at most enterprises, the person “in charge of analytics” in fact needs to be in charge of making sure measurement is done correctly — and not at the whim of a developer reluctant to partake. Analytics is not an option. Clear leadership wins the battle.

Horseman 3: Famine

In a digitally driven media environment, lack of accurate information about usership is the equivalent of famine. No matter if you have spent enough to send rockets into space. If your tools are not instrumented properly (a far more common problem than most would want to admit), then your data is going to be inaccurate. Some might say this is nitpicky (yes, I have heard that) as long as the trends are well understood. But we are not talking about a few percentage points — more like the actual raw numbers of visitors, page views, and more. Data famine leads to blindness and eventually (see below).

Horseman 4: Death

You cannot fight death. If your analytics efforts are lying off in a ditch showing little signs of life, then your gong has been rung. But fortunately, in this world, you can reincarnate. Pull the wagon out of the mud. Choose new vendors. Strip out the old, junky code and have it replaced with something that will pass a basic QA test. There is nothing as bracing as a new start.

Remember that throughout history, in the real world, people have cheated every one of these horsemen many times over. In analytics it is no different. Next time we will talk about the legendary spider that failed seven times to make a web but succeeded on the eighth.




Are You Bored by Tag Management?

Written by Andrew Edwards. Posted in Tag Management

You shouldn’t be.tag-management1-185x114

In fact, if your digital footprint is large and complex, you ought to be clamoring for it.

That such an arcane digital offering should in fact be a bedrock of data collection success is only testament to its primacy.

Why should you care?

Let me first state the problem:

In a galaxy far, far away, perhaps they continue to use server log files to figure out what users did on a website, but in that same galaxy they are probably still experimenting with more effective ways to build a fire with two sticks and no matches. On Earth, almost no one uses log files anymore.

We deploy digital analytics tools that rely on a much more targeted and accurate manner of collecting user data: tagging.

Why is this such a big deal, and why is improper or nonexistent tagging the most common stumbling block to reliable analytics?

It’s a big deal because tags enable (relatively) precise data collection. It’s also a big deal because getting tags properly implemented and then managed in an enterprise is about as easy as herding jungle cats – the kind that maul you suddenly.

Without tag management, “the process” (more accurately “the chaos”) almost invariably looks something like this:

A marketer says they need to know X, Y, and Z about user behavior on a digital property. Typically it goes beyond the basics of unique visitors and total page views. In order to get reports that illuminate user behavior, the marketer needs someone to create a “tag specification”: a document, often a spreadsheet, that describes the reporting need and the tag (small snippets of code) that must be placed in HTML so that when reports are created, they in fact have data in them. This part is usually executed without too much difficulty as long as the tag-specifier knows the tools and the tags very well.

Then, too often in my experience, the chaos really begins.

That’s because people who create tag specifications do not control (and do not want to control) the HTML that drives the site. The tagging spec needs to be handed off to developers (not the marketers) so they can place these tags. Sometimes it goes OK. Often it does not. Tags are placed, but incorrectly. Or they are not placed, and with little explanation as to why they are not. Weeks go by. Marketers get frustrated and too often end up settling for much more basic reporting than they had hoped. Often they end up with whatever basic reporting comes from putting just the simple tag provided by the vendor and the tagging spec becomes an artifact of hope but with little chance of becoming a robust reporting suite.

Compounding the problem in an enterprise is the multitude of sites that have wildcatted their own analytics, usually flawed implementations of free tools like Google Analytics (which can be quite powerful when properly deployed). Nothing can be measured against anything else because there is no common tagging protocol, no agreement on what is measured and how it is reported upon.

Tag management solves both of these problems rather handily and should be part of every marketer’s toolkit where they have more than a couple of sites to manage.

There are several flavors of tag management tools, ranging from Tealium’s container paradigm to Ensighten’s “server conversation” to Adobe’s integrated package and more. What they all have in common is inherent in the category name: They manage tags and tagging.

With tag management, instead of sending off a tagging spec to a range of developers responsible for different sites hoping they all do the tagging in the same way, the marketer can have one group of developers implement a tagging structure once, and then deploy it widely.

Moreover, they can, using a graphical user interface (anyone remember the term “GUI”?), decide the conditions under which certain tags “fire” (become active); and on which digital assets. Parameters can be set globally and then with little fanfare, the tag management system actually manages these tags globally. With robust error-detection and selective deployment capabilities, many if not most of the problems associated with data collection simply go away.

Tag management tools centralize the management of data collection and can be the foundation of excellence in reporting. It’s really that simple.

You ought not be bored by tag management. You ought to be excited about it, you ought to deploy it, you have every right to benefit from it once deployed. There is little excuse today for an enterprise not to use tag management in maintaining control over data collection and reporting over a wide range of sites.

If you’re still wondering why your enterprise analytics are in disarray, you now know why. Don’t let a good tag specification go down to defeat. Collect data reliably and globally.

With tag management.



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