Solving the ‘Tag’ Conundrum!

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

computer-on-desk-5I began my journey in the Digital Marketing space as a developer and one of my first tasks was to implement, these things called ‘Tags’ on a bunch of websites. Until then, my understanding of tags was only limited to the tags that I had seen in markup languages.

So, the first time that I set my eyes on a digital marketing tag, my thoughts rebelled. This was no ‘tag’, this was JavaScript. Anyway, as soon as I conformed to the norm of calling these pieces of JavaScript ‘tags’, I discovered that it has many more names – web beacon, tracking bug, web bug, page tag and tracker.

Being oblivious to the world of Web Analytics and Internet Marketing, I thought tags were just some functions that are calling an external script to send some data to an external source. But then the question was, why on earth are they supposed to sit on every page and literally every event (including scrolls and video plays)?

Eventually, I understood that these tags were not sending some random data to a data-mart, but that they were actually capturing all the user activities on the website. This may include the browser being used, the IP address of the device, the referencing page, time spent on page, content viewed, links clicked, etc. This data powers several other technologies like Analytics, Advertising, Website Optimization, etc.

Further investigation into Tags revealed that because of the capability of tags to communicate with the sites, they have gone beyond their native function of collecting data from the websites and can be used to enable the sites to talk to one another, to integrate third-party content, set cookies, etc.

Having learned that there is a deep relationship between tags and Web Analytics and Digital Marketing, I delved deeper into how tags actually work. I soon realized that tags are not necessarily always Javascript. They can be implemented by merely loading a 1×1 pixel transparent image as well (not necessarily always invisible) for tracking user behavior in web environments that do not support Javascript. An example would be tracking events like opening an email.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “I know a tag is javascript that can call functions, but how is an image load tracking user activity? Well, this is how it works:

  1. When a desired action takes place, the pixel image is requested from the server. These server calls can be used to identify where the pixel is located and can be counted to monitor the activities of the user.
  2. All tags, whether they’re JavaScript or clear pixel tags, are called from the server by making an http request (just like all files are fetched over HTTP). This call is made by sending the URL of the tag to the server.

Though you can always embed a pixel with predefined information to track, typically a javascript tracker (tag) will also fire a pixel to collect data. Ultimately, 95% of the time a tracker is going to load a pixel one way or another to collect the data.

The need for the marketing tags and their accuracy has greatly increased with the boom of digital marketing. It has become extremely important for digital marketers and site owners to ensure that all the required tags are correctly loading throughout their site. This allows them to follow their site visitors and monitor their behavior to optimize not only their website but to get maximum ROI on their digital marketing investments.

Does this make you curious if your site has all the tags correctly loading on it? Find out now by scanning your site using Tag Inspector.

Originally Published On April 13, 2015
October 8, 2020